The Mariachi Divas kick off the Kraft Great Kids Concert Series June 24, 2012, at Ravinia in Highland Park, Ill. | Ravinia Festival Photo
Ravinia Festival Kraft Great Kids
♦ June 24-Sept. 8
♦ Ravinia Park, 200 Ravinia Park Road, Highland Park
♦ Admission: $5 for lawn, $10-$15 for pavilion
♦ (847) 266-5100;
Updated: June 20, 2012 6:52PM
This summer, Ravinia Festival is targeting kids of all ages, from toddlers to college students, looking to introduce them to the beauty of classical music and other performance genres.
“We have a lot of things going on for families, opportunities — a lot of great free opportunities — which we’re happy about,” said Amy Schrage, associate director of public relations. “First up, of course, we do the Kraft Great Kids Concert Series. And that series this year has eight shows . . . they kind of emulate the festival’s mainstage programming with a real mix of stuff.”
The series of affordable hourlong concerts kicks off with the Mariachi Divas at noon June 24. The Los Angeles-based all-female ensemble mixes the music of cultures from around the world into their performances.
“They’re fun to watch, fun to listen to,” Schrage said. “We had really great feedback from parents and kids who really, really enjoyed them [two years ago].”
The series also showcases the Elgin Youth Symphony Orchestra performing its signature “Beethoven Lives Upstairs” program (11 a.m. July 7), Ralph’s World (11 a.m. July 14), WFMT’s “Introductions with David Polk” (a live broadcast of the show from the Martin Theatre, 11 a.m. July 21), Laurie Berkner’s “The You & Me Tour” (11 a.m. July 28), Justin Roberts & the Not Ready for Naptime Players (11 a.m. Aug. 18), River North Dance Chicago (1 p.m. Aug. 21 in the pavilion) and the Ruth Page Civic Ballet ( 11 a.m. Sept 8 in Bennett Gordon Hall). Families can come before the concerts to picnic or stay afterward for about an hour.
Another perk for kids: Those 15 and younger receive free lawn admission to all classical music concerts. Prior to four Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts, Ravinia will host a free family space on the north lawn. It will be open from 3 to 4:30 p.m. on July 8, 15, 29 and Aug. 5 and will offer an instrument “petting zoo” (also offered after the July 7 Elgin Youth Symphony concert) along with music-related crafts and storytelling. A free Family Fun Guide with coloring pages, games, kid-friendly program notes and more can be found in kiosks around the park.
“We’re just trying to make classical music accessible to families,” Schrage said. “It’s a great way to introduce your kids to music because you’re in this beautiful outdoor environment. You’re not feeling stuffy. You’re in shorts; it’s very casual.”
And that’s also the idea behind the teen programming, she said.
Last year Ravinia created the Ravinia Student Advisory Board to promote classical music to teens. The result was free lawn admission for high school students who present a school ID, a summerlong CSO attendance contest (July 4-Aug. 20) in which students earn points for their schools to win a grant and a pre-concert high school party called Cannon Ball (before the July 29 all-Tchaikovsky program featuring the 1812 Overture) during which teens win double attendance points. When students present their ID at the box office their attendance is recorded and then tallied by high school at the end of the CSO residency. The school with the most points wins a grant to be used at its discretion, Schrage said, who noted that Ravinia has offered free lawn admission to college students with an ID (through graduate school) for many years.
Last summer about 740 high school students from 128 schools participated and about 200 students attended the Cannon Ball party. Highland Park High School was the winner of the $5,000 grant. Schrage said the grant amount has not yet been determined for this year.
“We’re really trying — from really young [kids] to teens to college — to try to bring people here to the park and experience this wonderful music, experience the CSO, which is the crown jewel of what we do here,” Schrage said. “Classical music is definitely the mainstay of Ravinia.”
♦ To celebrate summer and its “Sweet Home Chicago” exhibit, the Elmhurst Historical Museum is hosting a Sweet Home Spectacular from 1 to 4 p.m. June 24 at 120 E. Park Ave. The free family festival features music, sweet treats and activities. Call (630) 833-1457 or visit elmhursthistory.org.
Jennifer Burklow is a local free-lance writer.