Bringing music to the community: DuPage Symphony celebrates 70 years

In its 70th year, the DuPage Symphony Orchestra is still finding ways to go “above and beyond” to share its love for music with the community.

For its season finale on May 18, guest trumpet player Mary Beth Bowden joins the orchestra to perform a seldom-heard trumpet concerto by Welsh composer Grace Williams. The concert, “Modern and Melodious,” also will feature Leonard Bernstein’s Symphonic Dances from West Side Story and more.

The mix of popular pieces with lesser-known works is not uncommon for the orchestra, which performs six concerts during its regular season at Wentz Concert Hall at North Central College in Naperville.

“You get to hear a lot of the standards, but we play a lot of unusual pieces too,” said Gary Greene, a Berwyn man who is the principal horn for the orchestra and serves on its board.

Barbara Schubert is only the second conductor in the DuPage Symphony Orchestra's 70 year history. The orchestra’s founder, Russell Harvey, was its first conductor. Courtesy of the DuPage Symphony Orchestra

The orchestra, which selected the theme “Above and Beyond” to mark its 70th anniversary, knows that sharing a love for music means finding something for everybody.

Though the group hosts its regular season at Wentz Concert Hall at North Central College, it also plays free summer concerts at Cantigny Park in Wheaton and visits schools and libraries throughout the county for smaller performances and educational programs explaining the instruments and the musical pieces the orchestra plays.

The DuPage Symphony Orchestra makes an effort to go beyond the concert hall and get into the community. In the summer, the orchestra plays free concerts at Cantigny Park in Wheaton. Courtesy of the DuPage Symphony Orchestra

“The orchestra really makes an effort to be ingrained in the community and help people get out to see performances who may not otherwise have an opportunity,” said Ruth Ann Rehfeldt, a Naperville woman who plays viola and is a member of the orchestra board.

Founded by Russell Harvey, the DuPage Symphony Orchestra first took the stage in 1954 in Glen Ellyn with 45 musicians. In the years since, it has grown to more than 90 musicians and regularly features guest musicians from around the country. The group is staffed with volunteer musicians and relies on donations to cover its budget.

On Saturday, the orchestra will host its 70th anniversary celebration at the Cress Creek Country Club in Naperville.

“That shows real commitment on the part of the community and real staying power on the part of the orchestra,” Greene said of the orchestra celebrating its 70th anniversary.

A psychology professor, Rehfeldt notes that music is vital to a community’s health. Music provides physical and psychological benefits not just for those who hear the orchestra, but for the members of the orchestra who come together to play.

“Music is the connecting thread of a community,” said Amber Broderick, general manager for the orchestra. “It brings us all together … we can all experience emotions or storytelling through music, and we come away feeling lifted up and edified.”

Maestra Barbara Schubert, only the second person to lead the orchestra in its history, said she views concerts like a “journey” she takes with the orchestra and the audience.

“On one level, it’s entertainment. But on a deeper level, it opens your horizons to new worlds, to new types of sound, to new emotions,” said Schubert, who also serves as the dean of performance at the University of Chicago and conducts the university’s symphony orchestra. “It births the soul and it awakens the mind and spirit.”

For information about upcoming concerts or events, visit

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