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July 2016 Newsletter

Avalon 1The Summer Concert Series opened June 7, with Leos Janacek’s grippingly intense String Quartet #2, “Intimate Letters.” Janacek’s vivid harmonies and captivating story line set the stage for our return to his music on July 26 and August 9, in Rush Hour’s first in-depth composer mini-series.

On June 14, Axiom Brass came with a distinguished group of friends, including Christopher Martin (in one of his final Chicago concerts before his leave of absence to play Principal Trumpet with the New York Philharmonic), and filled St. James with the burnished sounds of several brass novelties, including Oskar Boehme’s brilliant Sextet and Witold Lutoslawski’s re-imagining of a familiar Paganini tune.


Make Music Chicago


Make Music Chicago (MMC), now in its sixth year, featured musical events in over thirty different Chicago neighborhoods, engaging performers young and old, professional and amateur, classical and cross-cultural, traditional and improvisatory, brought together through a shared joy of making music, and connecting Chicago to 700 cities across the globe participating in this annual summer solstice celebration. The capstone event of this sprawling party was an awe-inspiring recital by international violin superstar Augustin Hadelich, with MMC’s Artistic Director Kuang-Hao Huang at the piano (and Kuang-Hao’s young daughter Maia keeping busy with the page-turns in a devilishly complicated Stravinsky score!). The capacity crowd in St. James gave an instant standing ovation to this brilliant duo following what was arguably the most electrifying virtuoso display RHC has ever presented.


Educational Partnership


June 28 saw the return of Third Coast Percussion (TCP), one of our favorite partnering organizations, in an entire program of music composed by their members (a first for the ensemble). Earlier in the month, TCP had lead an orchestra of mostly middle school-age students in an innovative group composition project through RHC’s new community engagement partnership with the People’s Music School (TPMS), giving the kids a taste of the creative process; the pride the students felt in their work was evident to the enthusiastic crowd at “Performapaloozathon” at North Park University on June 11 as this one-of-a-kind project came to fruition. Additional projects this Spring included an Avalon String Quartet residency with TPMS’s SLAM (Service, Leadership and Mentorship) students, culminating in a side-by-side performance of Holst’s “Brook Green Suite;” and an Axiom Brass residency at Uptown Academy in which nearly 100 students got to refine their skills through Axiom’s “Art of Practicing” seminar and workshops on breathing and musicianship. All of these projects have been made possible through the tremendous generosity of the Caerus Foundation and the Robert and Isabelle Bass Family Foundation – their support has created inspiring opportunities for the students and professional ensembles alike. The People’s Music School is an exciting partner for Rush Hour Concerts thanks to its unique commitment to providing students with tuition-free access to exceptional musical experiences and instruction.


Pre-Concert Conversations


We’ve been adding more and more chairs each week for our popular pre-concert conversation series, continued from last summer. On June 7 Gerard McBurney, departing Creative Director of the CSO’s Beyond the Score made his final public appearance in Chicago with a captivating introduction to the music of Janacek. The following week, CSO archivist and RHC board member Frank Villella talked about the Chicago brass tradition, with insights from Axiom’s Dorival Puccini. On June 21, Joe Bein of the Stradivari Society talked about the rarefied world of fine string instruments, including the historic instrument played by Augustin Hadelich. And guest host Doyle Armbrust, an expert on the Chicago new music scene, gave us the lay of the land before TCP’s June 28th concert. The common audience complaint about all these conversations is that they can’t be three times longer!


Deborah Sobol Memorial Concert 


Now well into our 17th season, with beloved music for piano and strings from the heart of the chamber music repertoire, we would like to thank our audience for their continued open-mindedness and enthusiasm. Last week, one of our most devoted listeners approached me after the concert. She had flattered me last year with a donation to RHC in my honor, and, recognizing the huge team effort that goes into what we present, wanted to know who else in our organization she could honor with a gift. I told her the perfect opportunity is coming right up! On Tuesday, July 12, we celebrate the memory of Rush Hour Concerts’ founder Deborah Sobol, whose vision and passion created the curatorial framework that we carry on today. Debbie’s empathy led her to insist that cost not be a barrier to anyone who wanted to experience exceptional live chamber music. The annual Deborah Sobol Memorial Concert  presents artists whose careers Debbie nurtured, performing music that she loved. This year Spektral Quartet and pianist Daniel Schlosberg will perform Schumann’s Piano Quintet, Op. 44.

