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Midwest Young Artists marks 20 years

Midwest Young Artists will celebrate 20 years with concert OrchestrHall.

Midwest Young Artists will celebrate 20 years with a concert at Orchestra Hall.

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Midwest Young Artists 20th Anniversary Concert

5 p.m. Friday Dec. 28

Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago

Tickets $35

(847) 926-9898 or email

Benefit Dinner

University Club, 76 E. Monroe, Chicago.

7 p.m., following the concert.

Dinner and concert combination is $200 per person. Funds support Midwest Young Artists and the Alzheimer Association, Greater Illinois Chapter.

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Star power will be front and center during the Midwest Young Artists 20th anniversary celebration at Orchestra Hall.

Emmy and Tony Award winner David Hyde Pierce will emcee the concert and baritone Nathan Gunn, known for his numerous roles at Lyric Opera of Chicago, will be guest artist.

This is the second time the Highwood-based school for young musicians has presented its student ensembles in the 2,500-plus seat hall.

“The last time was for our 10th anniversary,” said Karen Dennis, administrative director of MYA and founder of the institution with her husband Allan Dennis. “And this year is even more spectacular.”

The MYA Symphony, along with MYA alumni, and the Big Band will play classical, jazz and Broadway selections in a two-part program. With all groups on stage there will be about 250 people, said founder and conductor Allan Dennis.

“The classical portion of the concert will have music our ensembles have played over the last 20 years,” he continued.

Selections include Brahms’ Academic Festival Overture, the first movement of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, the third movement (“Frere Jacques”) from Mahler’s First Symphony, and the last movement of the Shostakovich Fifth Symphony.

“We’ve also prepared the Overture to Bernstein’s ‘Candide,’ ” Dennis said, “just in case the audience wants an encore.”

It surely will, with the seats filled by parents, siblings and other family members and friends. At the MYA concert at Orchestra Hall a decade ago, cheers and applause reached the rafters of that hallowed venue.

This year’s concert opens with the evening’s celebrities, Pierce and Gunn. “Our Big Band and Alumni Jazz Band will accompany them,” Dennis continued. Gunn will sing solo, and he and Pierce will do one number together, “You’re the Tops” by Cole Porter.

The award-winning actor and MYA’s Dennis go back quite a long way. “David was my student when I was teaching music at Saratoga Strings High School in Upstate New York,” Dennis said. “He was a wonderful singer and pianist even in high school. We did Beethoven’s ‘Choral Fantasy,’ and he was the pianist.”

“Allan was the orchestra conductor at my high school,” recalled Pierce, when reached by telephone in New York where he is appearing in “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike” at Lincoln Center. “I accompanied some of his students on piano for competitions or rehearsals.”

It was Pierce who enlisted Gunn to take part in the Dec. 28 concert. “We met at the 80th birthday celebration for Stephen Sondheim with the New York Philharmonic,” explained Gunn, “ … (but) this will be the first time we’ve performed together.”

Pierce, known for his award-winning role as Dr. Niles Crane on the NBC comedy “Frasier,” also has been honored for his on-going support of the Alzheimer’s Association, which will receive money from this benefit. Both his father and his grandfather were afflicted by the disease.

Midwest Young Artists opened in February of 1993 with an orchestra and 55 students in a rented space at Lake Forest Country Day School. Now MYA, which concentrates on developing ensembles for young musicians, has 1,000 students enrolled in their music programs.

Pierce urges music lovers of all ages to attend this unusual program.

“You’ll have a very good time, you’ll hear very good music, played by very fine young musicians,” he said, “and you’ll be supporting two very good causes, Alzheimer’s and Midwest Young Artists.”

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