When the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association wanted to create a new spin on the classical music events offered in their restored ballroom in Oak Park, they turned to someone who has made classical music his life for more than 50 years — Henry Fogel.
Dean of the Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) at Roosevelt University since July 2009, Fogel previously served as president of the League of American Orchestras, visiting more than 190 orchestras across the country. Before that, he was president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for 18 years, where his signature achievements took place.
“Managing the Chicago Symphony Orchestra,” he said, “renovating the building to make it Symphony Center, hiring [conductor] Daniel Barenboim, and something that continues after I left in 2003 and for which they are leaders in the country for doing — expanding community outreach and education programs — are all things I am proud of doing.”
Fogel, 75, got his start in radio in Syracuse, New York, in 1963, as a founder of classical music station WONO-FM. That’s also when he began compiling his record collection, something that has turned into “an addiction,” 20,000 to 25,000 LPs and CDs of classical music recordings, including the unusual — in repertoire or location of the recording. The collection also features jazz, folk and Broadway.
Unlike many couples, Fogel said he and his wife moved into a bigger home as they got older, in order to house his collection, which has its own room in their four-bedroom River Forest dwelling where they have resided for 20 years. His wife uses another bedroom as her sewing room where she makes her own clothing. The guest room is the smallest.
Fogel’s recording library gets widely shared when he hosts Collector’s Corner on WFMT (98.7 FM, Sundays, 10 p.m.).
“I’ve always had a close relationship with WFMT,” Fogel said. “They are the model of what a classical radio station should be. … Eighteen years ago, I suggested doing this [show].”
Sometimes the opportunities come to him, like the current CCPA post. Fogel said he “loved working with young musicians,” with whom he interacted while teaching Orchestral Studies at Roosevelt. But after six years of traveling with the League of American Orchestras, he was ready to stay put.
Prior to living in River Forest, he lived in Oak Park for 12 years. Collaborating on events at the Nineteenth Century Charitable Association gives Fogel a chance to bring music to his home community while also working with soloists and small chamber groups. Musicians are selected by Fogel, based on Nineteenth Century’s recommendations or musicians contacting Fogel.
“If it is not an artist I have seen or heard perform, I will go to them,” he said. Planning ahead, Fogel is currently hearing artists for season three.
The audience size has been growing during the first season, which started in the fall. More than 90 people attended the February piano recital by Conley Johnson. Each concert lasts slightly more than an hour and includes conversations between the performers and Fogel about the music. At the end of the evening, concert-goers are invited to mingle with Fogel and the artists.
Next season begins with a Russian vocal ensemble, Golasa, in September, singing sacred and secular folk songs. Three other performances are planned, including two piano soloists and a soprano.
The inaugural season concludes with a performance next week by award-winning Macedonian pianist Jana Pavlovska, who will play Chopin and Schumann. Pavlovska teaches at the CCPA and is a doctorate fellow at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Having an influence on young musicians, sharing his collection over the airwaves and bringing music to the community engages music lovers of all ages as well as performers.
“I believe classical music can have an impact on people’s lives,” Fogel said.
Henry Fogel Presents, an evening of great music and conversation with Jana Pavlovska, Thursday, April 5, 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. at the Nineteenth Century Club. Admission: $35, $30 members, $20 students (two for one of the same price). Tickets: nineteenthcentury.org, 708-386-2729 or at the door. 178 Forest Ave., Oak Park.