Lucas King and Jeff Callahan
Founders, React Presents
Having built React into a major player on Chicago’s EDM scene by producing such events as North Coast Fest, Spring Awakening and regular events at The Mid, Lucas King and Jeff Callahan then sold the company in 2014 to SFX Entertainment, which seems to be gobbling up every major electronic music events outfit it can find. King and Callahan remain on board as founding principals, and the company appears to be operating independently; King even took a point in introducing a new festival this summer—Mamby On the Beach, whose debut weekend (at Oakwood Beach) should have just concluded by the time you read this. So there’s reason to hope SFX knows better than to screw with a good thing. Time alone will tell.
Artistic Director and Principal Conductor, Grant Park Music Festival
In a cultural landscape where many lakefront festivals have been privatized, the fact that the Grant Park Music Festival remains free, yet continues to be innovative and wide-ranging, is in no small part due to the vision and high artistic standards of Carlos Kalmar. Last summer, the Festival celebrated its milestone eightieth anniversary, but to look at the variety and scope of its current summer offerings, the celebration seems to be continuing full steam ahead. How many summer festivals present a world premiere of a large-scale symphony for orchestra and chorus its opening weekend? Or would pair Brahms’ “A German Requiem” with Schoenberg, a Haydn Mass with John Adams, or would close the season with a rare Elgar oratorio? Unlike his predecessors, who functioned with the help of an executive director responsible for programming, Kalmar added “artistic director” to his responsibilities four years ago, in essence, becoming the de facto music director of the nation’s only remaining free summer music festival. That Kalmar does this while also being the music director of the highly acclaimed Oregon Symphony during the regular season—while also recently becoming a father—speaks to his boundless energy and many talents.
Executive Vice President and General Manager, WFMT
Classical music radio stations are an endangered species, but thanks to a decade and a half of strong, visionary and fiscally sound leadership from Steve Robinson, WFMT FM 98.7 continues to expand nearly sixty-five years after first hitting the airwaves. Thanks to the WFMT Radio Network and its extended array of syndicated programming, classical programming reaches all across the country and internationally, even into China. “I believe that the only way a local music radio station of any format can remain relevant and successful in the digital age is to program stuff that one can’t get on Pandora, Spotify and the plethora of other such services,” Robinson explains. To that end, WFMT broadcasts up to three-hundred live concerts and events each year. Ratings and fundraising are up considerably, the last pledge drive having brought in well over one million dollars for the first time ever. Rather than take all the credit himself, Robinson attributes much of this success to his new wunderkind program director David Polk, who at just over thirty is not far from the same age legendary WFMT program director Norman Pellegrini was when he began in that position.
Owner, Hustle Period
Monopoly, who originally made his name as Kanye West’s manager, has spent the past two years building his management firm Hustle Period into a major player. In 2014 he signed diva-on-the-rise Dreezy to Interscope, and this year brokered a deal with Boss Baka and Scream Entertainment/Penalty Entertainment/Sony Red. In May he teamed with Chicago’s Fake Shore Drive (see #30) to produce “Go Ill Major Label A&R Showcase,” specifically designed to give young artists a chance for face time with suits from Interscope, Motown, RCA, Atlantic and other labels. The event was such a success—selling out before the doors opened—that Monopoly has planned an even more ambitious follow-up for September. “MonopolyFest2015: The Biggest Entertainment Industry Seminar in Chicago History” will bring in reps from Columbia, Atlantic, G.O.O.D. Music, TDE, BMG, MMG, Roc Nation, Def Jam, Revolt, ASCAP, Maverick and more. All proceeds will be donated to The Kids Off the Block Foundation and Afrika Enterprises.
Tim and Katie Tuten, Mike and Jim Hinchsliff
Owners, The Hideout
For a club as tiny and isolated as the aptly named Hideout—lurking at the far end of a North Side industrial corridor—it’s increasingly difficult to miss their activity in (and influence on) the city’s extended arts community. Over the past few years they’ve collaborated on events with the Museum of Contemporary Art, the University of Chicago and CIMMfest (see #23), and have now been tasked with supplying local bands for a “Chicago Week” at September’s World’s Fair in Milan, Italy (Milan being a Sister City to Chicago). On NPR, Robbie Fulks credited the artistic gravity of his latest album, “Gone Away Backward,” to being able to exorcise his goofier side at The Hideout every Monday. Inevitably rumors began to swirl about a Hideout expansion; characteristically it wasn’t about enlarging the existing club, but recreating it for the summer along the Riverwalk. Before long, there may be no hiding from The Hideout.
Josh Chicoine, Ilko Davidov and Dave Moore
Co-Founders and Executive Director, CIMMfest
Having established the Chicago International Movies & Music Festival as a showcase for films, workshops and panel discussions, founders Josh Chicoine and Ilko Davidov and executive director Dave Moore then expanded the event’s range by incorporating live music—“jumping into the deep end,” in Chicoine’s words. Two years ago they began partnering with local venues and booking local bands; this year their offerings included high-profile shows such as “20 Feet From Stardom” diva Lisa Fischer at Thalia Hall. The festival has also turned patron as well as presenter, commissioning new music—like Chicago avant-pop trio Chandeliers’ score for the 1981 Hungarian film, “Fehérlófia.” CIMMfest remains a big draw; this year’s event (the seventh) drew close to 20,000 attendees over four days.
Joe Segal and Wayne Segal
Co-owners, Jazz Showcase
First opening its doors in 1947, Jazz Showcase used founder Joe Segal’s initials for its moniker. At that juncture, the bebop movement was just beginning; Segal, who was an avid advocate from day one, made the Showcase the Temple of Bebop. Fast-forward sixty-eight years and Segal can boast of having the longest-running establishment in the city’s colorful jazz history, a signal victory as jazz continues to proliferate in the more sterile environments of the concert hall and university. It’s fascinating to see maverick Segal, now eighty-nine, become a true elder statesman of jazz; this year he was even awarded the National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Fellowship. If it went to his head, it doesn’t show: he and his son, Showcase co-owner Wayne Segal, went right back to collecting cover charges at the door at Dearborn Station. Next month is Charlie Parker Month, as it is every August to celebrate Bird’s birthday.
Vice President, Chosen Few Ltd.
The collective of house-music pioneers self-dubbed the Chosen Few celebrated Independence Day in high style, with a congratulatory video from President Obama followed by the twenty-fifth anniversary of their Chosen Few Reunion Picnic at Jackson Park. Before a sold-out crowd whose numbers are estimated at 50,000, Alan King and the other Chosen (including founder Wayne Williams) welcomed special guests Evelyn “Champagne” King, Stephanie Mills, picnic regular R Kelly and many others—and kept the place quaking until after dark. The annual event—a precursor to other local EDM fests like Spring Awakening—has helped King maintain the superstar status he earned in the seventies and eighties… and for which he was, last October, named a Top 20 DJ by New York’s award-winning Robbi Promoter.
Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot
Journalists and Co-hosts of “Sound Opinions”
Greg Kot and Jim DeRogatis have by now influenced several generations of budding Chicago audiophiles through a variety of media, including columns for both the Tribune, where Kot has been the lead music critic for twenty-five years, and the Sun-Times, where DeRogatis held the same title for fifteen years. Independently they’ve published books on Wilco, The Flaming Lips, the internet’s impact on music and more. In January they led a “Rock and Roll Boot Camp,” in which young artists learned the tricks of navigating the industry. But their chief collaboration is their WBEZ radio show “Sound Opinions,” started in 1993. Acting as the Siskel and Ebert of popular music, they’ve maintained an ongoing, high-profile discourse about emerging artists in the city.