Down Syndrome Music Program A Hit

Park Ridge Civic Orchestra's third musical program with Advocate Lutheran General’s Adult Down Syndrome Center participants was a thrill for everyone! At the final class of the winter 2016-17 session on March 13th, family members applauded the enthusiastic drum corps as they kept the beat to songs from Justin Bieber's "Baby" to Johnny Cash's "I Walk the Line." 

PRCOrchestra musician Lisa Taylor and music therapist Nancy Swanson have taught three of these successful music programs at the Adult Down Syndrome Center in Park Ridge. Each five-class program includes visual arts as well as music to provide a well-rounded experience. 

"Each student decorated his or her own 'drum,' and you can see how, using the same limited array of colored tapes, they created a great variety of personal designs," says Nancy Swanson." When they chose songs and performed the percussion parts, they expressed their personal creativity and style yet again.

"Drum circles like this are used in preschools, prisons, senior living centers and more, because they tap into our desire to contribute to our tribe," says Lisa Taylor."  Everyone's life is enriched by making some music with other human beings, and thanks to help from Park Ridge Community Fund and kind individuals, the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra has been able to do that with these very special people."

Donations for upcoming music programs at the Adult Down Syndrome Center are encouraged at www.parkridgecivicorchestra.org/support-us.

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.”

Celebrating Soulmates in Music: Founders' Memorial Concert

In time for Valentine’s Day, Park Ridge Civic Orchestra’s February 8 concert celebrates co-founders Edgar and Nancy Muenzer with performances of the couple’s own favorite pieces, including “Balcony Scene” from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet, “Lara’s Theme” by Jarre from Doctor Zhivago, Dvorak’s “Romance, Op. 11,” and Barry’s theme from Out of Africa, among others.

Renowned violinist David Taylor, a longtime Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) colleague and friend of the couple, will perform Fiddler on the Roof Fantasy. He will also perform in a duet, “Concerto for Two Violins” by J.S. Bach, with Jenny Lind Jones, a former student of Edgar Muenzer. Tenor Matt James will sing “Che gelida manina” from Puccini’s La Boheme.

CSO first violinist Edgar Muenzer and his wife Nancy, a popular local real estate agent, launched the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra in 1994 to bring the professional orchestra concert experience to people in their own community. The orchestra was their shared passion until their deaths, just weeks apart, in the summer of 2016.  Eldest son Victor Muenzer, who was named music director in 2014, will conduct the February 8 concert.

“It was very moving to choose my parents’ favorite pieces for this concert, and to know they’ll be performed by wonderful musicians who had a personal connection with them,” Victor Muenzer says. “I can’t think of a better way to honor their powerful, shared love for great music, each other, our family, and this whole community.”

The Founders’ Memorial Concert on February 8 begins at 7:30 p.m. at the historic Pickwick Theatre, 5 S. Prospect Ave., Park Ridge. Tickets may be purchased online at parkridgecivicorchestra.org, or by phoning 847.692.7726. Discounts for youth, seniors and groups are available.