Nonprofits are: ENRICHING

This post is one in a series exploring each of the seven attributes – being productive, empowering, effective, enriching, reliable, responsive, and caring – revealed in the Listening Post’s Nonprofit Values Survey in detail. Please visit the Nonprofit Values overview page to browse our other items from this initiative, including the full report, blog posts, and outreach materials, and follow us on Twitter or Facebook to join the conversation.
For this post, we asked the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, a Listening Post Organization and survey respondent, to tell us about how the symphony embodies one of the seven values. The following guest post by CSO Association President Deborah Rutter looks at several programs that ENRICH the lives of the larger Chicago community and beyond.


By Deborah Rutter
At the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, we’re constantly exploring how music enriches. The core of that work will always be the transformative musical experiences we create in the concert hall, but the vision of our music director, Maestro Riccardo Muti, is to take transformative musical experience outside of the concert hall as well—to engage people throughout our city, and throughout our world. In pursuing Maestro Muti’s vision, our driving question is “how can our orchestra’s values most enrich the world around us?”
Some of the answers are obvious: for instance, our musicians support programs such as Music Activity Partnership and Orchestra Explorers® to help address unequal access to music education throughout Chicago.
Some answers, however, are less obvious.
Examples of these more complex relationships between music and enrichment include our work at the Illinois Youth Center in Warrenville, where we partner with Storycatchers Theatre on “Fabulous Females” and at the Cook County Juvenile Temporary Detention Center in Chicago, where we share a residency with Music In Prisons. The lives and experiences of the incarcerated youth served by these programs present special obstacles to creative openness, trust, and collaboration. Not only do our musicians give positive form to the daily activity of these young people—they also bring them together in musical performance and composition, building relationships along the way that might not have arisen otherwise.
This work with incarcerated youth gets at another of the ways music can enrich: bringing people together in musical collaboration builds trust, friendship, and working relationships that are as real as any working relationship can be. Musicians of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago build these relationships across geographical barriers, differences in age, and even language barriers, the results of which can be seen every two years in the Chicago Youth in Music Festival.



All of this work is elaborated through the idea of Citizen Musician and the leadership of Yo-Yo Ma, the Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The CSO’s Citizen Musician initiative is a prompt to musicians, teachers, individuals, and organizations to reflect on the value of music.
Music is much more than entertainment; it is vital to human development. Part of our job is to enrich musicians, music educators, and music lovers with this broader sense of purpose, and to encourage each to constantly ask, how can music enrich civic and cultural life? How can it connect people and strengthen communities? Our musicians explore these questions in their own ways, as in Brad Opland’s South Side Choir Project, which brings together musicians from three South Side churches – 3rd Baptist, St. Sabina and Apostolic Church of God – and fellow musicians of the CSO to support a youth gospel choir; and the work of the Civitas Ensemble, who offer educational concerts with a special focus on underserved audiences at children’s hospitals. in addition to the individual efforts, as an orchestra we work together to explore these questions on the largest scale possible through our international residencies.


Each non-profit has its own set of values, specific to a particular aspect of society: health, housing, literacy, and so on. Ours happen to come from music. These values are, for us, like a form of renewable energy—the more we reflect on them, the more robust they become, and the more they can be drawn upon to evolve our mission, leading us to discover new wealth for our ever-expanding community.


Very special thanks to Deborah Rutter and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for being part of this conversation.


Chelsea Newhouse

View posts by Chelsea Newhouse
Chelsea Newhouse served as the Center's Communications Manager and managed the Nonprofit Economic Data and Philanthropication thru Privatization Projects. Prior to joining the Center in 2008, she worked for the Johns Hopkins University Department of Molecular Biology & Genetics, the Baltimore Sun, and as a community organizer for Clean Water Action and the Democratic National Committee. She holds a degree in Philosophy from the University of Virginia. Following the Center's closing, Chelsea now serves as Project Manager at the East-West Management Institute, where she continues to work on the Philanthropication thru Privatization Project and other civil society development initiatives around the world. Chelsea can be reached at