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Galesburg breaks ground on Symphony Center

Jane Carlson
Tri States Public Radio
From left, Knox-Galesburg Symphony executive director Lucas Wood; symphony patron and project manager Janet Kreig; and mayor Peter Schwartzman at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Symphony Center.

After 75 years of performing classical music for the region, the Galesburg Symphony Society and Knox-Galesburg Symphony are composing a new chapter.

Galesburg officials and supporters of the arts broke ground Friday on a new Symphony Center.

It’s on a bustling block of North Seminary Street across the street from Innkeeper’s Fresh Roasted Coffee in a 1932 brick building that initially housed the Knox County Farm Bureau and an adjacent former oil station.

The new vision for that historic space is to bring the community together – through the teaching and the performance of classical music.

Lucas Wood, executive director of the Knox-Galesburg Symphony, said he remembers attending its performances as early as four years old.

“I was very fortunate to have a family that supported and enabled my love for classical music. But for so many, that is not an option,” Wood said.

Once the renovations are complete, the Symphony Center will be a place for top-quality music instruction and for small rehearsals and performances.

Main performances of the symphony will continue in venues such as the Orpheum Theatre.

The Symphony Center will also house operations for the organization, and be a welcoming and inclusive space.

Wood said music – and music education – are not luxuries.

“Music is at the core of humanity. A language that connects us on a fundamentally emotional level,” Wood said.

Percussionist Peggy Bonner has played with the Knox-Galesburg Symphony for more than 20 years. She’s also a retired public school teacher who now teaches percussion at Bradley University.

As fine arts programming and classes decline in schools, she said the role of the Symphony Center will be vital.

“This building will provide a place not only to discover, create, and perform music but also to build that share of music in a venue, in a very special place in this community,” Bonner said.

Mayor Peter Schwartzman said the project is very ambitious — and it aligns with the city’s strategic plan, because the performances and lessons are for people of all ages, backgrounds, and economic levels.

“This is really an important part of what our city is working towards,” Schwartzman said.

Jeanne Harland, president of the symphony’s board of directors, said all non-profit organizations are facing challenges these days, but she’s encouraged by the support and enthusiasm already evidenced for this project.

“In Galesburg, and this whole region of the state, there is a legacy of support for the arts, and especially for music,” she said.

Harland said as the organization looks forward to the next 75 years and beyond, the Symphony Center will keep classical music fresh and alive for musicians, for audiences – and for students.

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson covers west central Illinois and southeast Iowa for Tri States Public Radio.