Thanks for a Season of Firsts

Dear PRCOrchestra Family,

The 2016-17 concert season, closely preceded by the loss of our inspiring founders, Edgar & Nancy Muenzer, was a challenge -- but I know from the feedback you’ve given us that today they would be proud. We maintained their high standards and provided a wealth of enthralling musical memories. With the unfailing, sweat-the- details leadership of Nancy’s close friend Pam Benitez, our board president; the creative energy of our music director Victor Muenzer; and the patient expertise of personnel manager Karen Nelson and stage manager Len Johnson, among others; the tradition goes on.

Last summer, I began my near-total immersion in all things PRCOrchestra. What an adventure! Past and current board members, veteran and new volunteers stepped up, along with our reliable friends at D64 and Emerson and a host of ladies from Pam’s and former executive director Deborah Oberschelp’s churches. As soon as I finish this list I know I’ll think of three more people to thank, but for the moment, Phyllis Doyle, Jared Skiba, Laurie Pegler Malin, Deanna Jordan, Kathy Hanson, Stefan Bryson, Garrett, Pluhar-Schaeffer, Joanne Johnson, Rex Parker, Kathy Ballentine and the incomparably dedicated, talented Runal Patel come to mind.

At the iconic Pickwick in Park Ridge, bad weather rained on our Halloween concert parade, but the thrilling show went on. Our Holiday Concert on Pearl Harbor Day combined patriotic Christmas favorites and our once-in- a-lifetime Founders’ Valentine Concert celebrated the creative power of love. At the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, we were honored in March when David Taylor, CSO assistant concertmaster, joined PRCOrchestra for his stellar, first-ever solo performance of Brahm’s demanding Violin Concerto in D Major. And our season finale really was grand, with Bill McGlaughlin, popular host of WFMT’s nationally syndicated Exploring Music, conducting us in his first Chicago-area performance in 38 years.

Along with concerts, we managed a gala fundraiser, conducted auditions for student scholarships, taught music programs to young adults with special needs, held recitals at the Library, provided tickets to local charity raffles and appeared at local events. A professional orchestra is a big endeavor and we deeply value your patronage, sponsorships, donations, and volunteer help. With your generous support, we’ll keep on bringing you the world’s best music, close to home.

Gratefully,

Mary Wynn Ryan
Executive Director

Announcing the 2017 PRCOrchestra Scholarship Winners

Percussionist Benjamin Heim is winner of the Rotary International Educational Scholarship underwritten by the Rotary Club of Park Ridge. Heim is a Des Plaines resident and a senior at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, under the band direction of Bernie Gerstmayr. Heim has been playing percussion for nine years, and is currently the percussion section leader at Maine West. He is the section leader of the school's Front Ensemble, the vibist in the Jazz Band, the drum set player in "Warrior Strings" (the school's pops orchestra), and the percussionist in the Pit Orchestra for Maine West’s school musicals. He has also composed two original pieces for the school's annual Variety Show.

Since his sophomore year, Heim has been enrolled in the Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory at Merit School of Music. He spends his Saturdays there, participating in many of the school's top ensembles, including the Philharmonic Orchestra and a percussion ensemble. The percussion ensemble, dubbed "Sticks and Stones," is a competitive chamber group, under the direction of Brandon Podjasek, and has earned accolades from the Rembrandt Chamber Musicians Annual High School Chamber Music Competition and the A.N and Pearl G. Barnett Chamber Music Competition.

Heim plans on studying Music Composition and Technology at Northeastern University in Boston, MA. 

Violinist Steven Song is winner of the Mark Waltz Memorial Scholarship The scholarship is underwritten by Mrs. Karin Waltz in memory of Mr. Waltz, a long-time string bass player with the PRCOrchestra. Song, 18, is a scholarship recipient at the Music Institute of Chicago Academy program. He currently studies with Gerardo Ribeiro and previously studied with Jin Zhang for seven years. Song has received awards in a number of competitions including the Geneva Chamber of Commerce's Granquist Music Competition, Walgreens National Concerto Competition, DePaul Concerto Festival for Young Performers, and the Society of American Musicians' Young Artist Competition. He also participated in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. 

Song is a long-time member of the Chicago Youth Symphony Orchestras (CYSO) and has attended the Meadowmount School of Music in upstate New York on merit scholarship. He has played in masterclasses for James Ehnes, William van der Sloot, Tong Wei Dong, Frank Almond, Ilya Kaler, Gudny Gudmundsdottir, Joseph Silverstein, and Noah Bendix-Balgley. In addition to violin, Song has studied piano for many years, appearing once on WFMT 98.7 and placing in The Steinway Society of Massachusetts' Piano Competition. Outside of music, Song enjoys being with friends and playing sports. 

During the PRCOrchestra’s March 12 concert at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, the two scholarship winners will be introduced on stage. Recipients, who will each receive a $1,000 college scholarship, are selected through professionally judged live auditions and other criteria. 

“It takes tremendous dedication along with talent to become a fine musician, so we think a professional concert is the perfect place to introduce our scholarship recipients,” says PRCOrchestra Music Director Victor Muenzer. “Ben and Steven have already exhibited these qualities. We’re so grateful to Karin Waltz and Rotary; It’s wonderful to be able to help serious young musicians continue their studies so that the next generation can produce and enjoy great music, too.”