After a two-year vetting process for a new music director, Elgin Symphony Orchestra just announced the selection of Andrew Grams.
The ESO calls Grams one of America’s most promising and talented young conductors. A protégé of Franz Welser-Moest, he served as assistant conductor of the Cleveland Orchestra from 2004 to 2007.
A native of Maryland, Grams received a bachelor of music degree in 1999 in violin performance from the Juilliard School. In 2003, he received a conducting degree from the Curtis Institute of Music, where he worked with Otto-Werner Mueller.
An accomplished violinist, Grams was a member of the New York City Ballet Orchestra at Lincoln Center from 1998 to 2004, serving as acting associate principal second violin in 2002 and 2004. In addition, he has performed with ensembles including the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, the Brooklyn Philharmonic and the New Jersey Symphony.
Grams is an internationally renowned guest conductor and travels around the world to conduct, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, St. Louis Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra of Washington D.C., Montreal Symphony, Vancouver Symphony, BBC Symphony Orchestra London, Melbourne Symphony, Orchestra of Santa Cecilia Rome and Hamburg Symphony.
Maestro Grams will be the fourth music director to lead the ESO in its 63-year history. The symphony was founded in 1950, by Douglas Steensland at Elgin Community College, and in 1981, became an independent nonprofit organization. This began a new era for the orchestra. Four years later the ESO became fully professional.
In 1971, Grammy Award-winning conductor Margaret Hillis was appointed music director. She was the first woman to ever conduct the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and brought a period of artistic growth to the ESO.
Robert Hanson replaced Margaret Hillis as music director in 1983, until his retirement in 2011. During Maestro Hanson’s tenure, the Elgin Symphony experienced tremendous operational and artistic growth. The size of the orchestra and its reputation for exceptional performances were greatly accelerated during this period, with the orchestra honored as the Illinois Orchestra of the Year on three occasions.
The appointment of Grams ends a search that saw more than 200 applicants. During the last two years, the 12 finalists were able to conduct the Elgin Symphony for at least one concert week. The search committee, chaired by Harry Blizzard, member of the ESO Board of Directors, included other board members, orchestra members selected by the entire orchestra, a representative from the city of Elgin and staff members of the ESO. Henry Fogel, former chief executive officer of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, advised, consulted and assisted in the selection process.
On Saturday, Oct. 5, Grams will make his debut as ESO music director, conducting Mahler's "Titan" Symphony No. 1. That weekend will kick off the 2013-14 season of seven Classic concert weekends, two Pops concert weekends, one Holiday concert weekend, and three Family concerts.
Venues include the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin, where ESO patrons can enjoy a drink, special desserts and shopping in the lobby to support the orchestra. After Saturday night performances, the audience is invited to “Mingle with the Musicians” at local restaurants. The ESO also plays at the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts and the Batavia Fine Arts Centre.
Through its WFMT broadcasts, music of the ESO is available to listeners all around the globe. The ESO has performed alongside such guest soloists as Pinchas Zukerman, Yo-Yo Ma, Kathleen Battle, Sir James Galway, and Itzhak Pearlman. Other notables include violinist Bella Hristova, cellist Alisa Weilerstein, soprano Arianna Zukerman, flutist Amy Porter and the groundbreaking string trio Time for Three. During the 2013-14 season, guest artists will include Terrence Wilson, Carter Brey, Brandon Ridenour and Isabella Lippi, the ESO concertmaster.
In 1987, the ESO began Kidz Konzertz, a music education program aimed at elementary and middle-school children. It draws more than 8,000 students each year from nearly 60 communities. The ESO Musicians Care Program takes musicians out of the concert hall and into the public and patient spaces of Sherman Hospital in Elgin twice each week.
Subscriptions for the coming Season – "Transformed by Music" – are now available and can be purchased through the ESO Box Office at 847-888-4000 or at www.elginsymphony.org.