Great Music for Busy Lives.


Exciting News from Rush Hour Concerts and International Music Foundation

testTwo of Chicago’s premiere classical music presenters have merged under one flagship banner!

International Music Foundation

Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts – Rush Hour Concerts Summer Series

Do-It-Yourself Messiah – Make Music Chicago
Live Music Now! – Professional Ensemble Residencies

All of the high-quality music programs you have come to know and love will continue:

When you think of free, high-quality music performances in Chicago, what comes to mind? For many of you, it is the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts presented every Wednesday at the Chicago Cultural Center and broadcast live on 98.7 WFMT. For many others of you, it is the Rush Hour Concerts Summer Series presented 13 Tuesdays in a row from June to August at St. James Cathedral. For all of you, we hope one day soon it is both!

In all of these years – 39 for Dame Myra Hess and 17 for Rush Hour Concerts – each has enjoyed a cherished position on Chicago’s cultural landscape. Now, as one organization, we will economize operations, expand programming, and provide enhanced performance opportunities to established and emerging musicians. We will continue to excel at what we each do individually, with more efficiency, and we can do more of what we both do well, together.

Therefore, on October 3, 2016, we joined and became the new International Music Foundation. Our Board of Directors have combined; the Executive Director will be Ann Murray; the transition will be led by Kitty Rothschild. Artistic direction for the Rush Hour Concerts programs will continue to be shared by the talented trio of Anthony Devroye, Kuang-Hao Huang and Brant Taylor, with artistic direction for the Do-It-Yourself Messiah and the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts continuing to be led by the distinguished artistic team of Elizabeth Buccheri, James Setapen, Andrea Swan, Mathias Tacke and Richard Young. In other words, you will continue to see the same faces!

For those of you who are regulars at the Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts, it will be business as usual next Wednesday and every Wednesday thereafter. For those of you who are regulars at the Rush Hour Concerts Summer Series, we are already working on next summer’s lineup. We hope you share our excitement about what this merger promises!

International Music Foundation
Year-Round Programming

Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts

Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts features solo and ensemble performances that showcase emerging classical performers. Held year-round on Wednesdays at 12:15 p.m. in Preston Bradley Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center.

Do-It-Yourself Messiah
A Chicago holiday tradition since 1976, the Do-It-Yourself Messiah brings together a world-class conductor and soloists, an all-volunteer orchestra of local professionals and amateur musicians and thousands of chorus/audience in a thrilling performance of Handel’s masterpiece, Messiah.

Live Music Now!
Live Music Now! brings the experience and joy of live performances to Chicago Public School students through in-school recitals and young people’s concerts. The program was inspired by a similar effort created in Great Britain by Yehudi Menuhin who served as a consultant for the Chicago program.

Make Music Chicago
Make Music Chicago is a one-day, citywide, free music festival that takes place annually on the Summer Solstice, June 21, and is completely free for musicians and audiences alike.

Rush Hour Concerts Summer Series
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. Held on Tuesday evenings throughout the summer at 5:45 p.m. at St. James Cathedral.

Professional Ensemble Educational Residencies
Since 2012, Rush Hour Concerts has partnered with many of Chicago’s finest classical ensembles, including Avalon Quartet, Axiom Brass, Third Coast Percussion and Spektral Quartet, to develop curriculum and partner with after school music programs, currently The People’s Music School, for embedded residencies that allow students to interact with working professionals as mentors and teachers in a dynamic way in their own neighborhoods.

For more information, click here.

September Newsletter


It is gratifying to look back on a full summer of music, as the 17th season of Rush Hour Concerts comes to a close. Highlights of the season include Augustin Hadelich and Kuang-Hao Huang’s Make Music Chicago recital, Schumann’s breathtaking Piano Quintet in memory of Deborah Sobol, and Fifth House Ensemble’s lively interpretation of Janacek alongside poet Richie Hoffman. Every program this summer brought something unique, including the exceptional virtuosity and artistry of the Chicago performers we are so proud to present.

Lately I’ve been thinking about what makes for a truly successful concert experience, and three distinct factors come to mind.

First, we want to elicit some reaction from our listeners, to move you. Sometimes this has to do with the beauty of the experience, but prettiness is by no means the only goal. Some music is meant to disrupt or disturb, or reach us through sadness or pain. Other times it can be exuberant, playful, or intriguing. We want you to feel like something has happened to you, not just that another half-hour of your life has idly passed by.

Second, we feel that the music should be presented in context. This can happen through spoken or written commentary focusing on the life and times of the composer, basic analysis of musical forms and features, or a tracing of the historical arc of the genre at hand. Every piece of music has a story or context that can deepen our understanding of a performance.

Finally, we hope that the impact of the performance and contextualizing of the experience create a hunger in the listener for more. This is the factor that ultimately leads to the sustenance of the art form itself, by captivating people new to the experience and continually enriching the relationship to music of even the most seasoned concertgoers.

These three factors have been the driving force behind our curation of the Rush Hour Concerts experience. Your response – in your continued presence at our concerts, your enthusiastic support of our great performers, and your financial investment in this ongoing experiment – tells us that you are still hungry for more, and we are privileged to keep bringing it to you.

