Schaumburg Youth Orchestra's first and only director announces retirement
The Schaumburg Youth Orchestra's only director for its entire 31 years in existence has announced his retirement.
The decision by Joseph Malmquist, who was named the orchestra's founding director in 1989, comes with the temporary suspension of programs at Schaumburg's Al Larson Prairie Center for the Arts.
Malmquist said the hiatus due to the COVID-19 pandemic is the right time to step down and enable a new director to be found.
"COVID will undoubtedly have a lasting effect on the performing arts, including SYO," Malmquist said. "The program will need a long-term commitment from someone willing to see it adapt and serve the community in a new and different environment."
Jack Netter, director of cultural services for the village, said the orchestra program owes a great deal to Malmquist's decades of dedication.
"It's been a pleasure and an honor to work with him all these years," Netter said. "I feel certain that the Schaumburg Youth Orchestra that we know today would not exist were it not for Joe's skill, his vision and his humanity."
The creation of the youth orchestra began with a conversation between a village resident and then Mayor Al Larson in the late 1980s.
That led to then Cultural Services Director Betsy Armistead coordinating with Elgin Symphony Orchestra Artistic Director Robert Hanson on a search for the right person to lead the effort. The name they came up with was Joseph Malmquist.
"In Joe Malmquist, the absolute best candidate was found and subsequently hired," Armistead said. "His 30-plus-year tenure as the group's guiding light provided the artistic spark which allowed the group to blossom into the award-winning ensemble it is today."
The Illinois Council of Orchestras recognized the Schaumburg ensemble as Youth Orchestra of the Year in 2001 and 2008 and named Malmquist Youth Orchestra Conductor of the Year in 2014.
Malmquist led the orchestra on five tours of Japan and throughout Europe, as well as celebrating the 20th and 25th anniversaries of the program with performances at Chicago's Symphony Center.
As the orchestra takes a break expected to last until at least winter, Malmquist reflected on the rewards he experienced from his involvement with program.
"It's exciting to see kids, some as young as grade schoolers, grow musically and go on to become sought-after musicians in top orchestras or leading music educators," he said. "The honor was all mine to be part of a tradition where I was able to pass on to younger musicians what I learned through years of playing music and then see them share that gift with the next generation."