Central alum attaches strings to local symphony

Last summer, Hinsdale's Chase Ackerson was enjoying an evening of music at Ravinia with family when he bumped into a woman he knew through his former violin teacher.

Having just graduated college with a degree in music but working in banking, Ackerson was keen to keep his instrumental skills in tune.

"She was a member of the DuPage Symphony Orchestra and said, 'We're always looking for more people,' " he related.

After sitting in on a rehearsal, Ackerson quickly became the orchestra's newest violinist.

"It's the best ensemble that I've ever played with," he said. "They're all amateur musicians, but many of the them are really expert musicians. And a lot of them are music teachers."

Classical music fans have a chance to experience the DSO at its season-closing performance, "Symphonic Song," at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 13, at Wentz Concert Hall in Naperville (see Page 28 for details).

Mahler's Symphony No. 1 is the show-stopper, he noted.

"It's the most challenging work we've done since I've been with the group," Ackerson said. "It offers a lot of range of emotion, from really peaceful, lyrical lines to intense, stormy and dangerous-sounding music. It's joyful and triumphant, as well. It really does offer everything in one."

Barber's poignant "Knoxville: Summer of 1915" serves up a different vibe.

"It tells a story of a young boy reminiscing on a summer night," he said. "It's kind of a nostalgic look back at a bygone time."

Ackerson was a young boy of 5 when he picked up the violin in a family of music enthusiasts. He played in the Hinsdale Central orchestra and leveled up at college with ability-stretching opportunities.

"We actually played a number of really great pieces," he said, citing Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 5 among them.

The annual Christmas concert was a calendar highlight.

"We had a chapel on campus where we performed, and it was the orchestra plus the choir," Ackerson said of the more than two-hour program. "The Christmas concerts would always be full, so that was fun."

He was thankful when music lessons returned to in-person from Zoom. Using his talent post-college was always the plan.

"Even if it wasn't my day job, I knew I wanted to keep performing as part of my life in a community orchestra," he commented.

His first concert was outdoors in late August, entertaining a Wheaton crowd with a mix of classical, movie soundtrack and pops selections. The orchestra meets once a week for two and a half hours. But most of the practice happens at home.

"I do about three to six hours of practice a week on DSO music," Ackerson said. "It can feel pretty demoralizing showing up for rehearsal not knowing the music."

Punctuality is vital, and helping set up and take down chairs give him a sense of stewardship. As the second youngest members of the orchestra, he appreciates the group's youth outreach efforts.

"We just want to really remind people of the importance of music education," he said.

Ackerson admires his older DSO colleagues who honor their commitment while juggling family life.

"It really remarkable, and I really have a lot respect for my fellow musicians," he said.

- story by Ken Knutson, photo by Jim Slonoff

Author Bio

Ken Knutson is associate editor of The Hinsdalean