Friends of Debbie’s and devotees of Rush Hour Concerts will be recognizing her legacy through their gifts on July 12. A long-time, anonymous supporter of Rush Hour Concerts has come forward with a generous matching gift for all donations made to the Friends of Deborah Sobol fund by July 31. Individual gifts of all sizes will be matched dollar for dollar, up to a total of $10,000. We encourage you to maximize your impact by making a donation to Friends of Deborah Sobol now and look forward to celebrating Debbie’s legacy together on Tuesday, July 12 at St. James Cathedral.



Rush Hour Concerts has launched a safe, easy way to give using your cell phone.

Text the word GIVE to 312-698-307.

Punctuation and capitalization are not required. You’ll receive a quick reply, asking how much you’d like to donate. Enter an amount and send. The first time you give, you’ll need to follow series of prompts to set up a payment method. You may also choose to set up a recurring gift.  You’ll receive a text confirmation once you have successfully created your account and made a first gift. You and Rush Hour Concerts will also receive email confirmations of all gifts. Subsequent gifts may be made by simply texting GIVE and an amount in the future. Simple!

Our website also has a giving portal and our staff can accept gifts of cash, check or credit card at all concerts or in our office at St. James Cathedral: 65 E Huron Street, Chicago, IL 60611.

Please contact Deirdre Harrison at 312-640-7418 x 14 or at for assistance.


There is tremendous passion, dedication and teamwork behind the programs we put on, and commitment to the idea that people deserve access to the finest culture regardless of their background or circumstance. We are so grateful to all of you who recognize our efforts with your support, and allow us to continue nourishing you and your community with great music for busy lives.


Anthony Devroye, Artistic Director, Rush Hour Concerts

Remembering Deborah Sobol — Anthony Devroye

“It is hard to believe that a year has passed since the sudden and unexpected death of Deborah Sobol- concert pianist, visionary impressaria and founder of Rush Hour Concerts. Debbie’s career started on stage when she was a young girl, blossomed in her adopted hometown of Chicago, and led to organization-building work that had her crossing paths with a whole generation of Chicago’s emerging chamber musicians and ensembles.

The role of mentor came naturally to Debbie, and she gave freely of her boundless energy in teaching young artists how institutional strength can undergird the preservation and invigoration of the art form to which she devoted her life. One year on, the organization she founded to expand the reach of live music remains strong, and the young artists and music-lovers she mentored carry her lessons with them in diverse pursuits that contribute to the vitality of the cultural scene in Chicago and beyond.

Below you will find some reflections from a cross-section of the artists and professionals whose lives she touched.”

Click Here for more Remembrances of Deborah Sobol

Anthony Devroye
Artistic Director, Rush Hour Concerts


CHICAGO (August 27, 2014) – Anthony Devroye, Chicago-based violist of the Avalon String Quartet and an Associate Professor at the Northern Illinois University School of Music, has been named the new Artistic Director of Rush Hour Concerts (RHC), the 15-year-old organization that brings high quality classical music to the public for free in its weekly summer concert series at St. James Cathedral (65 E. Huron St. in River North).  Devroye has served the organization this year as Consulting Artistic Director, working closely with Interim Artistic Director Brant Taylor and Associate Artistic Director Kuang-Hao Huang to preserve the mission and vision of RHC founder and former Creative Director Deborah Sobol, who passed away unexpectedly last January.  The announcement of Devroye’s new title with RHC, which takes effect immediately, was made last night at the final concert of the 2014 season.

Huang will continue in his capacity as Associate Artistic Director with RHC, primarily overseeing Make Music Chicago, the city-wide day of free music that takes place every June 21 and is presented by RHC.  Taylor will remain with the organization as Consulting Artistic Director and as a board member.  Devroye will continue in his role with the Avalon String Quartet and at NIU in addition to his RHC duties.

