Northern Public Radio, Rockford Symphony to share Riverfront Museum Park space

Staff Report

Northern Public Radio and the Rockford Symphony Orchestra have announced a new collaborative space partnership in their current Riverfront Museum Park location at 711 N. Main St., in Rockford. An open house to showcase the new space is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 17, from 3 to 6 p.m. It opened to the public Monday, July 21.

Northern Public Radio provides programs and services to listeners throughout northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin, including 89.5 WNIJ, a National Public Radio member station that provides news, talk, variety and classical music programming; 90.5 WNIU, an all-classical music station; and NIRIS, a unique broadcast service that provides current print information to blind and print-impaired citizens.

The Rockford Symphony Orchestra performs more than 16 classical and pops concerts annually and provides educational programs throughout the Rockford area.

These two organizations collaborate annually around the Rockford Symphony Classics Series Concerts. Each year, WNIU previews the season with RSO Conductor Steven Larsen and broadcasts all concerts on 90.5 WNIU.

The mission of Northern Public Radio is to enrich, inspire and inform adults in northern Illinois through programs and services that share ideas, encourage thought, give pleasure and create community,” said Staci Hoste, general manager of Northern Public Radio. “Rockford Symphony Orchestra’s mission is to create vibrant music experiences that enlighten, educate and entertain. Physically aligning space will allow us to build a stronger relationship and is advantageous to everyone by seamlessly aligning the missions of both nonprofit organizations.”

Julie Thomas, executive director of Rockford Symphony Orchestra, noted: “This change will allow the Rockford Symphony Orchestra to better serve audiences and provide an inviting space for patrons and volunteers. Also, what better way is there to build a passion for music throughout the Rockford region than to collaborate with the region’s premiere classical music station?”

Although modest cost savings are expected for both organizations, leaders said economic considerations were not the driving force behind the shared-space partnership.

People who attend the symphony also listen to public radio,” Thomas said. “The Rockford Symphony Orchestra and Northern Public Radio have a shared commitment to growing our listenership and audience base. We recognized that there was an opportunity to increase awareness, create better visibility for the box office, and expand educational and outreach activities through this project.”

Hoste added, “We look forward to the collaborative space creating increased opportunities for furthering the classical music experience throughout our community.”

Cyndie Howard, facility manager of the Riverfront Museum Park, explained: “The Riverfront Museum Park Board has approved the newly freed-up space that Rockford Symphony Orchestra vacated to be assumed by the Discovery Center Museum. The extra square footage will give the Discovery Center the opportunity to expand their Tot Spot second-floor exhibit area and will also provide extended office space. Utilizing all available space efficiently is not only cost effective, but it is also considerate to the needs of all five of the organizations that make up the Riverfront Museum Park.”

The Riverfront Museum Park is part of the Rockford Park District. It was designed as a unified space in which arts and science organizations could focus on their core missions and outreach programs. It opened to the public in 1991. It is home to the Rockford Symphony Orchestra, Northern Public Radio, the Rockford Art Museum, the Rockford Dance Company and the Discovery Center Museum.

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