Beth Reese and Dr. Wayne Watson to Chair Chicago Sinfonietta’s 2015 Ball

Prominent Co-Chairs Come Together to Raise Critical Funds
for the Nation’s Most Diverse Orchestra

CHICAGO, IL – Chicago Sinfonietta, the nation’s most diverse orchestra that has become nationally recognized for its innovative programming, has announced it’s 2015 Ball Chairs: Beth Reese, CEO of Nicor Gas, and Dr. Wayne D. Watson, Chicago State University President. Reese and Watson will chair the single-most important fundraiser of the Sinfonietta’s season. The Ball, which takes place on May 30, 2015 at The Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park, raises over $450,000 for the orchestra’s innovative programming and educational outreach programs.

“I encourage and celebrate inclusion, diversity and equality, and it is an honor to co-chair such an important fundraising effort,” said Beth Reese, President, Nicor Gas. Named one of 2014 “Who’s Who” by Crain’s Chicago Business, Reese is the first woman president of Nicor Gas – the largest natural gas distributor in Illinois. Nicor Gas is based in Naperville, the Chicago Sinfonietta’s west suburban home. Reese is responsible for ensuring that natural gas – an American, abundant, affordable and clean energy source – safely and reliably reaches more than 2.2 million homes and businesses in 656 northern Illinois communities. Reese has served as Vice President of business innovation, customer service and finance, and as controller. Reese is a member of the board of the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago and The Field Museum of Natural History. Nicor Gas is the lead sponsor of the 2015 Ball.

Dr. Watson currently is the President of Chicago State University and a triple-degree holder from Northwestern University. Dr. Watson has a vitae that reflects a history of building and enhancing educational institutions and programs. He is Chancellor Emeritus of the City Colleges of Chicago, the former Chair of the Board of Advisors for the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, and the current chair of the National Association for Equal Opportunity in Higher Education (NAFEO). Dr. Watson’s vision for the “Renaissance” of Chicago State University includes a plethora of goals which represents a sustained strategy that strives for excellence in education. One of his challenges is to establish opportunities for students who have academic promise but also have financial challenges. Dr. Watson’s goal is to further the university’s commitment to globalization, diversity, and the revival of the arts. These goals mirror the Chicago Sinfonietta’s mission of diversity and institutional inclusiveness. Watson states:

“I consider it a great honor to be named as a Chair of Chicago Sinfonietta’s 2015 Ball and I look forward to playing a role in helping the Sinfonietta continue their important work. As a life-long educator, I greatly appreciate the role the arts play in providing young people with a well-rounded educational experience and I especially appreciate the effort that the Chicago Sinfonietta continues to make in ensuring that students from economically disadvantaged areas continue to have access to vital arts and educational resources.”

Each year, the Ball not only highlights the Chicago Sinfonietta’s past season performances, but also provides a sneak peek into its upcoming performances. The 2014-2015 season got off to a “rambunctious” start, featuring a unique collaboration with punk marching band Mucca Pazza. Audiences were enraptured throughout the concert just as much as during its grand finale of Tchaikovsky’s Overture of 1812.  In November, the Sinfonietta will team up with Redmoon Theater to celebrate Día de los Muertos, a colorful Latin tradition of life and loss. January marks the Sinfonietta’s Annual Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. This year’s concert will feature a coterie of remarkable young talents including cello prodigy Sujari Britt, Young Chicago Authors, the Waubonsie Valley High School Mosaic Choir, as well as Jherrrard Marseille Hardeman, a 15 year-old African American composer and conductor who made his Sinfonietta debut at the 2014 Ball. “Primal Instincts,” the Sinfonietta’s fourth concert, will feature Cristina Pato, a Galician bagpiper, as well as a powerful rendition of Orff’s Carmina Burana. The season will end in tribute to our service men and women by featuring the works of Ives, Williams, and Dvořák. Audience members will be asked to submit photos of close relatives who have served, capping the season in homage.

Although innovative programming is at the heart of the Sinfonietta’s vision, the orchestra’s outreach programs remain a priority to its mission. The Sinfonietta’s education programs serve diverse students at various points of development, starting with Audience Matters, the Sinfonietta’s core in-school education program. Economic need and the absence of a pre-existing music program are qualifying factors for AM’s implementation.  Students are introduced to the orchestra as well as given the opportunity to explore djembes, Orff instruments, and African dance. Over 1,000 fourth-seventh graders participate in AM each year. SEED (Student Ensembles with Excellence and Diversity) identifies talented high school musicians and provides them with training from Sinfonietta musicians. The Project Inclusion Ensemble Fellowship, created by Sinfonietta founder Maestro Freeman, provides fellows opportunities to perform orchestral and chamber music as well as study from and perform alongside Sinfonietta musicians. The Project Inclusion Conducting Fellowship, the CS’s newest educational program, cultivates young, promising conductors though the mentorship of Maestro Mei-Ann Chen, music industry leaders, and the Sinfonietta’s administrative staff.

The Ball attracts the crème de la crème of the Chicago society. Over 550 guests representing corporate and private sectors will gather at The Fairmont Chicago Millennium Park on this celebratory night. Ball attendees will enjoy a cocktail reception before being seated in the Fairmont’s beautifully decorated ballroom. Once at their tables, guests will enjoy a customized gourmet four-course meal. Maestro Chen will then lead the Sinfonietta to the stage in hopes of capturing not just much-needed support, but the hearts of those in attendance.

Ball reservations start at $400/person with table sponsorships starting at $5,000. For more information on ball sponsorships and table reservations, please visit or contact Courtney Perkins, Director of Development and Operations, at 312-284-1559. Follow Chicago Sinfonietta on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and #redefineclassical.