“I’m so honored to take on this important role, building on the strong foundation laid by Deborah Sobol, a woman I so admired,” said Devroye.  “I want to maintain Rush Hour’s commitment to original thinking surrounding the concert experience, with an emphasis on access to and engagement with the music we cherish.  I’ve spent the last six months getting to know as much as I can about the organization, and I’m inspired by the dedication of Acting Executive Director Kitty Rothschild, RHC Board President Tom Orlando and the rest of the Board.  Working alongside Brant and Kuang-Hao is an opportunity any musician would envy.”

“Less than one year ago, Debbie said that she wanted Rush Hour Concert’s artistic team to be ‘creating things out of the box, responsive to the times, forward-thinking and staying nimble,’” noted Orlando.  “Over the course of this year, Tony has exhibited these attributes and many more that are important for the success of this organization.  In hindsight, we are fortunate that Debbie gave so much thought to who would succeed her.  I can say with confidence that we have installed the artistic leadership team that will launch Rush Hour Concerts into its next 15 years of transforming busy lives through great music.”

Devroye enjoys a varied and active career as chamber, orchestral and solo violist and teacher.  He has been violist of the Avalon String Quartet since 2004 and on the faculty at the Northern Illinois University School of Music since 2007.  Devroye has performed with Avalon at major venues throughout the United States, including Bargemusic and Merkin Hall in New York, the Music Guild in Los Angeles and the National Gallery in Washington, D.C., as well as in France and South Korea.  His orchestral experience includes numerous performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra under Riccardo Muti, Charles Dutoit, Christoph Eschenbach and other leading conductors.  He has also performed with the New York Philharmonic, Chicago’s Lyric Opera Orchestra, the Grant Park Symphony and Music of the Baroque.  He was previously a fellow at the New World Symphony in Miami Beach.  He has taught at the Interlochen Advanced String Quartet Program, the Icicle Creek Music Center and Madeline Island Music Camp, and has given master classes at UCLA, BYU, DePaul and the University of Tennessee.

About Rush Hour Concerts: Making Music Accessible
Since its inception in 2000, Rush Hour Concerts has reinvented the classical music experience through a dedication to artistic quality, a concert format suitable to contemporary lifestyles and a policy of admission-free events.  Rush Hour Concerts has created groundbreaking programs and access initiatives that have revolutionized music-making in Chicago and forged trendsetting partnerships with the city’s arts and cultural community.  In addition to the Summer Concert Series, Rush Hour Concerts unites the city through music every year during Make Music Chicago on the summer solstice, June 21, a citywide, daylong celebration of everyone’s ability to make music.

Rush Hour Concerts is committed to broadening arts access and launched its Community Engagement Residencies to bring expert musical instruction to under-resourced neighborhoods in Chicago through a long-term strategy of artistic and community collaboration. Now in its 15th year, Rush Hour Concerts has expanded into a year-round arts organization, yet remains grounded in its mission to reach across all communities with new ways for audiences to experience world-class music in Chicago.

J.S. Bach and Good Citizenship

Deborah Sobol, the founder of Rush Hour Concerts, was devoted to the music of J.S. Bach.  On July 15th, Rush Hour celebrated its 15th Anniversary with a program focused on Bach, featuring organ music performed by Bruce Barber as well as the Sones de México Ensemble and New Chicago Brass collaborating on an unforgettably unique arrangement of the Third Brandenburg Concerto.  A heartfelt thank you to all who performed in and attended this standing-room-only celebration!

Debbie had a deep appreciation for and love of all things Bach. She would often refer to him as “Mr. Bach” or “ol’ J.S.,” and Bach’s keyboard music was a cornerstone of her pedagogy. In her own words: (more…)

The Organ and Alexandre Guilmant’s March on a Theme by Handel, Op. 15

This month we’ve asked Bruce Barber to share his thoughts on Alexandre Guilmant.

The relationship between Rush Hour Concerts and the Great Organ at St. James Cathedral was firmly established 15 years ago during the first Summer Concert Series, and this joyous match has continued every year since. It’s a natural, really. This pairing, established through the vision of Debbie Sobol and William Crosby, then the Organist and Choirmaster of the Cathedral, allowed chamber music (at the highest level) to find a home in this glorious Cathedral where for over 150 years the Great Organ had presided, virtually solely. (more…)

Take the Audience Survey

Because Rush Hour was designed with you, the listener, in mind, your feedback is essential to us. Please help us strengthen our offerings by completing our audience survey. Survey responses are completely anonymous. Thank you for helping us to improve the Rush Hour experience.

