This week’s issue of New City features the paper’s annual Music 45 feature, a rundown of Chicago’s 45 most important music biz types. Year after year most of the names are the same—Metro owner Joe Shanahan, radio promoter Jeff McClusky, bluesman Buddy Guy, Steve Albini—and it would seem launching arguments and discussion about the list is an intended consequence.
For me the one name always criminally absent from the list is Michael Orlove of the Department of Cultural Affairs, an approachable guy without a lick of music-biz cynicism or attitude. Not only does he maintain the World Music Festival, the ever-popular SummerDance program, and book the year-long array of cutting edge local, national, and international acts that perform at the Cultural Center, but he routinely facilitates all sorts of public and private music events that happen each year. The weak line-up at this year’s Flamenco Festival demonstrates what can happen when he’s not involved in planning major international music events. He helped establish the jazz series at Gallery 37’s Storefront Theater and he’s behind the solid jazz and international music series now happening during the summer in Millennium Park. He’s also one of the most proactive municipal forces in helping other venues get top quality talent, including Metro, Empty Bottle, HotHouse, Martyrs, Old Town School of Folk Music, Symphony Center. All kinds of events and organizations have turned to him for advice in navigating the city bureaucracy, including the Pitchfork Music Festival.
In most of these cases Orlove has no stake other than improving the way the local scene functions. Barry Dolins from the Mayor’s Office of Special Events—who’s responsible for the high profile music festivals in Grant Park—is on the list, but it’s the lower profile stuff Orlove’s involved with that strengthens the local music scene and has helped heighten the city’s international reputation. Anyone else New City forgot to include?