A little lawn music


Alumni Association project coordinator Lisa Ballard stood at the western edge of Millenium Park’s Jay Pritzker Pavilion, holding a maroon “University of Chicago Alumni” banner and waiting for early arrivals. One hundred and one alumni had registered for the free, “family-friendly” event, Ballard said, including an 11-person group from Kankakee. Attendees swarmed the lawn for the Grant Park Orchestra’s 6:30 “American Romantics” concert, featuring music by Gershwin, Hailstork, Barber, and Hanson. Among them was Julie Burros, AB’86, Chicago’s director of cultural planning, who spearheaded the Wednesday evening get-together. “It was kind of natural for me to help organize this,” she said. Burros offered optional nametags to alumni trickling in: a family, carrying Subway sandwiches and sodas, who kicked off their shoes before sprawling on a green throw; a gray-haired couple who settled into their lawn chairs, one reading the paper while the other tackled a crossword; and another couple who lay down mid-concert on a yellow blanket, sharing a makeshift briefcase “pillow” and cradling cell phones.

After the last strains of Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue faded away, David McNutt, MBA’04, president of Chicago-based db Integrated Systems, explained the pavilion’s sound systems—which he helped perfect—to the alumni encircling him, his words somewhat obscured by departing concert attendees. The speakers had been wired, McNutt said, so that wherever an audience member sat—from the front row of seats to the back of the lawn—the sound was the same, and so there was a real sound difference “outside” the open-air venue—say, on the concrete—and “inside.” The sun’s last rays struck the Frank Gehry–designed silver trellis as alumni gathered their belongings and left the pavilion.

Hana Yoo, ’07

Photo: Julie Burros and Alumni Association staffer Kimberly Masius hold the U of C sign (top); GSB alumni share a suitcase pillow (bottom).

August 15, 2005