Margaret Hillis: Unsung Pioneer 

Still today, the attributes of celebrated conductors – those dominating master magicians of the orchestra – are commonly gendered.  Female presence on the podium is much more common than in 1867, nevertheless – as with CEOs – we have yet to appreciate ways of conducting other than, in the words of Wagner, “your German (male) masters”.  To envision what excellent podium presence could eventually mean in the 21st century, we might look back at an extraordinary “unsung pioneer” of 20th-century classical music in the United States, the conductor and founder of the Chicago Symphony Chorus, Margaret Hillis.  Dr. Cheryl Frazes, her protégée, and Interim Director of that Chorus, knows her uncommon story of success as an executive lesbian woman in a mid-20th-century man’s world better than anyone else.  Cheryl has just published a new biography that highlights Hillis’ inspiring deeds, but more importantly, details the inspiring way that Hillis achieved them in the face of all odds.  Come welcome Cheryl and Frank Villella, Director of the Rosenthal Archives of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, to our show and let’s get to know an inspiring new way of conducting!

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