The Rush Hour Experience

An Introduction to Rush Hour

Do you wonder what defines “the Rush Hour experience”? These remarks, delivered before the August 14 Rush Hour concert, will give you an idea:

Good evening, I’m Tom Orlando, a member of the Rush Hour Concerts Board of Directors.  It is my pleasure to welcome you to today’s concert by the Spektral Quartet, a new performer to Rush Hour and an ensemble that has received critical acclaim.

At Rush Hour, we believe that audiences who desire to have a true listening experience are as vital to artistic achievement as the artists who make the sounds we hear, and that the relationship between audience and performer is a very healthy co-dependency.  Isn’t this why we leave the comfort of our homes to experience a live performance?  We need to.  We are nourished by it.  And, I believe, they, the performers, draw energy from us and achieve even greater feats of artistry as a result of our interaction with them.

But in too many cases, live performances are cost prohibitive or in settings that are large and impersonal or intimidating.  Our mission at Rush Hour is to bring you top quality, free programming in an environment that is intimate, communal, informal and welcoming.

After you hear the Spektral Quartet, I am confident you will agree that we have again fulfilled our goal of featuring top quality performers.

And we have St. James to thank for allowing us to feature performers in this intimate, communal, informal and welcoming space.

We also thank our generous donors for making our programming free for you and without whom this would not be possible.

That leaves you, our audience, without whom none of this would be relevant.  We thank you for helping us make the music making experience the dynamic experience we believe it is meant to be.  If you like what we do, please think about one or two other people in your life who have either not heard about us or are a little unsure about what we do, or perhaps even unsure if they would like what we do.  We welcome the uninitiated and believe this is an excellent format for people to test the waters of the kind of music we present.

There are two more concerts left this summer after today.  Encourage them to come, or bring them along to one of the remaining concerts with you, or keep them in mind for next summer.  Help us reach more listeners, and we promise to provide you with more artists like those you have enjoyed all summer, including the ones you are about to hear.

In just a moment we will go to the live broadcast by WFMT 98.7 and our host, Dave Schwann, who will be speaking with Doyle Armbrust, a member of the Spektral Quartet.

Thank you again for joining us tonight.  We hope you enjoy the concert.

Consular Collaborations

Rush Hour’s Consular Collaboration program is a distinctive aspect of our summer offerings. Now in its eighth year, the program offers our audiences the opportunity to “dip into” the culture of countries from around the world through music and culinary offerings.

This season, we will partner with the Consulates General of Switzerland, Germany, France, Spain, Great Britain, and Austria. Each program features music and pre-concert reception treats from each native land.

This Tuesday, we are delighted to welcome Consul General Martin Bienz to our concert as we feature the Männerstimmen Basel, the award-winning men’s a cappella group from Basel, Switzerland. They are presenting a varied program of works from the last five centuries – from traditional classical men’s choir music to modern finds. Special thanks to Margreth Trümpi Martin for her wonderful logistical work in making this concert possible for all of us.

I hope you will “travel the world with us” without leaving home in the upcoming weeks!

Deborah Sobol
Creative Director

Rush Hour Conversations

Rush Hour Conversations

Watch or hear extended interviews with Rush Hour artists, Rush Hour advisors, and other innovators in the world of arts and culture today, hosted by Rush Hour Artistic Director Deborah Sobol.

Celebrate Independence Day with Rush Hour Concerts

Quintet AttaccaCelebrate Independence Day early with Rush Hour Concerts this Tuesday, July 3! Quintet Attacca will perform John Steinmetz’s Wind Quintet and John Philip Sousa’s patriotic piece The Stars and Stripes Forever. Click here for more information.

Help Rush Hour raise some dough!

