Daily Bow: Maestro Muti’s Message of Hope


Chicago’s great Maestro Muti shares his joy for music and message of hope with incarcerated youth

The mission of bringing music to those who need its light sometimes means venturing into less-than-mainstream places.

Riccardo Muti, now the director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has shared his experiences leading concerts in the prisons of his home country of Italy. It may seem like a frightening undertaking, but prisons are an area that often need the hope that music can bring.

Visiting a prison can be an incredibly enriching experience. It can open your mind to another side of humanity, and you never know how you might touch someone’s life.

He (Muti) told us of giving concerts in prisons in Italy. He recalled how he was taken by the youthful faces confined to one prison outside of Milano. He did not know what crimes they had committed, but saw the humanity in their faces. Maestro Muti also noted that he could not help but feel that perhaps some aspects of society had helped contribute to their being in prison. He also has plans of visiting and performing some works in a local jail at sometime in the future. Maestro believes that music speaks to the heart and the heart does not see the differences in races, religions, or cultures. Young troubled kids can benefit from a concert. Riccardo Muti said: “Music can educate their souls and help make them better.”

Maestro Muti will reach out to a varied selection of society and try to have music meet them on their journeys and travails. He added; “The western civilization may be in danger” Anger, violence, children committing crimes, some of which they may not be totally guilty of, but rather being led down these paths by society. I look forward with eager anticipation at seeing this gentleman in full stride with baton and visions for the orchestra.

In a recent Chicago Tribune article, Muti again emphasized the importance of reaching out with music, as well as the personal joy he feels and spreads while doing so.

Reaching out to incarcerated and at-risk youth through the power of music has long been a central objective of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director. His coming to the all-girls correctional facility on Sunday afternoon clearly was designed as a mission of hope for youth with troubled backgrounds, and who are unaccustomed to hearing live classical music.

“These girls were so attentive, they came with such anticipation and genuine curiosity about what they would hear,” said the 70-year-old Muti following the informal musicale. “They were not in another place — they were with us. And this made our work even more rewarding.”

When he wasn’t accompanying singers at the piano or cracking jokes with his listeners, Muti spoke about his early musical education, admitting he was a hopeless violin student and finally had to give up the instrument. His point: Apply yourself diligently to what you have a talent for.

“In life,” he said, “don’t ever give up. Find your passion and cultivate it.”

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