The highlights of every year were the opportunities to play in the city. When I was very young, each spring we played at Daley Plaza, and every winter we played at the Walnut Room for the Mashall Fields staff Christmas party. When we weren't on stage, we were free to enjoy the other acts at the party (which included "Those Funny Little People") and help ourselves to the buffet tables of food set around the grand Walnut Room Christmas tree. Once we were stuffed and had seen the other acts, we younger children watched my sister and the rest of the teenagers play cards in the backstage area.
These early gigs saw the genesis of the now infamous "Red Book." I remember feeling so proud when I was assigned to play the 1st violin part of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. I also remember groaning when it was my turn to play 3rd violin on the Christmas Medley. Everyone knows that by the end of the Medley, your bow arm feels like it's going to fall off! I remember getting so nervous when we would get to the 32nd notes in Pachelbel Canon not just because I thought I would mess up on the fast notes, but because right after that comes that part where you have to count extra hard because it's your turn to play on the off-beat! *shiver I don't know exactly how old I was, I must have been about 8 or 9, and I was so worried about that Pachelbel Canon!
Within a few years, our Christmas Gig season consisted of the lobbies at the Drake Hotel and Leo Burnett. We would to play a few sets at Leo Burnett in the morning, then head to The Drake, where we only had to play one set followed by a beautiful gourmet lunch. Many of us from our Chicago Consort group continued to play in the Leo Burnett gig well into our college years because it used to coincide with our holiday breaks. The Leo Burnett gig became an wonderful annual reunion for me and the dear friends I made during my years at WSSTE.
Daina Volodka studied at WSSTE for many years as a child and went on to become a professional violinist and a Suzki teacher herself. She taught at WSSTE for 15 years before moving to Texas to work as the Co-Director of the North Texas School of Talent Education.