I understand that Jay Sandine has proposed the Sinnissippi Orchestra Shell to be renamed the John Beck Community Band Shell. While I have no grievance against John Beck and the fine work he has done over the years, I do feel that the naming of the Orchestra Shell is inappropriate and is a slap in the face for those who worked very hard to get that facility built.
As you should know, Arthur Zack was instrumentally involved in soliciting contributions in order to build an outdoor facility for the public to enjoy music. After several years of fundraising, Mr. Zack’s concerted efforts along with others, allowed the shell to be constructed and dedicated in 1950. That would be 13 years before Alderman Beck was even born.
So who was Arthur Zack? After WWII, Mr. Zack took the reins of the Rockford Civic Orchestra as the music director, manager and conductor. He held this position from 1943-1970; 27 years. During his tenure the orchestra grew and took on greater projects like performing at festivals, producing operas and attracting celebrity artists. In 1964, the Rockford Symphony Youth Orchestra was born.
A little known side note about Mr. Zack was he was friends with the famous architect, Frank Lloyd Wright. Through that friendship Mr. Zack was able to cajole the respected architect to design a performance venue and practice facility for the orchestra. It was intended to be built along Rock River.
Those plans were offered to the city’s representatives on two occasions, but unfortunately they were rebuked.
Given Mr. Zack’s background, tenacious efforts to broaden music appreciation in the Rockford area and his relentless effort to build the Sinnissippi Orchestra Shell, it would be offensive to Mr. Zack’s memory and his contribution to this community if the music shell is named after somebody else.
Furthermore, it would be a sign of Rockford turning its back on its own history and those who toiled to improve the community.
Again, I do not disparage Alderman John Beck and his contributions. However, I am sure there is another way to honor him and his work.
Meanwhile, I submit that the current facility should be named the “Arthur Zack Music Shell.”
Jimmy Nicholson is a Rockford resident.