Orchestra Spotlight:
Grant Park Symphony Orchestra

About The Ensemble

The GPMF Orchestra & ChorusThe GPMF Orchestra & Chorus (click to enlarge)

Among the professional level orchestras throughout the United States, perhaps none is as unique as the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra (GPSO). The Grant Park Music Festival (GPMF) was initially conceived by Chicago Mayor A. J. Cermak during the Great Depression in 1931 when the city presented a series of free concerts to lift the spirits of Chicagoans. The following year, James C. Petrillo, the president of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, vigorously labored to turn these concerts into a permanent summer tradition. Petrillo’s motives were twofold: to make classical music available for all Chicagoans, and to provide secure employment for union musicians.

75 years later, those efforts have endured as the GPSO is the only summer festival ensemble that is a member of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians, a conference of the American Federation of Musicians. As of the 2006 concert season, the ensemble has a 10 week season and offers a base salary of $10,377, plus and additional $650.00 for health and welfare, as well as a $950.00 Electronic Media Guarantee.

The GPSO has a guaranteed, 10 week seasonThe GPSO has a guaranteed, 10 week season (click to enlarge)

In addition to the 82 regular orchestra musicians, the festival also maintains a 100 member paid, professional chorus under the leadership of a dedicated chorus director. Since 2001, the Festival has been presented through a unique collaboration of the Chicago Park District, the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and the Grant Park Orchestral Association. The Grant Park Orchestral Association is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting the Festival’s programs and priorities. The Grant Park Orchestra and Chorus reach over one million people annually through free classical music performances and the Festival’s extensive community engagement program brings music education to young people from across the city each summer.

Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium ParkThe Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park (click to enlarge)

In 2004, the Festival moved to its new home in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. This state-of-the-art music pavilion was designed by internationally renowned architect Frank Gehry and features an unparalleled acoustic system created by the Talaske Group, Inc. of Oak Park, IL. The first permanent outdoor installation of its kind in the United States, the Pavilion’s sound system features digitally processed “virtual architecture” and an open-air acoustical canopy to create a state-of-the-art sonic experience.

The Grant Park Symphony Orchestra carries the unique distinction of being the only professional orchestral ensemble in the United States whose annual budget is subsidized by the government by at least 50%. In essence, the GPSO is the closest thing to a state sponsored ensemble in the U.S. As such, The Grant Park Music Festival is the nation’s only remaining free, outdoor classical music series.


Comments (Click to Hide)

These are all inspiring interviews. I wish there were more summer ensembles with such organization and vision. I would say that Grant Park is very lucky, but after reading all the interviews, I would punctuate that thought with the fact that Grant Park has put in a tremendous amount of hard work and commitment. The ones that are truly lucky are the audience members.
katin on June 16, 2019 at 11:39 AM

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