Thank you for being a part of our season!

Anthony Devroye, Artistic Director

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…)

The Harmonic Alchemy of Gabriel Fauré

This month we’ve asked Winston Choi to share his thoughts on Gabriel Fauré. Please watch for Civitas Ensemble’s performance of Gabriel Fauré’s Piano Quartet No. 1 in C minor at the end of the month in our April newsletter. 

Gabriel Fauré believed that “music exists to elevate us as far as possible above everyday life.” He had his own distinct way of elevating performers and musicians, and created a musical language that is at once intensely moving and deeply personal. (more…)

March Listening Moment: Benjamin Britten: Lachrymae, Reflections on a song of John Dowland

A hallmark of Rush Hour Concerts’ mission is to make classical music accessible to everyone. With that in mind, we have developed the Listening Moments Series. Each month we will highlight a piece by a favorite composer, performed by RHC’s world-class artists. These performances will be accompanied by a short listening guide by the featured artist(s) that provides their unique insights about the piece and aims to enhance the listener’s appreciation of the music. (more…)

RUSH HOUR CONCERTS 2014: Celebrating 15th Anniversary and Honoring Memory of Founder Deborah Sobol


Celebrating 15th Anniversary and Honoring Memory of Founder Deborah Sobol

Brant Taylor takes reins as Interim Artistic Director and
Kitty Rothschild takes lead as Acting Executive Director

Free Concerts every Tuesday evening at St. James Cathedral in River North,
June 3 – August 26

CHICAGO (March 26, 2014) – This summer, Rush Hour Concerts (RHC) celebrates its 15th anniversary season and honors the memory of its founder, Deborah Sobol, who passed away unexpectedly January 25, 2014 at the age of 63. Sobol launched RHC in 2000 to create free public access to high-quality music and, since then, the summer concert series has become a beloved annual event offering live classical music every Tuesday evening after work in River North’s serene and historic St. James Cathedral, 65 E. Huron Street. The 2014 Summer Concert Series runs June 3 through August 26; each evening begins with a pre-concert reception with the artists at 5:15 pm in the cathedral foyer, followed by a 30- to 45-minute concert at 5:45 pm. The reception and concert are always free and no tickets are required. For the 5th consecutive year, 98.7 WFMT broadcasts the Summer Concert Series live from St. James Cathedral each week. (more…)

Benjamin Britten and Echoes of Aldeburgh

This month we’ve asked Rush Hour Concerts Consulting Artistic Director Anthony Devroye to share his thoughts on Benjamin Britten. Please watch for Tony’s performance of Benjamin Britten’s Lachrymae: Reflections on a song of Dowland, Op. 48a for viola and piano at the end of the month in our March newsletter. 

In his illuminating chapter on Benjamin Britten from The Rest is Noise (2007), Alex Ross writes movingly of Britten’s opera Peter Grimes: “The music is poised perfectly between the familiar and the strange, the pictorial and the psychological… it gives shape to what a wanderer feels as he walks alone.” This description encapsulates what is so magical and elusive about so much of Britten’s music. (more…)

February 2014: Listening Moment Series

Brahms: Intermezzo, Op.118, No. 2 in A Major

A hallmark of Rush Hour Concerts’ mission is to make classical music accessible to everyone. With that in mind, we have developed the Listening Moments Series. Each month we will highlight a piece by a favorite composer, performed by RHC’s world-class artists. These performances will be accompanied by a short listening guide by the featured artist(s) that provides their unique insights about the piece and aims to enhance the listener’s appreciation of the music.

To close out February and our focus on Brahms, please enjoy  Intermezzo, Op. 118, No. 2 in A Major discussed and performed by Kuang-Hao Huang, RHC Associate Artistic Director. (more…)

Brahms and Our Passion

To honor Debbie Sobol’s vision to provide a listening moment each month of 2014, Rush Hour Concerts’ 15th anniversary year, we are pleased to share edited excerpts from her previous writings found in the RHC archives, that seem particularly appropriate for our current weather.

It’s February, and here in Chicago we’re having a blast of winter the likes of which we have not seen in recent years. February is the shortest month of the year, but the cold and dark make it feel like one of the longest. As I write this, yet another snowstorm is raining down upon us like an endless salt-shaker in the sky. I’m reminded of an opening line from A Child’s Christmas in Wales, “Winter in my memory is as white as Lapland.” (more…)

Mozart and Our Humanity

The snow is swirling outside my window in Chicago as I write this on a mid-January morning. My thoughts turn to Austria – Vienna, to be specific – and what January in the mid-1700’s must have been like. No central heating, no electricity, only the sounds of horses’ hooves and ravens’ cawing punctuating the city’s day-to-day silence. Continuing to let my mind-wander, I arrive at the apartment house of Mozart…not Mozart the icon, the subject of plays, movies and commerce in later centuries … not even the Mozart on the front of yellow or blue volumes perched on music stands in conservatories, concert stages, and living room pianos…

But Mozart the Human. (more…)

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