Over 8,000 area students will attend Elgin Symphony Orchestra (ESO) Ainsworth Concerts for Youth at the Hemmens Cultural Center on April 2-5, including every 4th grade student in School District U-46, thanks to the generous support of the City of Elgin, the Snodgrass Family Fund and the Ainsworth Family. This year’s program is ESO World Tour, highlighting music from around the globe. Resident Conductor Stephen Squires is the Captain who “pilots” a program featuring 17-year-old violinist Claire Arias-Kim. Diane Handler is ESO World Tour host/flight attendant. ESO youth concerts are named in honor of longtime sponsor Sterling “Stu” Ainsworth, who died May 18, 2018. For more information about a class field trip to the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin to hear the ESO, contact Wendy Evans, director of community engagement and orchestra personnel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 847-888-0404 ext. 238.
The ESO Ainsworth Concerts for Youth, led by Resident Conductor Stephen Squires, are designed to introduce children in grades 2-8 to the fundamentals of music. Teachers are given educational materials in advance to help enhance learning. The ESO partners with District U-46 schools to provide complimentary tickets to the concerts, offering access to many who otherwise would not have a classical music concert experience. The 2019 concerts will includes works by Leonard Bernstein, Li Huanzhi, Percy Grainger, Henryk Wieniawski and Alex Shapiro. Also featured is the Suite from the movie “Frozen,” arr. Krogstad. ESO percussionist Michael Folker will give an African drumming demonstration. The concerts are named in honor of longtime sponsor, ESO Board Member and 2017 Illinois Council of Orchestras’ Volunteer of the Year Sterling Ainsworth. Visit ElginSymphony.Org for more information.
Claire Arias-Kim, 17, studies violin with Almita Vamos and is a Merit Scholarship Fellow at the Music Institute of Chicago’s Academy, a training center for advanced pre-college musicians. Claire began her violin studies with Betty Haag at age 3. At 6 years of age, she had the opportunity of performing on tour with the Magical Strings of Youth in Prague and had solo performances on the California tour. Claire was the winner of the Jacobs School of Music Summer String Academy Concerto Competition as well as winner of the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra Young Artist Concerto Competition. Other achievements include ﬁrst place in the Sejong Music Competition and Granquist Music Competition as well as prizes in the Music Festival in Honor of Confucius Competition and DePaul Concerto Festival. Last year, Claire performed Lalo’s Symphony Espagnole with the Lakeview Orchestra after winning ﬁrst place in their concerto competition. For two consecutive summers, Claire was one of 12 violinists selected to be part of the Brian Lewis Young Artists Program, a fully funded program made possible through the generosity of the Dorothy Richard Starling Foundation for ten to twelve highly gifted violinists. There she had the opportunity to perform the Mendelssohn and Saint Saens violin concertos with the Ottawa Chamber Orchestra. For three consecutive years, Claire was selected to participate with her chamber ensemble in the quarter-ﬁnals of the Fischoﬀ Chamber Music Competition where most recently she advanced to the semi-ﬁnals as a member of Trio Sarrasin. In 2017 she was selected to perform a recital at the Young Steinway Concert Series. Recently she was a National YoungArts Foundation Merit Winner. In the winter of 2017, Claire premiered Fantasy for Violin, Strings and Piano by Gong Qian Yang and performed the Butterﬂy Lovers’ Violin Concerto by He Zhanhao and Chen Gang with the Lincolnwood Chamber Orchestra at the International Cultural Exchange Festival presented by the Chicago Chopin Society and American Music Festivals. This year she was selected as a 2018 semi-ﬁnalist for the 21st Annual Sphinx Competition. Claire has had violin masterclasses with Ilya Kaler, Vadim Gluzman, Kristof Barati, Yair Kless, Gerardo Ribeiro, Peter Herresthal, Rachel Barton-Pine and Olga Kaler as well as piano masterclasses with Dr. Brian Lee and Angela Yoﬀee. During the summer of 2017, she was a participant of the Bowdoin International Music Festival and this summer she attended the Aspen Music Festival under a merit scholarship studying with Robert Lipsett. This fall Claire will be a featured artist on WFMT’s “Introductions” where she will be performing a recital that will be simulcast live.
Stephen Squires is a musician with a career that blends his passions for conducting, teaching, and performing. Fully committed to conducting the music of living composers, he has premiered over eighty new works. Mr. Squires received his musical training at the Preparatory School of the Eastman School of Music and the Crane School of Music, in his home state of New York. He earned his Master’s degree in Instrumental Conducting/Trumpet Performance at California State University, Northridge. Further conducting studies were with Helmuth Rilling, Maurice Abravanel, Daniel Lewis, Tsung Yeh, and at the Aspen Music Festival. Stephen Squires is Professor of Conducting in the Music Conservatory of the Chicago College of Performing Arts, Roosevelt University. Prior to this appointment he served on the artist faculty of the Northern Illinois School of Music for nineteen years, where he received the prestigious “Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching Award.”
Mr. Squires’ current professional appointments include Resident Conductor of the Elgin (IL) Symphony Orchestra, Principal Guest Conductor, Fox Valley Orchestra, Music Director of the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra (Rockford, IL), Music Director of the Millar Brass (Evanston, IL), and Music Director of the Illinois Brass Band (Arlington Heights, IL). He is the former Music Director of the Illinois Chamber Symphony.
Diane Kenney Handler studied voice with Emily McKnight at Millikin University, Phyllis Curtin at Boston University, and with Lucille Halfverson and Neva Bailey in Chicago. Area appearances include Patty, Fairways, the Musical, Steel Beam Theatre in 2010, and the Kane County Bar Association Variety Show in 2008 and 2014. The Elgin Symphony Orchestra Director of Marketing since January 2016, Ms. Handler was the host of the 2018 Ainsworth Concerts for Youth.
The Elgin Symphony Orchestra offers programming unmatched for an entertaining, informative and relaxing cultural experience. The ESO has won Illinois Professional Orchestra of the Year a record-breaking four times – in 1988, 1999, 2005 and 2016. The ESO works to create an enjoyable entertainment experience that goes beyond the magnificent music performed by some of the best musicians in the region. There is accessible, free parking around the Hemmens Cultural Center and valet service available. Area student musicians often perform in the lobby before concerts where patrons can enjoy a drink and purchase gifts at the Elgin Symphony League Boutique. Pre-concert chats are given by Music Director Andrew Grams, guest artists and others one hour before most performances and Saturday night patrons are invited after concerts to Mingle with the Musicians at area restaurants. In addition, free Listeners Club lecture/discussions presented by music historian Jim Kendros are offered before ESO Classics Series concert weekends on Wednesdays at Greenfields of Geneva and the Gail Borden Public Library. Flex passes are available for purchase so that you can choose your concerts at a later date based on your own schedule. And if a patron can’t make a concert, the ESO offers free exchanges to subscribers and to single ticket buyers for a fee. The ESO is a world-class orchestra providing quality musical explorations that are entertaining, hassle-free and conveniently located close to home in the western suburbs. For more information, see ElginSymphony.Org.