HomeMade PizzaFor one day only – Wednesday, June 27th – Rush Hour will receive a donation for every take-out order picked up at HomeMade Pizza’s Streeterville location – 209 E. Ohio St. (click here for a map)– between 3:00 and 9:00 PM.  HomeMade Pizza will donate:

  • $5 for every large pizza sold
  • $5 for every gluten free pizza sold (available in 10” only)
  • $2 for every large salad sold
  • $1 for every breadstick order sold
  • 20% from every gift card purchase

Place your order online at, or call (312) 595-0900; online orders can be placed up to 3 weeks in advance, and phone orders can be placed as early as 1 PM.  Save the date, and help Rush Hour turn dinners into dollars on the 27th!

Rush Hour Concerts and June 12 Fifth House Ensemble Concert featured on TV

This week, Rush Hour Concerts was featured on the morning news on ABC7. Executive Director Kelly Jocius was interviewed about the Summer Series and the upcoming concert next week with Fifth House Ensemble. See the video here (Flash Player is required):

Meanwhile, WCIU’s You&Me This Morning interviewed Creative Director Deborah Sobol:

Come see Fifth House Ensemble at Rush Hour Concerts next Tuesday, June 12, and be sure to check out the rest of our Summer Series!


Interview with Fifth House Ensemble’s Adam Marks

June 12: Fifth House Ensemble

In anticipation of Fifth House Ensemble’s upcoming June 12 performance with Rush Hour Concerts, Fifth House’s Adam Marks was kind enough to answer some questions for our audience members:


[caption id="attachment_1436" align="alignright" width="120" caption="Adam Marks"]Adam Marks[/caption]

What inspires you to do what you do?

Fifth House Ensemble taps the collaborative spirit of chamber music to create engaging performances and interactive educational programs, forging meaningful partnerships with unexpected venues, artists of other disciplines, educational institutions, and audiences of every type. In particular, we are delighted to celebrate the inaugural year of the fresh inc festival, bringing together adventurous and talented musicians from across the country to create new music and pave the way for the next generation of chamber music artists.

You can read the rest of the interview after the break. For more details about next week’s performance, click here. (more…)

Rahm Emanuel Proclaims June 21 “Make Music Chicago Day!”

In a Mayoral Proclamation, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has designated June 21st as “Make Music Chicago day:

Be sure to join us and Mayor Emanuel on June 21 in celebrating Make Music Chicago Day!

The 2012 Summer Series kicks off Tuesday, June 5th

The office is buzzing with activity here at Rush Hour HQ as we prepare to kick off our 13th Summer Series at St. James Cathedral!  Our first concert is less than two weeks away and we are excited to have five of Chicago’s finest brass players herald in what we hope to be our best season yet.  On Tuesday, June 5th, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Brass Quintet will present a concert featuring brass highlights spanning the past four centuries.  It’s a concert not to be missed!

Here is what Creative Director Deborah Sobol had to say about this exciting time here at Rush Hour Concerts:

[caption id="attachment_1392" align="alignright" width="145" caption="Deborah Sobol"][/caption]

In the midst of this glorious and extended Spring in Chicago with Nature’s bounty all around us, Rush Hour Concerts is experiencing unprecedented programmatic growth. I am so pleased to welcome Kelly Jocius to Rush Hour’s leadership team as Executive Director. Together we will continue to broaden ways to serve Chicagoans with access to world-class music and participation in great music for busy lives.

In a few weeks, we will launch our 13th Summer Series at St. James Cathedral of “Great Music for Busy Lives.” Throughout the summer, our weekly audiences will experience virtuosic music-making by over 60 nationally and internationally acclaimed artists in an aural journey beginning in the Renaissance period and traveling through a luminous soundscape of music from the Classical, Romantic, Modern and Contemporary periods. Please click here to view the complete schedule of our summer programs and artists.

As always, Rush Hour’s distinctive Access Program will offer our audiences numerous opportunities for engagement in our weekly concerts, from conversations with our artists during the pre-concert receptions and preview online postings of our program notes, to our Rush Hour Conversations podcast series and the popular “In-A-Flash” program, enabling folk to take the weekly concert experience home with them.

I look forward to keeping in touch with you electronically in this very exciting period for Rush Hour and to greeting you weekly at our Summer Tuesday series at St. James Cathedral!

– Deborah Sobol
Creative Director

We hope you’re excited for a summer filled with incredible music – and we hope to see you on Tuesday, June 5th beginning at 5:15 PM!

Click here for this summer’s complete concert schedule.