Illinois Symphony Orchestra seeks ‘celebrity’ conductor

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NORMAL — Five local “celebrities” are competing for the chance to conduct in front of Central Illinois' largest professional orchestra. 

The Illinois Symphony Orchestra is hosting its annual Holiday Pops in the Heartland concert on Dec. 17 and is looking to have a guest conductor from the community. 

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

The five candidates are: 

  • John Carter, president and CEO at Jack Lewis Jewelers;
  • Tracy Koch, artistic director at MIOpera, a professional dramatic soprano and voice teacher;
  • Rick McCormick, owner and operator at Redbird Catering and Parkview Inn;
  • Laura O'Connor, administrative assistant at 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 candidate win by donating to the Illinois Symphony Orchestra in his or her name. 

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

To donate, go to The challenge closes on Dec. 8. 

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

The ISO was founded in 1993 and was created from both the Springfield Symphony and the Bloomington Normal Symphony. 

The ISO serves over 30,000 community members and has won numerous awards including the Illinois Council of Orchestra's awards for Meritorious Service in Outstanding Programing in 2002 as well as its Community Service in 2004. 

They have performed at the Lincoln Center and Carnegie Hall during the tenure of Conductor Laureate Kenneth Kiesler and have made appearances at the Ravinia Festival, Millennium Park in Chicago and the Illinois State Fair. 

(C) Written by Mateusz Janik

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