Mission and History


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 will ensure that orchestral music thrives and enhances the quality of life for all.

About the Symphony

Celebrating more than 55 years, the Lake Forest Symphony is the only fully professional orchestra in Lake County. The orchestra has been honored numerous times by the Illinois Council of Orchestras, winning Illinois Orchestra of the Year in 2006 and Symphony Guild of the Year in 2006 and 2011.  Music Director Emeritus Alan Heatherington won Conductor of the Year in 2005 and 2012 as well as the prestigious Cultural Leadership award in 2010. Susan Lape won Executive Director of the Year in 2014.

The Lake Forest Symphony presents five concert pairs in its Classical Series and regularly features prominent guest artists.  A pre-concert lecture by musicologist Jim Kendros enhances each performance. Complimentary post-concert receptions also offer a unique opportunity for audience members to meet Lake Forest Symphony musicians and to enjoy refreshments and lively conversation.

Lake Forest Symphony’s Composer-in-Residence James Stephenson is an internationally renowned composer and a cherished resident of Lake Forest.  The Lake Forest Symphony is committed to presenting at least one work by James Stephenson each year. 

As is often said, “The children of today are the musicians and the audience of tomorrow.” Because education is extremely important, the Lake Forest Symphony strives to reach as many young children and students as we can during our subscription season.  Currently, our outreach reaches thousands of school children throughout Northern Illinois. We accomplish this through our age-appropriate Youth Concerts. These programs bring students to the performance hall to hear the full orchestra perform a program specifically geared towards their age group.

A Brief History

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 conductors Victor Aitay, Paul Anthony McRae, David Itkin, Alan Heatherington and Vladimir Kulenovic, the Symphony has firmly established a distinguished reputation.

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.

Featured guest artists have included Joaquín Achúcarro, Michelle Areyzaga, Jennifer Frautschi, Ilya Kaler, Mark Kaplan, Andreas Klein, Jorge Federico Osorio, Rachel Barton Pine, David Taylor, Lukáš Vondráček, Ralph Votapek, Wendy Warner and Jeffrey Work.

Alan Heatherington, Music Director Emeritus

Alan Heatherington has built his career in the Chicago Metropolitan area as an orchestral and choral conductor, a violinist/concertmaster and an educator. The Chicago Tribune named him a “Chicagoan of the Year” in 2004. The Illinois Council of Orchestras awarded him the title of “Conductor of the Year” in 2005 and 2012. In 2010 he received the Cultural Leadership Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Illinois Council of Orchestras, for sustained leadership, extending beyond his own organizations and community, that has profoundly impacted the state of the arts in Illinois. Under his leadership the Lake Forest Symphony was selected as “Professional Orchestra of the Year” in 2006.

Maestro Heatherington has conducted or played with virtually all the major orchestras in Chicago throughout more than thirty years, has taught at various colleges and universities for more than twenty years, and has conducted concerts in many of the major cultural capitals of Europe. He has conducted in Krakow Poland, Washington DC, Ekaterinburg, Russia as well as the Czech National Symphony Orchestra, the North Czech Philharmonic Orchestra and the West Bohemia Symphony in the Czech Republic.
Heatherington was appointed Music Director of the Lake Forest Symphony in 2000 and served until May of 2013. He also served as concertmaster of the Lake Forest Symphony in the 1960’s and 1970’s. He is the founder of the ArsViva Symphony Orchestra (1995-present) and has been the Music Director of The Chicago Master Singers since 1989. Maestro Heatherington was the founding Music Director of the Chicago String Ensemble (1979-1995) and the Innsbruck International Choral Festival, co-conducting the festival for four years with Alice Parker and Weston Noble. He was the Director of Music Ministries at the First Presbyterian Church of Lake Forest (1995-2003) as well as Director of the Anshe Emet Synagogue professional choir (1995-2000).