For the Media
MUSIC OF THE BAROQUE ANNOUNCES 2017-18 CONCERT SEASON
Highlights include Elijah and the St. John Passion
CHICAGO, MARCH 8 - Music of the Baroque today announced plans for the upcoming 2017-18 concert season. The season, the group’s 47th, opens Saturday evening, September 16, and runs through May 14. The ensemble will again present 18 performances of eight concert programs. Seven of the eight programs will each be offered twice—at both the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in downtown Chicago and the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. Four performances of Music of the Baroque’s traditional holiday brass and choral concerts will take place at church venues in Chicago, River Forest, and Northbrook. The number of Sunday matinee performances next season has been expanded from two to five.
MUSIC OF THE BAROQUE ANNOUNCES 2016-17 CONCERT SEASON
Highlights include Telemann's Day of Judgment
CHICAGO, MARCH 9 - Music of the Baroque today announced plans for the upcoming 2016-17 concert season. The season, the group’s 46th, opens October 23 and runs through May 15. Continuing to offer an expanded calendar of eight concert programs, the ensemble will present 18 performances in 2016-17. Seven of the eight programs will be offered at both the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in downtown Chicago and the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. Four performances of Music of the Baroque’s traditional holiday brass and choral concerts will take place at church venues in Chicago, River Forest, and Northbrook..
MUSIC OF THE BAROQUE ANNOUNCES 2015-16 CONCERT SEASON
Highlights include the Monteverdi 1610 Vespers
CHICAGO, MARCH 11 - Music of the Baroque today announced plans for the upcoming 2015-16 concert season. The season, the group’s 45th, opens October 18 with music by J. S. Bach and runs through May 23. An expanded calendar of 19 performances of eight concert programs will be presented in 2015-16. Six of the eight programs will be offered at both the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in downtown Chicago and the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie. Two programs—the ensemble’s traditional holiday brass and choral concerts and the Monteverdi Vespers—will take place at church venues in Chicago, River Forest, and Northbrook.
KAREN FISHMAN BIDS MOB A GRACIOUS FAREWELL AFTER NEARLY 20 YEARS AS ITS RESPECTED CHIEF EXEC
John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO, MAY 9, 2017 — When a performing arts group enjoys artistic and financial stability for as long as Music of the Baroque, it's almost always because there's a sharp, well-connected people person pulling the administrative strings.
Few CEOs in classical music in Chicago have managed that feat quite as adroitly as MOB's executive director, Karen Fishman.
While not a musician herself, for nearly two decades Fishman has kept the midsize organization's many working parts operating in sync, the books balanced, the musical reputation solid and the customers coming back for more. A tough juggling act, to be sure. But building on what MOB founders Thomas Wikman and Lucille Ollendorff achieved and carrying it in new directions has been a privilege and a pleasure for her, she says.
Now that Fishman is retiring as executive director after 18 seasons, Music of the Baroque finds itself with exceedingly big shoes to fill. This weekend's season finale, Georg Philipp Telemann's oratorio “The Day of Judgment,” will be the final concerts she will oversee as MOB's executive director.
Stepping down was a tough decision, but the timing was right, she says, as the city's flagship exponent of the 17th- and 18th-century choral and orchestral repertory looks to its 47th season, beginning in September.
“I honestly never expected it to last this long,” Fishman observes. “It's not without some sadness that I am leaving. But I am getting a little bit older and would like to explore a few other things. The organization is in very good shape, our public is generous and I'm proud of what we have been able to achieve. I'm going to miss it.”
In the course of Fishman's nearly two decades on the job, MOB has built a large and loyal base of audience members and donors, despite a roller coaster arts economy and competition from newer classical groups that also ply the waters of early music. She sees her role over those years largely as a facilitator who has helped forge a partnership of trust between those who make the music and those who raise the money.
To her lasting credit, she brought in the team that has kept MOB's artistic level consistently high under her watch — music director Jane Glover, principal guest conductor Nicholas Kraemer and chorus director William Jon Gray. Glover and Kraemer were hired in 2002, Gray in 2010.
“After more than four decades in this business, I can honestly say that I have never met anyone in it who better combines every possible aspect of what is desirable in an executive director,” Glover says of Fishman via email.
“She has such a clear mind, which goes to the heart of every issue; she has a formidable business sense, with all that that entails; and she has a real feel for the artistic side too. I completely trust her instincts and leadership in all matters artistic as well as practical and administrative." What's more, “her sense of humor has sustained us through many happy years of collaboration."
Fishman is the only executive director Glover knows in the arts world who attends each and every rehearsal and concert given by the organization.
MOB's CEO doesn't see anything particularly unusual in that, since being able to explore the richly varied baroque and classical repertory is what she loves most about her job, she says.
“If you're like me and can't play or sing a note but really love music,” Fishman says, “it's a thrill to know you had something to do with making great music happen on stage.”
