History & Mission

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The Lake Forest Symphony (LFS), founded in 1957 is a fully professional regional symphony based out of Lake Forest, IL. The Symphony, a 501c3 non-profit, performs throughout the Lake County area including at the Gorton Community Center and the James Lumber Center.

Robert Kalter and William English founded the Lake Forest Symphony in 1957 as a chamber orchestra of volunteer musicians. By 1965 the group had over 60 players, and in 1988 became fully professional. Under the visionary leadership of conductor Victor Aitay, then Concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Symphony continued to grow in its artistic ability and stature.

In 1991 the Symphony was chosen from twelve orchestras in the Midwest to be a featured guest orchestra at the American Symphony Orchestra League’s National Conference in Chicago. In October of the same year, pianist Andre Watts performed two benefit concerts with the Symphony to celebrate its 35th anniversary.

As the only fully-professional orchestra in Lake County, IL, the Lake Forest Symphony has been honored numerous times by the Illinois Council of Orchestras and the League of American Orchestras. In 2018, the Lake Forest Symphony’s debut commercial album, Liquid Melancholy, was nominated for a GRAMMY award.


After 60 years, the Symphony continues to grow and expand its reach in the community. In 2014, the Symphony welcomed it's 7th Music Director, Vladimir Kulenovic. Maestro Kulenovic has been hailed by critic John von Rhein as a “conductor with an uncommon passion”. The competitive selection process of a new Music Director was covered in a radio documentary by 98.7 WFMT called “The Search”. In 2015 he was the winner of the Sir Georg Solti Conducting Award and distinguished as the 2015 “Chicagoan of the Year in Classical Music”

The Symphony performs five Masterworks Series orchestra concerts and four Salon Series chamber music concerts at its homes of the Gorton Community Center and the College of Lake County's James Lumber Center. Additional venues have held the Symphony, including the Lake Forest Academy's Cressey Center for the Arts and the Genesee Theatre.

The Symphony also provides a variety of community outreach and engagement programs including pre-concert lectures with musicologist Jim Kendros, performances in schools, and Musical Memories. The Lake Forest Symphony also celebrates the music of new and living composers, including its Composer-in-Residence, James Stephenson. An internationally renowned composer and resident of Lake Forest, Mr. Stephenson’s music has been recorded by the Symphony on the 2017 album with Cedille Records, Liquid Melancholy. The album was nominated for a GRAMMY award in 2018.


The Lake Forest Symphony aims to foster a community that is enriched, educated, and transformed by the power of music. The Symphony’s mission is to bring high quality, innovative musical performances to diverse audiences to inspire creativity, strengthen connections, and engage the community. Our ongoing commitment to access, educational opportunities, and partnerships ensures that orchestral music thrives and enhances the quality of life for all.



Awards & Recognition


  • Liquid Melancholy, nominated for Best Engineered Album, Classical

Illinois Council of Orchestras

  • Orchestra of the Year, 2019 & 2006

  • Conductor of the Year (Vladimir Kulenovic), 2019

  • Executive Director of the Year (Susan Lape), 2014

  • Symphony Guild of the Year, 2006 & 2011

  • Conductor of the Year (Alan Heatherington), 2005 & 2012

League of American Orchestras

  • Featured Guest Orchestra at the 1991 American Symphony Orchestra Conference


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Music Director Vladimir Kulenovic