Cellist Gary Stucka, violist Li-Kuo Chang and librarian Peter Conover will retire at the end of the 2022/23 season


(l-r) Li-Kuo Chang, Gary Stucka and Peter Conover © Todd Rosenberg Photography

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The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) has announced the retirement of three long-standing members at the end of this season. They are cellist Gary Stucka, assistant principal viola Li-Kuo Chang, and principal librarian Peter Conover. Each member will receive the CSO’s Theodore Thomas Medallion for distinguished service at a later date.

Stucka, a member of cello section since 1986, will retire after 37 years. Joining the CSO as a librarian in 1998 and becoming principal librarian in 1999, Conover will step down after 25 years. After joining the viola section at the start of 1988-89, Chang just two weeks later won the post of assistant principal viola, which he has held for 35 years.

’It has been an honour to represent Chicago with the finest musicians in the world and to travel to corners of the world,’  Stucka said. ’I never thought I’d be lucky enough to see Europe, Australia, Russia and Asia.’

Stucka was appointed by Sir Georg Solti, the CSO’s eighth music director. Before his CSO tenure, Stucka was a member of the Cleveland Orchestra for five years, served as principal cello of the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra from 1977 to 1981 and performed as assistant principal cello of the Grant Park Orchestra for several seasons.

An avid chamber musician, Stucka has been a member of the Pressenda Trio since 1989 and has performed regularly with the Chicago Symphony String Quartet. Along with many guest soloist appearances with orchestras in the United States and Canada, he has served on the faculties of Northwestern University and the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University.

Along with his appointment as assistant principal viola, Chang also served as acting principal viola from 2017 to 2022, after being named to the role by music director Riccardo Muti.

’As I bid farewell to my beloved Chicago Symphony Orchestra, I feel like I am the richest person in the world,’ he said. ’I have so many memories of the glorious music-making to treasure for the rest of my life! How lucky I have been to always work with the best conductors of our time and the most inspiring colleagues one can ask for.’

Chang began his musical career on piano, taught by his mother, a pianist and graduate of the Royal Academy of Music in London and professor at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. After hearing a performance of the violinist David Oistrakh, Chang switched his studies to violin and, at eleven, made his solo debut at the Shanghai Spring Music Festival.

Chang became a violist when he formed his own string quartet as a student at the high school of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music. In 1978, he became the first violist to win the Chinese Young Artist Competition in Shanghai and came to the United States on full scholarships offered by the Juilliard School, New England Conservatory and Eastman School. He pursued viola studies with Francis Tursi at the Eastman School, with Milton Thomas and Donald McInnes at the Music Academy of the West as a young artist fellow and privately with Paul Doktor and William Magers.

An educator for more than 30 years, Chang was recently appointed professor of viola at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. Previously, he has served as a viola coach for the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and has been on the artist faculty at several music institutes, including the Chicago College of Performing Arts, Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University, Peabody Institute and the Affinis Summer Festival in Japan.

Principal librarian Peter Conover began his musical career as a double bassist, studying with Henry G. Scott of the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts, where he graduated in 1984 with degrees in both music and music education. He became involved in orchestra libraries in 1981, when he became the librarian for the Delaware Valley Philharmonic.

’While not an onstage musician, it has been my great pleasure to bask from backstage in the adoration the CSO receives in Chicago and around the world,’ said Conover. ’In addition, it has been my honour to work closely with some of the greatest musicians in the world.’

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