After 17 years at BCPA, most Illinois Symphony Orchestra concerts in the Twin Cities have moved to ISU

The Illinois Symphony Orchestra (ISO) will change location this fall, moving many of its performances from Twin City to the Center for Performing Arts at Illinois State University.

By moving its main concert series to the ISU, the symphony leaves a long-standing relationship with the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts (BCPA). The Illinois Symphony has sister residences in Bloomington-Normal and Springfield. In 2021, they formed a similar partnership with the Music Program at the University of Illinois at Springfield.

“One of the things we look at in our growth is the educational aspects of the orchestra in the community,” said ISO executive director Trevor Orthmann, adding that the orchestra was in talks with the Wonsook Kim ISU College of Fine Arts for at least five years. years.

“Coming out of the pandemic, things lined up nicely,” he said. “So here we are today, back at the ISU, where the orchestra had played for so many years until the development of the BCPA.”

The Children’s Symphony concerts will remain at downtown BCPA, and occasional chamber concerts will continue to be performed at the Second Presbyterian Church in Bloomington.

The symphony moved from Braden Auditorium to the ISU campus at the BCPA in 2005 and was one of the first tenants of the then newly renovated theatre. The new change comes amid a period of staff turnover and uncertainty at BCPA, but Orthmann said the potential for student engagement was the main reason for the move to ISU.

“There were challenges, but that didn’t really play into the decision to go to ISU,” he said.

Via email, a spokesperson for the City of Bloomington said: “While the City has appreciated the partnership with the Illinois Symphony, we understand that change is inevitable and wish the organization only the best as move to a new venue.”

Jean Miller, Dean of ISU’s Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts, called the new partnership “very important”.

“We are so excited to welcome them,” Miller said. “We provide great acoustics in the concert hall, and I think it’s the right size for the orchestra.”

By “right size,” Miller means the move is a kind of downsizing for the orchestra. ISU’s 800-seat concert hall is small compared to the BCPA which can accommodate up to 1,200 people. The symphony said the costs associated with renting each performance space are about equal. And with attendance still down due to the lingering effects of the pandemic on performing arts audiences, there’s not much risk of losing ticket revenue by moving to a smaller venue.

In addition to holding concerts on the Illinois State campus, the orchestra also plans to partner with the university to offer masterclasses, providing students with the opportunity to work with the roster. ISO guest artists and additional mentorship with symphony staff.

“Our music directors in the past have always worked with the ISU orchestra, but this should hopefully formalize some of the things we’ve done and hopefully make more people aware of ourselves. serve the community in the State of Illinois,” Orthmann said.

“Many of our patrons are Illinois State alumni and faculty,” he added. “It’s very good to come back to the ISU.”

Miller said the partnership comes amid a strong surge of momentum for Wonsook Kim College of Fine Arts. In 2019, a $12 million donation to the university by visual artist and ISU alumnus Wonsook Kim came with naming rights for the College of Fine Arts. And plans are underway to inaugurate a $62 million state-funded renovation of the ISU Fine Arts Complex next spring.

“We have so many good things,” Miller said. “The third step is to bring ISO to campus to take advantage of everything we’re building here.”

The Illinois Symphony’s 2022-2023 season begins Oct. 15 at the ISU Center for Performing Arts Concert Hall. Guest conductor Rei Hotoda will conduct the orchestra in works by Kendall, Shostakovich and two Strausses: Johann Sr. and Jr. The symphony is also preparing to seek a new music director to replace maestro Ken Lam, who left in May.

Eric Stock contributed to this story.

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