Founding of Orion

Orion was founded in 1992 by musicians Kathryne Pirtle (clarinet), Florentina Ramniceanu (violin) and Diana Schmück (piano) as a performing and presenting ensemble. Musicians Judy Stone (cello) and Jennifer Marlas (viola) joined the Ensemble subsequently, creating a core of five musicians recognized as a major artistic force in chamber music.

The Orion Ensemble achieved 501(c)(3) status in 1993 as it embarked upon its first publicized concert series. Beginning that season, Orion has performed several times annually in live national broadcasts on WFMT-FM. Together with Norm Pellegrini, former director of WFMT, Orion helped to keep the live WFMT series from dissolving early on by finding a funding source for the live broadcast. Orion also regularly performs at Chicago Cultural Center concerts. Through the years, the Ensemble has continually performed premieres of new works, invited collaborations with other artists and sought opportunities for outreach to share its music with new audiences. Upon Orion’s 10th anniversary in 2002, Kathryne Pirtle recalled the Ensemble’s founding years for Joe O’Brien in an article for Network Chicago, stating, “In my mind, I envisioned a group that would be permanent, that would last hopefully for the rest of my life.”

The Orion Ensemble is supported in part by grants from the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation,
the John R. Halligan Charitable Fund, the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund,
and generous donations from our dedicated patrons.
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