The International Music Foundation was founded in 1976 by Chicagoan Al Booth to present the Do-It-Yourself Messiah, a large public sing-along of a Baroque masterpiece with world class conductor/soloists and an 80-piece orchestra. It was the first of its kind in the city.
In 1977, we added the weekly Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts in Preston Bradley Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center to provide performance opportunities for emerging musicians early in their professional careers and a ‘lunch-break for the soul’ for the public. The series was inspired by the lunchtime concerts given by Dame Myra Hess at London’s National Gallery throughout World War II.
In 1982, we introduced Live Music Now! with the support of Yehudi Menuhin. Under the Live Music Now! imprimatur, we send musicians into more than 90 Chicago Public Schools annually to perform for students in grades K – 8 and present Young People’s Concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center and Kenwood Academy, exposing 45,000 students to the joys of live musical performance.
In October 2016, the International Music Foundation and Rush Hour Concerts(RHC), two premier classical music presenters in Chicago, came together in a merged organization. Rush Hour Concerts, founded by pianist and civic leader Deborah Sobol in 2000 originated as a summer concert series at St. James Cathedral. In 2011, Make Music Chicago, a citywide, daylong celebration of music making on the summer solstice, June 21, was added, followed by the addition of a professional ensemble residency program in Chicago’s neighborhoods in 2012.
All of us continue to be inspired—just as Al Booth was—by the example of Dame Myra Hess. This remarkable woman, speaking of her founding of the National Gallery concert series in WWII London, said: “I have felt again and again that music was available almost exclusively for a privileged section of the community; and I have wondered how it would be possible to reach the many thousands of potential music-lovers who were surely to be found outside this limited world of concert-goers. Though it seemed so impossible, I longed to throw open the doors to the very best music… ”