Symphony Brings Unique Concert to LF

October 1, 2010

Symphony Brings Unique Concert To LF

NSS music director Ron Arden, left, with composer Jim Stephenson Submitted by the North Suburban Symphony  – Nancy Thorner for Gazebo News

The North Suburban Symphony, based in Lake Forest and sponsored by the Lake Bluff Park District, will present a unique concert on Sunday, October 3rd, at 4:00 p.m. in Reid Chapel on the campus of Lake Forest College. Ron Arden is music director and conductor of the North Suburban Symphony.

What makes this concert unique is that the work to be performed, the lone piece on the program, is by a full-time and internationally known composer who lives in Lake Forest with his wife and four children, Jim Stephenson. The musical composition featured, Compose Yourself!, will be narrated by the composer himself. Performing the music will be an ensemble made up of first chair players of the North Suburban Symphony.

Billed as a Family Concert, Compose Yourself! is certain to appeal to all age groups. The forty-five minute piece will introduce children to each instrument of the orchestra. During the interactive concert a new piece of music will be composed by Mr. Stephenson and the young people present. The on-the-spot composition will then be given its premiere performance by the NSS orchestra ensemble and some of the children themselves.

Jim Stephenson would not reveal his secret of how he goes about producing an on-the-spot music composition. Only by attending the concert will the riddle be solved.

Jim Stephenson graduated from the New England Conservatory of Music where he earned his Bachelor of Music with distinction in trumpet performance. Never did he envision after graduation that he would do anything other than play trumpet in an orchestra.

The transition from trumpet player to full-time composer came about gradually. For seventeen years Jim and his wife Sally, a professional violin player, played in the Naples Philharmonic Orchestra. While a member of the Naples Philharmonic Jim started to arrange music with great success for Erich Kunzel, a Ravinia favorite until his death last year; Keith Lockhart of the Boston Pops Orchestra, and many other “Pops” conductors.

Composing music followed when Jim’s initial forays into writing music were received favorably by his friends. For the last ten years every thing composed by Jim has been a commissioned piece. Jim said he attends every premiere performance of a commissioned work. Recently Jim traveled to Sydney,  Australia, for the premier of his trumpet concerto, Rextreme.

It was three years ago that Jim and his wife mutually decided that both should resign from their professional orchestra gigs and move to Lake Forest — both have family ties in Illinois — where Jim could work exclusively at composing music. Notwithstanding, Jim is still arranging music. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra has commissioned an arrangement by Mr. Stephenson for this year’s Christmas concert.

Mr. Stephenson works at his craft at least sixty hours a week. Writing music isn’t always easy, but since this is Jim’s livelihood there is no way he could afford not to spend the time and effort.

Mr. Stephenson is fortunate to have his career prosper while the economy has gone the other way. Currently Jim is working on several compositions at the same time, an oboe concerto which former principle CSO oboe player Alex Klein will premier at the American Band Masters Association in March of 2011 with the “President’s Own” Marine Band, and a concerto for brass quintet and wind ensemble to be premiered at the MIdwest Band and Orchestra Clinic in December of this year.

You will be amazed when you check out Jim Stephenson’s website at There you will find an astonishing number of works composed by Mr. Stephenson for Orchestra, Concert Band, Brass, Strings, Woodwinds, Percussion and Voice, plus many arrangements for Orchestra and Band. Mr. Stephenson’s website allow you to listen to many of his compositions. You will find Jim’s music to be extremely tonal, but it’s not predictable.

Advance tickets can be ordered through the Lake Bluff Park District at 847-234-4150. Tickets are also available the day of the concert. Ticket prices for adults $18; Seniors/Students $10; and Children under 12, complementary with adult ticket purchase.


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