COUR • AGE: the ability to do something that you know is difficult or dangerous.

During the 2016/17 season, the CSO’s school and family concerts explore “Sounds of Courage.” Each of the six programs listed at the bottom of this post will offer unique insight into the courageous behaviors and traits demonstrated by composers and musicians, the various ways that music conveys and inspires courage, and stories of courage brought to life in orchestral repertoire.

“There are examples of courage in each and every performance by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,” says Jon Weber, director of School and Family Programs for the CSO’s Negaunee Music Institute. “We are excited to lead our audiences in a deep exploration of courage inspired by the incredible performances of the CSO. These programs are also an invitation for our young audience members to identify how they themselves are courageous and to nurture that essential social and emotional skill.”

In these interactive, hourlong concerts, the orchestra performs familiar masterworks and lesser-known selections from the orchestral repertoire, while guest conductors and guest artists provide narration and demonstrations that bring concepts to life. The first program, presented on Nov. 5 and 7, Symphonic Superheroes, features selections from courageous works including Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 10 and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9.

Guest conductor Tania Miller will focus on the musical elements that convey courage as well as courageous skills demonstrated by musicians, composers and even audience members: she will interview CSO Principal Bassoon Keith Buncke about the courage that it takes to prepare and perform the difficult solo in Rimsky-Korsakov’s Sheherazade; she will introduce the idea that audiences listen courageously, particularly to make meaning out of unfamiliar music, and she will explore the idea that composers like Shostakovich and Beethoven demonstrated remarkable courage in expressing their deepest feelings, hopes and fears through their music.

“Courage is the power to not give up, to be strong and brave. It takes a lot of strength to have courage. You need patience and experience. Now think of it this way: All these people on stage have a lot of courage.”

Thirdgrade student, North Park Elementary School

All of the CSO’s school and family concerts offer an impressive array of preparatory resources and activities — digital Parent’s and Teacher’s Guides, free classroom visits by trained docents, student workbooks and pre-concert activities on Saturdays that include an instrument “petting zoo” and performances by local young musicians. These resources have proven to have tremendous effects on audiences’ engagement during the performances and their future actions after leaving Symphony Center.

The exploration of courage extends far beyond the CSO’s school and family concerts, inspiring interdisciplinary studies through several Chicago Public School partnerships offered by the Negaunee Music Institute. In one partnership, Institute staffers present a series of workshops to guide teachers in developing arts integrated curriculum about courage. In another partnership, staff and teaching artists collaborate with schools to develop and teach curricula that find intersections between the CSO’s courage-themed concerts and student learning needs.

“Students show courage every day,” says Katy Clusen, coordinator of School and Family Programs for the Negaunee Music Institute. “For some, the simple act of walking to school is an act of courage. Others demonstrate courage when they suffer from illness, when they confront a bully, welcome a new kid to the class, or express their true selves in the face of disapproval. Teachers participating in CSO school partnership programs have expressed how important it is to teach this idea to their students and are excited to make the connection to this character trait through the repertoire their students will learn about and hear performed by the CSO.”

Each of these school partnerships includes in-school performances by CSO ensembles. Some schools also receive in-school performances and workshops by musicians from the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, which provides an important training opportunity for these pre-professional musicians.

Through the series of school and family concerts, the CSO is proud to make the unparalleled music making of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra accessible for young people in Chicago and to inspire curiosity about and deep learning through music. We invite you to experience the “Sounds of Courage” this season!


Sounds of Courage concerts

Symphonic Superheroes (November 5 & 7) for children ages 5-11

Once Upon a Symphony: The Three Little Pigs (December 3 and 5, February 4, 25 & 27)

Composers with Courage (February 8 & 9) for school groups only

Don Quixote (February 10 & 11) for children ages 5-11

Once Upon a Symphony: The Bremen Town Musicians (March 11, 13, April 8, May 13 & 15)

Peter and the Wolf (April 28 & 29)