Ask her about her personal favorites among the hundreds of performances Music of the Baroque has given over the past 18 years and she will happily rattle off a long list. Pride of place goes to several big Bach masterpieces Glover and Kraemer have done — the B minor Mass, “Christmas Oratorio” and “St. John Passion”; Monteverdi's “Vespers of 1610”; and a performance of Haydn's “The Creation” in San Diego, Calif., in 2014 that marked MOB's first out-of-state concert in more than 30 years.
Music of the Baroque — once virtually the only professional organization in Chicago that paid any attention to the pre-classical choral and orchestral repertory — has been both a catalyst and role model for the smaller early music groups that have sprung up during her years with MOB. Fishman finds that gratifying.
“Well, we certainly were a pioneer, and I'm a great believer in letting all forms flourish,” she says. “A healthy classical musical scene is healthy for everybody. We at MOB have a particular identity, we perform on modern instruments, and we do so with a particular style. We are lucky to have a significant audience and such a committed board and donor base.”
Fishman had no experience managing an arts organization in 1999 when the former executive director of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago came on board at Music of the Baroque. But her skills and energy were more than enough to recommend her to the board. The fact that she had been attending MOB concerts since the group's inception undoubtedly worked in her favor.
Keeping Music of the Baroque in sound working order through the coming decades obviously will be job one for Fishman's successor.
“The overall challenges are not very different from what they were 18 seasons ago and probably will not be very different 18 seasons from now,” she observes. “We are all struggling to continue building audiences, funding and boards of directors.”
A MOB search committee has been combing the landscape for a replacement for Fishman since last summer, when she informed the board she would be leaving at the end of the current season. Her successor is expected to be announced by the end of May.
Fishman sounds a gracious note in parting.
“One of the advantages of being in a relatively small organization is that you really get to know your audience,” she says. “I'm looking forward to rejoining them this fall as just another audience member! It will be great to see them, because that's where my friends are.”
MUSIC OF THE BAROQUE’S SUCCESS STORY BRINGS A REALITY CHECK
John von Rhein, Chicago Tribune
CHICAGO, NOVEMBER 19 — As classical music organizations continue to suffer the effects of the massive economic temblor that hit the nation some four years ago, just maintaining the status quo without major losses of funding or audience represents a victory.
One such shining survivor is Chicago’s Music of the Baroque. The Chicago orchestra and chorus, which specializes in 17th and 18th century repertory played on modern instruments, stands as a model of administrative responsibility and artistic integrity in this, its 43rd season.
But Karen Fishman, the group’s executive director, refuses to crow, or to be complacent about, MOB’s hard-fought victory. She’s been around long enough to realize how easily lack of vigilance, poor planning or, worse, another economic meltdown, could erode several decades of accomplishments in an instant.
First, the good news.
MOB’s subscription renewals are running high at the start of the season, she reports. Single-ticket sales are keeping pace with those of last year, when they dipped about five percent. Fundraising took an uptick last season and is expected to do at least as well in 2013-14. MOB’s regular venues—the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie and the Harris Theater for Music and Dance in Chicago—are selling roughly 90 and 80 percent of seating capacity, respectively, for the seven programs the group is presenting this season.
Add to this what Fishman calls a “strong, supportive” board of 23 music lovers, plus the “phenomenal” loyalty of MOB’s “solid, happy, satisfied” core audience, and you have a business model other midsized classical music groups could profit from studying.
None of this would have been possible, she points out, without the superior music-making achieved by the orchestra (made up of Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Lyric Opera Orchestra personnel plus freelancers in several key principal chairs), and its excellent resident chorus, all under music director Jane Glover, principal guest conductor Nicholas Kraemer and chorus master William Jon Gray.
Here’s where the cautionary part of the tale comes in.
“All of us in Chicago music are going through a tough period right now,” Fishman observes. “How do you get new people in the door, or, in our case, get people who come for the Bach B minor Mass to come back for something else? It’s really a struggle to fill seats and keep people in those seats. You find yourself running harder just to stay even.
“Everyone who’s got resources is throwing a lot of those resources at marketing. Both the CSO and Lyric are discounting tickets more frequently and earlier than they had been.”
Fishman says she’s also concerned that a lingering economic slump could affect a significant segment of MOB’s demographic, namely, retired people living on fixed incomes. Because current interest rates are poor, retirees are finding their incomes shrinking, leaving them with less to spend on cultural pursuits.
Taking note of the high percentage of seniors in the audience for MOB’s orchestral program Sunday evening in Skokie, I couldn’t help but share Fishman’s concern. Young people are not entering the fold in sufficient numbers to take the place of this aging, graying demographic: You see more young listeners at MOB concerts in downtown Chicago but relatively few at the ones the group presents on the North Shore. Clearly MOB faces stiff marketing challenges.
Additional images are available upon request.