Two Chicago classical-music presenters — the International Music Foundation  and Rush Hour Concerts — have merged, effective immediately. The combined non-profits will operate under the name of the International Music Foundation, with the programming and artistic staffs of each component group to be retained.

“Two great Chicago institutions, now united as one, will continue to present their beloved, long-standing programs of high-quality classical music to the citizens of Chicago — for free,” said Tom Orlando, formerly president of Rush Hour Concerts and now president of the merged IMF. “We are excited about the possibilities and opportunities to present more free programming on this platform in the future.”

The merger occurs as the IMF approaches its 40th anniversary in 2017. The International Music Foundation was established in 1977 by arts advocate Al Booth with the mission of creating “performance opportunities for emerging artists and a chance for everyone to hear high-quality music, free of charge.” Its first projects were the annual Do-It-Yourself Messiah (originally presented at the Civic Opera House and more recently at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance) and the weekly Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert series (at Preston Bradley Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center). In 1981, it added Live Music Now!, dedicated to bringing the experience of live performance to Chicago Public School students.

Founded in 2000 by pianist Deborah Sobol, Rush Hour Concerts began as a summer series at St. James Cathedral. In 2011, it added Make Music Chicago a citywide, annual, daylong celebration of music-making on the summer solstice, June 21. In 2012, it introduced a professional ensemble residency program in Chicago’s neighborhoods.

As for the merged entity’s organizational structure, IMF Executive Director Ann Murray will continue in the same position, while Rush Hour Concerts Executive Director Kitty Rothschild will serve as merger transition director through December. Artistic direction will be shared by Rush Hour Concerts’ Anthony Devroye, Kuang-Hao Huang and Brant Taylor, a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Artistic direction for the Do-It-Yourself Messiah and the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts will continue to be led by Elizabeth Buccheri, James Setapen, Andrea Swan, Mathias Tacke and Richard Young.

“The similarity in the visions of Al Booth and Debbie Sobol and in the missions of both organizations make for a natural fit,” said Emil Zbella, who becomes IMF vice president. “Al and Debbie would be thrilled to see how their visions are strengthened in the new organization.”

To celebrate its merger, the IMF will present a benefit dubbed Perfect Pairings, beginning at 5:30 p.m. on Nov. 15 at the Women’s Athletic Club, 626 N. Michigan. For more information about the event and to purchase tickets, visit