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Barry Schrader


I wrote a column for the DeKalb Daily Chronicle for 8 years starting in December 2007 and running until November 2015. Then I returned to column writing in August 2016, all of them archived here.


If you've missed any please follow the links on the dates to catch up.

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Kishwaukee Symphony brought us a genius

By Barry Schrader Senior Columnist...................Oct 13, 2016

The kickoff of the Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra's 40th season opened Saturday night with a blockbuster.

If you were one of the fortunate 400 people in the Boutell concert hall I don't need to tell you that the guest performer of the night-young Miss Emily Baer, a renowned pianist/composer/song writer, was spellbinding with her performance and delightful personality. She exuded enthusiasm, displaying her boundless energy and talent unequalled at any of the past concerts I have ever attended.

Seated at the front of the stage at the grand piano, the 15-year-old prodigy played three of her own compositions, written for the full orchestra. The first was "Santa Fe" produced when she was 10-years-old, then "The Bravest Journey" she composed and orchestrated at age 13. The third, "Les Voyages," completed at age 12, earned her the ASCAP 2015 Young Composer of the Year Award. For her grand finale on stage she played George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in Blue," like I've never heard it before.

You could tell that conductor Linc Smelzer, as well as the entire 85 piece orchestra was thrilled to be performing

Concert pianist Emily Bear flanked by Kishwaukee Syphony conductor Linc Smelser and his wife, concertmaster Ann Montzka-Smelser. (Provided photo)

onstage with her. Their evenings' performance was likewise stellar.

Many in the audience had not read of her accomplishments-making her professional debut at the Ravinia Festival at age 5; then at age 6 she was the youngest rising star to ever receive the Morton Gould Young composer award. Orchestras all over the world have been performing her brilliant compositions ever since. She has appeared at the Lincoln Center, the Hollywood Bowl, Carnegie Hall, Ravinia, and at the White House. Her concerts have attracted large adoring audiences across America and throughout Europe and Asia. She was recently commissioned to arrange her own composition to be performed by 25 pianists at the same time. The list of her TV appearances is too long to detail here.

Known primarily as a classical artist, she also has a love for jazz. Her young talent attracted the attention of the famous Quincy Jones who has become her mentor. Jones says of her: "She is the most delightful human being I've ever met in my life… I am at once astounded and inspired by the enormous talent that Emily embodies…. She plays like she is 40 years old…there are no limits to the musical heights she can reach.

It is interesting to learn she was raised in nearby Rockford, Illinois where she is both home schooled and also takes classes at her local high school. Her talent was first recognized at the age of 2 by her grandmother who is an accomplished pianist in her own right.

Emily's next appearance will be November 19 when she performs in honor of her mentor Quincy Jones at the Los Angeles Society Tribute to him in Hollywood.

It was exciting to see and hear her up close in DeKalb Saturday night. She ended the evening signing copies of her CDs for concertgoers who were also enjoying slices of a large 40th anniversary cake.

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Barry Schrader
PO Box 851
DeKalb, Ill 60115