Our History

The Chicago Chamber Musicians (CCM) was founded in 1986 by a group of prominent musicians and chamber music devotees for the purpose of building an internationally-recognized Chicago institution devoted to the study and performance of chamber music. CCM reaches more than 500,000 people annually through its 75-plus performance season.

Based on the principles of the Marlboro Music Festival, the Artistic Development Program emphasizes weekly study and rehearsal, and is the cornerstone of the organization. The ensemble of 15 artists together with various internationally known guests explore selections from the entire chamber music literature, culminating in public performances.

CCM began as the resident ensemble of WFMT (Chicago's fine arts station) in 1986. Along with these first public performances on WFMT, CCM inaugurated its year-round free First Monday Series presented each month at noon at The Chicago Cultural Center to help people better understand and experience music, and to provide free access to world-class music-making for a broad segment of society. Through its exposure on WFMT, CCM received repeated requests from listeners for a traditional concert series, resulting in the creation of an annual Subscription Series in 1988. This series grew from three concerts in one location to the current 12 concerts in two locations (Pick-Staiger Concert Hall in Evanston and DePaul University Concert Hall in Chicago), and has been critically acclaimed for its artistic excellence, program diversity and distinguished guest artist roster.

Since 1987, CCM has gained national and international exposure through its touring program, with appearances at the Ravinia Festival and the Barns at Wolf Trap, on NPR, in live concerts on WFMT radio, and in performance and short-term residencies across the United States and in Tokyo, Salzburg, Berlin, and Giverny, France.

A national leader and advocate of new music, CCM demonstrates a strong commitment to contemporary chamber music performance and the commissioning of new works for the ensemble. Over the past 19 years, CCM has commissioned thirteen new works by different composers, for its subscription, Music at the Millennium, Family Concert, and Composer Perspectives series. CCM has recorded nine of these with the ensemble.

In September 1988 CCM inaugurated its Arts Education Program at Sullivan High School, an inner-city public school. Devised to enhance the school's limited music program, this arts education program was based upon a concert-oriented curriculum, teaching young students the skills to experience music and appreciate the benefits it can bring to their lives. In the 1995-96 season, the program expanded to Jonathan Burr Elementary School in Wicker Park. To increase the reach of CCM's arts education activities, in the 2004-2005 season CCM launched its expanded School Residency Program, bringing music appreciation classes, recorder lessons, performance opportunities, in-class concerts and teacher training workshops to three Chicago public schools: Jonathan Burr Elementary School, and Langston Hughes Elementary School and Phillip Murray Language Academy on Chicago's south side. CCM has received extensive commendation for its arts education activities and is a prior winner of the Volunteer of the Year Award from the Chicago Board of Education.

In 1989 CCM created a Fellowship Program for young professional musicians. This program offers its participants two opportunities consistent with CCM's goals: (1) to acquire artistic maturity and experience by working and performing with CCM's experienced ensemble artists; and (2) to explore and enhance teaching abilities by working with students in the School Residency Program, under the supervision of CCM's artistic directors.

CCM's Music Allegro Series, takes the live concert experience to unconventional concert venues, such as The Lambs Farm, Lawson YMCA, Erie Neighborhood House and The Chicago Children's Memorial Hospital where people's quality of life is at risk due to circumstances or economic factors.

In 2005, CCM began the pilot phase of the Chamber Music Professional Development Program (PDP), designed to give a young, talented ensemble the tools to develop their niche as artists in the community, using a series of mentoring and coaching sessions with CCM artists, complemented by seminars with CCM board members and staff. The PDP ensemble is also given several performance opportunities, helping CCM to reach broader audiences through the Concerts for Schools Program - taking live concerts to schools throughout the Chicago area - and the Allegro II series in senior residences.

In 1996 CCM offered its first annual Family Concert, a high quality, interactive musical experience for children and adults to enjoy together. In 2007, this concert will take place as part of a multi-year collaboration with Chicago Shakespeare Theater at its Navy Pier theater, reaching over 2,000 concertgoers.

In 1998, CCM inaugurated an extensive artistic initiative entitled Music at the Millennium, a three-year festival of 20th century chamber music taking place each May of 1998, 1999 and 2000 at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Set in a format of both retrospection and commissioning of new works, the festival had strong interdisciplinary and educational components to help audiences appreciate the music of our time in historical and musical context. In 2001, this series evolved into a new program called Composer Perspectives with a focus on composer partnerships, including Pierre Boulez, musical advisor to the project, John Harbison, Ellen Taaffe Zwilich, George Perle, John Corigliano, Joan Tower, Gunther Schuller, William Bolcom, Bright Sheng, Bernard Rands, Paquito D’Rivera, Aaron Jay Kernis, David Del Tredici, Augusta Read Thomas and Ned Rorem. CCM is a two-time winner of the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, one each for the Music at the Millennium and the Composer Perspectives series.

CCM's budget has grown from $21,000 in 1986 to a projected budget of $850,000 for the year 2007. In recent years the number of ensemble artists has grown to 15, the cadre of guest artists numbers over 140, and CCM's repertoire numbers more than 550 works. The Board of Directors has grown from 8 in 1986 to 27 currently. In its short history, CCM has made a striking impact on the musical and cultural life of Chicago.

Our Mission

The Chicago Chamber Musicians is a society of professional musicians and interested supporters dedicated to excellence in the study and performance of chamber music. We intend to be a national leader in providing the highest quality programs in artistic development, concert performance, and education. Creativity, generosity of spirit, and artistic drive are our hallmark as we strive to share the joy of music with the broadest possible public, thereby enriching the cultural life of Chicago and beyond.