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Fanfare Contributor Bio

Natalie Szabo

I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago and was at first an unlikely candidate to become a professional musician and educator. I am the first musician in my family to be classically trained or otherwise. I was offered constant support from my family and teachers despite their lack of knowledge in music and its special world. I was lucky to grow up and live in an area where the public schools were able to offer a vibrant and thriving instrumental music program. Throughout my childhood years I was able to take lessons, participate in youth orchestras, and be highly involved in my school’s competitive orchestra and band program. An old family friend made it a regular habit to bring me to Chicago Symphony Orchestra performances and very thoughtfully exposed me to the beauty, precision, and high caliber playing that was achievable. Consuming, performing, and educating others about high-quality music has been my life’s passion.

I received my Bachelor’s degree in music education from Roosevelt University the Chicago College of Performing Arts immediately after high school. I was able to continue my musical journey by working closely with many members of the Chicago Symphony and have formative memories of walking down Michigan Avenue to hear them perform. I immediately moved to Tallahassee, Florida to complete my Master’s degree in clarinet performance and the study of world music. I had the honor of working with, learning from, and listening to the legendary Frank Kowalsky.

After completing my Master’s degree, I moved back to Chicago and began my teaching and freelance performance career. I enjoyed teaching studio woodwinds at Elgin Community College, and high school orchestra in the Chicago Public School system until 2012 when I decided to go back to Florida State University for my Doctorate in clarinet performance and arts administration. It was there where I reclaimed my passion for writing and completed my treatise entitled “An Annotated Bibliography of Original Reed Quintet Repertoire.” Supporting new works, living composers, and active performers is a passion that drives my career to this day.

Since completing my Doctorate at FSU, I have worked diligently to find my home as a professor and musician. Which, as it turns out, was Chicago all along. I found my way back home during the 2020 pandemic and am currently a music professor at Chicago State University. To find my way back to Chicago it took several years of working around the southern United States as a young professor and playing in symphonies while working at Sweet Briar College, the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, and Coastal Carolina University.

Despite my excessive woodwind playing, I have actively tried to not let my listening habits get too narrow throughout the years. If you ask me what I’m currently listening to, it is likely a variety of recordings that contain pieces I’m working on in an orchestra, as a soloist, preparing to teach about in music history or world music, or something I’m reviewing. While I tend to stick with primarily instrumental music, that can range from traditional Western solo instrumental music to full ensemble, period instrument performances, or world music ensembles. I listen to music from all genres but personally enjoy Romantic-era music up to the present. I hope to help Fanfare readers find a variety of music that meets their musical needs.


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