About the International Music Foundation
International Music Foundation & Rush Hour Concerts merge: A major development in the 40-year history of the International Music Foundation took place in early October 2016 with the announcement that International Music Foundation and Rush Hour Concerts, two of Chicago’s most distinguished classical music presenters, would merge into one robust non-profit. The similarity in the visions of Al Booth (founder of the International Music Foundation) and Debbie Sobol (founder of Rush Hour Concerts), and of the missions/programs of both organizations made for a natural fit. The new International Music Foundation will continue to provide high-quality, free performances from world-class classical musicians, and looks forward to an exciting future. Read more
History: 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. We are proud that many of today’s classical music stars appeared at the Hess series early in their careers, and indeed, enjoyed their Chicago debuts on the Hess series. Over 3,500 artists have appeared on the series; many have been prize winners from such competitions as the Tchaikovsky, Naumburg, Van Cliburn, Leeds, Chopin, and Rubenstein.
Al Booth, Founder of the International Music Foundation
Both the Do-It-Yourself Messiah and the Hess series have continued uninterrupted since their beginning. This remarkable longevity is due to the enthusiasm of our audiences and the generosity of our donors and funders.
In 1982, we introduced Live Music Now! with the support of Yehudi Menuhin. Under the Live Music Now! imprimatur, we send musicians into the Chicago Public Schools to perform for students in grades K – 8.
Impact & Leadership: We are proud that in 2015 the IMF presented 230 concerts of the highest quality to approximately 72,000 adults and children. The high quality we strive to maintain was recognized by Chicago Tribune music critic John von Rhein when describing the 35th anniversary of the Hess series: “Such is the loyal following the series has built that Preston Bradley's 450 seats are invariably filled for every concert. That comes out to more than 23,000 audience members a year, an impressive turnout for live classical music. These listeners know there are few better places around to spot talent on the way up.” Read more.
The organization is led by Ann Murray, with assistance from Maria Valdes-Vargas and John Lee. Hess performers are selected by our esteemed Artistic Committee, and guidance is provided by the Board of Directors.
What Keeps Us Moving Forward: 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… "
We here at the International Music Foundation are still driven by Dame Myra's words, and are proud to work passionately to bring free music of the highest quality to adults and children in Chicago.