Illinois Symphony Orchestra seeks ‘celebrity conductor’

NORMAL – Five local “celebrities” are vying for the chance to conduct in front of the biggest professional orchestra in central Illinois.

The Illinois Symphony Orchestra is hosting its annual Holiday Pops in the Heartland concert on December 17 and is seeking a guest conductor from the community.

The concert will take place at the Illinois State University Center for the Performing Arts, 351 S. School Street.

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The five candidates are:

  • John Carter, President and CEO of Jack Lewis Jewelers;
  • Tracy Koch, artistic director of MIOpera, professional dramatic soprano and voice teacher;
  • Rick McCormick, owner and operator of Redbird Catering and Parkview Inn;
  • Laura O’Connor, administrative assistant at the Little Jewels Learning Center;
  • Valerie Wyatt, retired section manager at State Farm Insurance and interior designer at Enduring Elegance.

The public can help their favorite contestant win by donating to the Illinois Symphony Orchestra in their name.

The candidate who brings in the most donations will win the title of “Celebrity Conductor” and will have the opportunity to conduct the “Hallelujah Chorus” from George Frideric Handel’s oratorio “Messiah” during the annual concert.

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To make a donation, go to The challenge ends on December 8.

The Illinois Symphony Orchestra will also be joined by the Bloomington-Normal Youth Symphony, the Illinois Symphony Youth Orchestras, the Springfield Choral Society and the Springfield Youth Performance Group.

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The ISO was founded in 1993 and grew out of the Springfield Symphony and the Bloomington Normal Symphony.

ISO serves more than 30,000 community members and has won numerous awards, including the Orchestra Council of Illinois Awards for Meritorious Service in Outstanding Programming in 2002 as well as Community Service in 2004.

They performed at Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall during the tenure of award-winning conductor Kenneth Kiesler, and made appearances at the Ravinia Festival, Chicago’s Millennium Park, and the Illinois State Fair.

A major Bloomington-Normal-based jazz band performed a free show Aug. 21 for residents of Westminster Village in Bloomington. Here are some excerpts of sweet melodies they played.

Contact Mateusz Janik at (309) 820-3234. Follow Mateusz on Twitter:@mjanik99