Featured image for post: Chicago Philharmonic Inaugurates El Sistema-inspired National Seminario Ravinia

Chicago Philharmonic Inaugurates El Sistema-inspired National Seminario Ravinia

Music only matters when you pass it on and share it with other people.
—Bonnie Yeager, Chicago Philharmonic Violist


Chicago Philharmonic began its 2023 Summer Series from July 5-8 with the inaugural National Seminario Ravinia. Inspired by Ravinia Festival Chief Conductor Marin Alsop’s artistic vision, Ravinia’s Reach Teach Play education branch, and Chicago Philharmonic hosted a national gathering of 130 students from 23 El Sistema-inspired participating organizations from across North America. As part of our ongoing efforts to invest in the next generation of musicians and music lovers, Chicago Philharmonic provided 59 musicians to mentor these students through master classes and side-by-side rehearsal under the baton of Marin Alsop and Jonathan Rush.


Our vision at Chicago Philharmonic is to create a more inclusive future for symphonic music – investing upstream in the next generation of musicians is essential to this mission.
—Terell Johnson, Executive Director


Images above, clockwise from top left: Students and chaperones arrive at Lake Forest College to check in; Chicago Philharmonic Executive Director Terell Johnson (far left) poses with volunteers from the Ravinia Women’s Board; Students pose for a photo after arriving at Lake Forest College; Students join in an ice-breaking activity during Day 1 Orientation


Day 1


On Wednesday, July 5, the energy was palpable as 130 students from across the country arrived to the North Shore and checked in for an experience of a lifetime. Students lined up to receive instruments, dorm room assignments, and music before orientation and icebreakers led by student leaders, plus remarks from Terell Johnson and Reach Teach Play Director Christine Taylor.


After dinner, the students gathered for their first rehearsal as a group, while Chicago Philharmonic musicians sat in, gave feedback, and started making connections with their sections. After the rehearsal, 25 core Chicago Philharmonic mentors met to discuss plans for the next three days of curriculum in sectionals and rehearsals.


Image below: Chicago Philharmonic musician Lisa Fako plays alongside a student violinist on the Ravinia Festival stage


Day 2


Students and Chicago Philharmonic mentors began the day with a morning of sectionals. In the “El Sistema” program, students of all levels learn and play together. Chicago Philharmonic mentors used this as an advantage during the sectionals, making modifications catered to students’ needs as older students acted as leaders within the section.


Then in the afternoon, all students and mentors traveled from Lake Forest College to Ravinia Festival, where 190 musicians (students and Chicago Philharmonic mentors) crowded the stage for exhilarating rehearsals led by Marin Alsop and Jonathan Rush. First, 59 Chicago Philharmonic musicians performed works by Chicago-based composer Stacy Garrop and Simon Carlos. Then, nearly 190 musicians (students and mentors) crowded the stage for a side-by-side rehearsal.



Images above, clockwise from top left: Marin Alsop and Stacy Garrop address musicians of Chicago Philharmonic; Jonathan Rush keeps the energy high during the first side-by-side rehearsal; 190 musician join onstage at Ravinia Festival; Chicago Philharmonic cellist Jean Hatmaker smiles as Marin Alsop conducts


Day 2 finished with a reception for friends of the Ravinia Festival and Chicago Philharmonic, co-hosted by Elizabeth Olson and Tom Manning (Chicago Philharmonic Board Chairman) and Elise and Chris Klein (Ravinia Festival Board Chair). After listening to the last hour of the side-by-side rehearsal, guests enjoyed a cocktail reception and then dinner and a panel discussion with student leaders, Marin Alsop, Jonathan Rush, and Reach Teach Play Director Christine Taylor.


Left to right: Tom Manning, Elizabeth Olson (partially hidden), Elise Klein, Chris Klein, Ravinia Festival CEO Jeffrey Haydon, Terell Johnson


Day 3


After another morning of sectionals and an afternoon side-by-side rehearsal, the students traveled back to Ravinia Festival – this time for a concert featuring R&B singer Neyo.



Day 4: The Final Concert!


The final concert on Saturday, July 8 was a joyous culmination of the week’s progress.




Chicago Philharmonic
Carlos Simon Motherboxx Connection
Stacy Garrop Blurrr


Side by Side orchestra (Chicago Philharmonic with students)
Raimundo Pineda Orchestras for All
An Ode to Joy Festival
Maurice Ravel Boléro
Kool and the Gang Celebration



If you would like to support Chicago Philharmonic’s participation in National Seminario Ravinia, please contribute here!