CSO Chicago's "Downtown Sounds" program gives CPS kids tour city through classical music

Evelyn Holmes Image
Friday, May 5, 2023
CSO takes kids on a symphonic tour of Chicgao's neighborhoods
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra takes kids on a symphonic journey through the city's neighborhoods with TikTok historian Shermann "Dilla" Thomas acting as tour guide.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The Chicago Symphony Orchestra's "Downtown Sounds" introduces kids to the rich history of orchestra music by connecting them to Chicago's neighborhoods.

The performance features symphonic works of Gerwshin, Marquez, Tchaikovsky and others.

"It is an incredible experience for kids because they get to explore their city through the amazing sound of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra," said Katy Clusen of the CSO.

The program is one of the CSO's outreach and education programs geared toward school-age children.

After a musical introduction to the city, the trip begins with a self-simulated bumpy "L ride" to a popular symphonic piece, then transports travelers to several downtown attractions and Chicago's Bronzeville, Pilsen and Chinatown neighborhoods, all through classical music. The audience also takes a ride on the Chicago River.

"Downtown Sounds" was created by Scott Speck, the artistic director of the Chicago Philharmonic and music director for the Joffrey Ballet, who is a guest conducting the performance.

"We have a real connection in our art of being the great equalizer, all we have to do is make it available to everyone," Speck said.

TikTok influencer and Chicago historian Shermann "Dilla" Thomas acts as the performance's tour guie.

"It's important to push back against those negative images and show images of Chicago kids coming downtown, enjoying Chicago," Thomas said.

Roughly 4,000 students from several Chicago Public Schools were invited to one of two Friday performances at the Symphony Center. The tickets and transportation were free.

The musical tour ends with the iconic 1812 Overture usually heard during fireworks at Navy Pier.

The CSO is betting on the program being such a success that they've opened it up to the public on Saturday in hopes that it will return next year.