American Music Festivals Brings Chicago’s Bosnian Community Together

November 11, 2014 4:30 PM

Phillip SimmonsAmerican Music Festivals, celebrating the 25th Anniversary Season of the Lincolnwood Chamber Orchestra, proudly announces its sixth concert collaboration with the Bosnian Community.  The nonprofit is committed to promoting cultural exchange through exceptional orchestral programming, working with many diverse ethnic communities throughout the world.  It has a special relationship with Chicago’s Bosnian community, and the November 25th “International Concert of Classical and Sevdah Music” at the Copernicus Center will be American Music Festivals’ third program commemorating the Anniversary of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Statehood.

This tradition began in 2007, when the first B & H Statehood Anniversary Concert was given at Lake Forest Academy in collaboration with the Bosnian American Cultural Association.  The next year the Lincolnwood Chamber Orchestra performed at Northeastern Illinois University, in partnership with the Congress of North American Bosniaks, Chicago Chapter.  In 2009, Artistic Director Philip Simmons travelled to Bosnia and Herzegovina for a concert with the Sarajevo Philharmonic in the National Theatre, as part of the first “Days of the Bosnian Herzegovinian Academy of Arts and Sciences” tour.  Most recently American Music Festivals, working with the American Islamic Center of Chicago, presented “Bridging the Gap: An Interfaith Concert Celebrating 500 years of Friendship Between the Muslim and Jewish Communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

These programs have been attended by Embassies and Consulates, elected US officials, and religious leaders of many faiths.  American Music Festivals has received acknowledgment for its work from Vice President Joseph Biden and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel.  But what has made this cultural exchange effort so successful is the friendships and relationship building that has led to the continuity of the program and greater understanding.

samir hadžalić and philip simmons

Samir Hadzalic became Outreach Director of American Music Festivals in 2007 and has played a principal role in planning and outreach to the community.  Previously he was Editor and Host of “Radio Voice of the Bosniaks Chicago,” and Event Organizer for a “Celebration of 100 years of Bosniaks in the USA 2005” and the “Anniversary of the Statehood of Bosnia and Herzegovina 2006” (Chicago Cultural Center).  He is also Founder and President of the Association Citizens of Prijedor, Chicago, and was a principal fundraiser for the rebuilding of Mosques in the city of Prijedor.  Recently he has been leading an initiative to rename Skopje Street in Prijedor, in memory of Dr. Esad Sadikovic.

On November 25 Mr. Hadzalic makes his orchestral debut with orchestra, singing Sevdalinka made popular by Dr. Himzo Polovina: Emina, Bembasa, and U lijepom starom gradu Visegradu.  These songs are freshly arranged for orchestra by Ilya Levinson, composer of “Sevdah Medley”.  American Music Festivals is committed to exploring and promoting the Sevdah Tradition and has subtitled the upcoming concert, “The Legacy of Dr. Himzo Polovina.”  A 20th century troubadour, Dr. Polovina’s voice and musical style has had a huge international impact, which stands the test of time.

The Statehood Anniversary Concert will begin with a new orchestral version of “Der Asra,” tracing a path from Omar Khayyam through Heine, Liszt, Rubinstein, and into the Sevdah tradition by Santic and Dr. Polovina.  Saint Saens’ “Prelude to Le Deluge” will serve to remind the community of the work still needed to be done to recover from this years’ flooding.  Edward Elgar’s “Elegy” will be dedicated to the memory of Dr. Esad Sadikovic, and all those who have perished in war.

A “troubadour” of 500 years earlier, Fransiscus Bossinensis, will be remembered with another premiere, “Ricercare,” an adaptation of his work for string orchestra.  Like “Der Asra,” the music of Bossinensis did not come to American Music Festivals directly.  It was transcribed from lute to guitar by the Spanish pedagogue Emilio Pujol.  The infusion of Arabic and Sephardic influences cannot be escaped when considering any “Bosnian” music.  In considering its path through history, this inspiration has had a profound impact on the “Western romantic” musical tradition.

Ending the program will be the lively “Capriccio No. 1” by the Macedonian composer Dragan Suplevski.  It was brought to American Music Festivals attention by Maestro Emir Nuhanovic, Bosnia’s leading conductor.

Bosnian community cultural leaders who will be recognized by American Music Festivals at the November 25th concert event will be: Mesud Kulauzovic, President, Bosnian American Cultural Association; Mr. Dzafer Kulenovic, Former President, Congress of North American Bosniaks, Chicago Chapter; Dr. Eldin Karaikovic, Founding Member and Past President of the Bosnian Herzegovinian Academy of Arts and Sciences and Dr. Senad Agic, Imam, American Islamic Center of Chicago.

American Music Festivals and conductor Philip Simmons have had a long history working with the Copernicus Center and the Jefferson Park community.  In the 1990’s he was Music Director of the Lake Shore Symphony, which was in residence at the Center, and later led the Lincolnwood Chamber Orchestra in annual performances for the Chicago Summer Silent Film Festival.  The November 25th concert is sponsored in part by the Copernicus Foundation.  American Music Festivals hopes in the future to be able to present a variety of classical, ethnic, and popular programming at Copernicus.

The “International Concert of Classical and Sevdah Music” will be given in the Copernicus Center Annex, 5216 W. Lawrence in Chicago, on Tuesday, November 25, at 7:30 PM.  General admission tickets are $20 in advance, and are available at  Tickets are $25 at the event, and doors open at 6:45.  For more information about this concert, American Music Festivals, or the 25th Anniversary Season of the Lincolnwood Chamber Orchestra, visit

Photo captions:

Philip Simmons’ and the Lincolnwood Chamber Orchestra

Samir Hadzalic and Philip Simmons, Sarajevo 2009


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