November 14, 2022

Backstage at the Egyptian: Courtney Hanna-McNamara of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra

Interview with Courtney Hanna-McNamara, Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra (KSO) General Manager and violinist.


KARYN: What is the Kids’ Concert?
COURTNEY: The Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s Children’s Concert is an annual concert that introduces local area children to a symphony concert experience, most of them for the first time in their lives. This year’s concert, titled “Stories and Themes in Music Without Words,” will explore how some of the most famous composers in history created stories, themes and even characters in their music through imagery and motifs.

The KSO has been presenting such concerts to children for over three decades. All of these programs are specifically targeted to young children to stimulate growth and education in the musical arts, which fits with the KSO’s primary mission of “Enriching and Educating the Community through Music.” The KSO Children’s Concert is sponsored in part by the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund.

K: What songs will be performed?
C: The concert program features 11 works, either in full or in carefully curated excerpts, by 9 different composers. Our music director, Linc Smelser, provides information about each piece so the concert becomes a dynamic educational experience for the children in the audience.
– Hoedown, Aaron Copland
– Russian Sailor’s Dance, Reinhold Gliere
– Venus from The Planets, Gustav Holst
– Montagues and Capulets from Romeo and Juliet, Sergei Prokofiev
– Donkeys from Carnival of the Animals, Camille Saint-Saens
– The Moldau, Bedrich Smetana
– Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy from The Nutcracker Suite, Piotr Tchaikovsky
– Love Theme from Romeo and Juliet, Piotr Tchaikovsky
– Autumn from The Four Seasons, Antonio Vivaldi
– Fawkes the Phoenix from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets, John Williams
– Imperial March from Star Wars, John Williams

K: How does it feel to be able to bring music experiences to kids?
C: The Children’s Concert is always a joyful and fulfilling experience for our orchestra members. We all remember how we first started our own journeys of learning to play our instruments, and many of the children in the audience are soon to have the opportunity to begin instrumental music instruction in their elementary or middle school classrooms. The concert is the perfect event to showcase our excitement about and love for music to children who are about to begin their own instrument journeys. One special part of the concert is when the KSO musicians walk through the aisles before we start our program; it gives us the opportunity to interact with students to show them our instruments and to talk to them about what it’s like to play in the orchestra. This is one of the most meaningful parts of our morning together.

K: How has this event grown compared to previous years?
C: The KSO has not held a Children’s Concert since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. We are so thrilled to have almost 1300 students, teachers, and chaperones joining us for this concert! There is a real hunger for returning to in-person events, and we’re delighted that so many local schools recognize the value and importance of this concert for their students.

K: What excites you about holding this event at the Egyptian Theatre?
C: Hearing a live symphony orchestra in an historic performance venue such as the Egyptian Theatre, with the stars twinkling in the ceiling above, is an opportunity few in our society have had or may ever have. We are delighted to showcase a community treasure such as the Egyptian Theatre as part of the overall concert experience for the hundreds of students who will be joining us. We hope that many of these students will return to the Egyptian, and to future KSO concerts, as a result!