Early in the morning of July 2, Chicago lost a musical icon… not a famous conductor, violinist, or opera star, but one whose voice and passion shaped more than a generation of music lovers’ access to great music in our city and beyond.
Many of you have by now read of or heard of the untimely death of Norman Pellegrini less than two weeks ago. Most of you who love music in Chicago knew him as the founding program director of WFMT, the city’s great classical music station. He didn’t just “co-found” a radio station devoted to classical music; he created a whole new way of experiencing classical music on the airways. People would turn WFMT on in the morning and leave it on all day long…thanks to Norm, it became part of the fabric of their daily lives, a continual stream of enrichment and beauty.
Others of you know his voice from the Lyric Opera radio broadcasts, which were distributed across the country.
Most of you may not know this: Norm was a key advisor to Rush Hour during its founding years. Long before Rush Hour had a board of directors, we operated with a small Advisory Committee, of which Norm was a cornerstone. He continued his perennial involvement with Rush Hour after the board’s founding as an active member of the expanded Advisory Committee, ensuring that Rush Hour maintained its commitment to the highest artistic quality possible, while broadening approaches to great music for ever-growing audiences. I worked with Norm year-round on this – it was particularly a highlight of the winter months – and I was so pleased that he came to every Rush Hour concert from the beginning, the last one being June 2 of this year, the opening concert of our 10th anniversary season.
Norm Pellegrini’s passion for music – and especially live music-making – knew no bounds. He was an artist and a friend to artists. His zeal for excellence was uncompromising; his zest for life and earthy humor contagious. Chicago’s musical life is diminished by his death – but is greatly in his debt for the richness and vibrancy of its cultural life.
Chicago has lost an icon, and Rush Hour has lost a beloved mentor and friend.
It is with great gratitude for his life and gifts that we at Rush Hour dedicate today’s concert to his memory.
Thank you, Norm. We will miss you.
– Deborah Sobol