Mina Zikri, Music Director

As founder, music director, and conductor of the Oistrakh Symphony of Chicago, Mina Zikri is using his considerable talents to forge relationships with artists and musical organizations throughout the world, all in the name of developing new audiences for classical music.  Recently he traveled with Daniel Barenboim as the backstage and assistant conductor for Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde on a tour that took them to Europe and South America performing at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, The Lucerne Festival in Switzerland, and at Buenos Aires’ legendary Teatro Colón.  He returns each season to his native Egypt to guest-conduct the National Symphony.

At a time when even some of the greatest orchestras in the United States are failing under the immense pressures of financial and cultural uncertainty, Zikri believes that the future of symphony orchestras can be, should be, and must be different form what everyone seems to expect.

A member of the faculty of DePaul University Community Music Division, his many career distinctions include his being named one of the twelve finalists in the 2007 Gustav Mahler International Conducting Competition, where he was chosen from 223 candidates from 40 countries.  He has attended the American Academy of Conducting in Aspen, Colorado, on a fellowship, and holds Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from DePaul University, as well as a Performance Certificate in violin.


Susanne Baker, Board Chair

Susanne Baker is the founder and director of DePaul University’s Community Music Division serving 700 students in the Chicago area. She is also an adjunct faculty member in the School of Music where she teaches piano pedagogy and coordinates the group piano program. Susanne serves on the Members Council of the National Guild for Community Arts Education, is a member of the planning committee for the 2011 Chicago Festival of Youth in Music and is the current Convener for the Chicago Consortium of Community Music Schools. She holds a B.S. in mathematics, M.A. in Education in Music, M.M. in Piano Performance and a D.M. in Performance and Pedagogy.


Joseph B. Lanuza, Secretary & Treasurer

Joseph is a retired business executive.  Most recently, he was Vice President, CNA Global Mergers and Acquisitions, for CNA Financial. In that capacity, he led multi-national M&A teams globally. Prior to that, he had primary responsibility for management reports to and analytical projects for senior management and the Board of Directors and was also responsible for competitor financial analysis and valuation of companies for possible acquisition. He has a BS in History and English, University of Wisconsin, Whitewater.

Brandon Allen, Data Analyst, & Strategic Initiatives

Brandon Allen is currently the Program Assistant for the School of Education and Social Policy and the School of Professional Studies at Northwestern University. Previously, he interned with Classical Kids Music Education, Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Silk Road Rising, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Ravinia Festival. He currently volunteers with Classical Kids Music Education and DePaul University. He graduated magna cum laude with a B.M. in Performing Arts Management from DePaul University.


Allen Shoenberger, Professor, Loyola Law School

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Vera Mayer, Executive Director

Vera Mayer brings diverse experiences to the role of Executive Director.  Her background in corporate finance and management, in community and children’s theatre productions, in volunteer activities as a board member of social service agencies, a library board and the youth exchange activities of Rotary has allowed her to develop excellent interpersonal and problem-solving skills. Vera is currently a Board Vice-President and Operations Manager of the Northbrook Symphony Orchestra.  She has a BA in Political Science and BFA in Theatre Arts from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and a MA in Political Science from the University of Illinois Chicago.