The Zell Family Foundation Makes $17 Million Contribution to The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association

The Zell Family Foundation Makes $17 Million Contribution to The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, at its Board of Trustees meeting today, acknowledged the announcement by Helen and Sam Zell that the Zell Family Foundation has made a $17 million contribution to the CSOA's endowment and general operating funds. This gift provides for the naming, in perpetuity, of the position of Music Director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which has been held by Riccardo Muti since 2010.

"Sam and Helen Zell have been longtime friends of the Orchestra, and since 2010 they have become my personal friends as well," said CSO Music Director Riccardo Muti. "I am honored by this demonstration of great affection for the CSO through this generous gift. Endowing the position of the Music Director is a remarkable gesture of ongoing support of the Orchestra now and into the future."

CSOA Board Chairman Jay Henderson said, "We are so grateful for this visionary and transformative gift to the CSO. The generosity and commitment by Helen, Sam and the Zell Family Foundation are both rare and steadfast, and we have been the fortunate beneficiaries of that generosity time after time. Creating a lasting legacy here by endowing this position is a fitting way for them to show their dedication and support for all that our Music Director does. It seems only appropriate that Maestro Muti be the first named Music Director in CSO history, given the impact he is having on this Orchestra and this city, as well."

Helen and Sam Zell have a long history of support for the CSO. Helen has served as a CSO Trustee since 2007, and has also been a member of the Board's Executive Committee since that time. The Zells and the Zell Family Foundation have underwritten and sponsored numerous CSO concerts over the past decade, most recently supporting Music Director Riccardo Muti and the CSO's concerts together during the first years of his tenure. Under the terms of this new gift, the endowed position will be held by Maestro Muti for the remainder of his tenure, and by all future CSO music directors.

CSOA President Deborah Rutter said, "There are very few people who can make the kind of impact that Helen and Sam Zell have made on the CSO. A gift such as this is extraordinary, and we extend our heartfelt thanks to the Zells and the Zell Family Foundation for their generosity, their commitment and their ongoing belief in the music-making that takes place here at Symphony Center. The support of our Music Director is unprecedented for the CSO and we are deeply touched by the Zells in their commitment to Riccardo Muti, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and their standards of excellence. It has been my distinct honor and pleasure to know Sam and Helen and to work closely with Helen as a friend and trusted advisor."

Maestro Muti began as Music Director in 2010. He recently renewed his five-year contract for an additional five years, through the 2019/20 season.

In addition to Helen and Sam Zell announcing this transformative gift today, the CSOA announced a gift of $15 million from the Negaunee Foundation to support the Institute for Learning, Access and Training under a new name, the Negaunee Music Institute at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. These two commitments are among the largest in the CSO's history.

About the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) is consistently hailed as one of the greatest orchestras in the world. Its music director since 2010 is Riccardo Muti, one of the preeminent conductors of our day. Pierre Boulez is the CSO's Helen Regenstein Conductor Emeritus; Yo-Yo Ma is the CSO's Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant. Mason Bates and Anna Clyne are the CSO's Mead Composers-in-Residence.

The musicians of the CSO annually perform more than 150 concerts, most at Symphony Center in downtown Chicago and, in the summer, at the suburban Ravinia Festival. The CSO frequently tours internationally and occasionally performs in other parts of the U.S. Since its founding in 1891, the Orchestra has made 57 international tours, visiting 28 countries on five continents. At home and on tour, tickets are always in high demand and frequently sold out.

People around the globe enjoy the extraordinary sounds of the Orchestra through broadcasts and webcasts of the weekly CSO Radio program and through CSO Resound, the CSO's own record label. Recordings by the CSO have won 62 Grammy® Awards.

The parent organization for the CSO is the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association (CSOA). It also includes the Chicago Symphony Chorus, directed by Duain Wolfe, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, a pre-professional ensemble conducted by Cliff Colnot. Through a series called Symphony Center Presents, the CSOA brings internationally known guest artists and ensembles from a variety of musical genres-classical, jazz, pop, world, and contemporary-to Chicago.

The Negaunee Music Institute at the CSO offers a variety of youth, community, and education programs that engage more than 200,000 people of diverse ages, incomes and backgrounds. Through the programs of the Institute as well as many other activities, including a free annual CSO concert, the CSOA promotes the concept of Citizen Musicianship: using the power of music to contribute to our culture, our communities and the lives of others.

A nonprofit organization, the CSOA is governed by a voluntary board of trustees and supported by tens of thousands of other volunteers, patrons and corporate, foundation and individual donors.

About Riccardo Muti (

Riccardo Muti, born in Naples, Italy, is one of the preeminent conductors of our day. In 2010, when he became the tenth music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), he had more than forty years of experience at the helm of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino in Florence (1968-80); the Philharmonia Orchestra in London (1972-82); the Philadelphia Orchestra (1980-1992); and Teatro alla Scala in Milan (1986-2005). He continues to be in demand as a guest conductor for other great orchestras and opera houses: the Berlin Philharmonic, the Vienna Philharmonic, the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra in Munich, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera House in London, the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, and many others. He is an honorary member of the Vienna Philharmonic, which gave him its Golden Ring as a special sign of esteem and affection. He also is honorary director for life of the Rome Opera.

Muti has received innumerable honors from Italy, the United States, France, Germany, Austria, Great Britain, Israel, Spain, Russia, Sweden, and the Vatican as well as more than 20 honorary degrees from universities around the world. Passionate about teaching young musicians, Muti founded the Luigi Cherubini Youth Orchestra in 2004. Through Le vie dell'Amicizia (The Paths of Friendship), a project of the Ravenna Festival in Italy, he has conducted in many of the world's most troubled areas in order to bring attention to and advocate for civic and social issues. In greater Chicago and around the globe, Muti demonstrates his strong commitment to sharing classical music broadly by regularly offering free concerts and rehearsals to the public and by performing in schools, prisons, and other community venues.

Riccardo Muti's vast catalog of recordings, numbering in the hundreds, ranges from the traditional symphonic and operatic repertoires to contemporary works. He also has written two books, Verdi, l'italiano (published in Italian and German) and Riccardo Muti: An Autobiography: First the Music, Then the Words, which has been published in several languages.