“Tremendous advocate” of Elgin Symphony dead at 81
Marcene Linstrom moved to Elgin in 1979 and soon after started work with the Elgin Symphony Orchestra doing secretarial work. By 1985 she had become the executive director and 10 years later she was named “Manager of the Year” by the Illinois Council of Orchestras.
“Her emergence as the director of the ESO was one of the great inspiring stories of our family,” Linstrom's oldest son, Robert, said. “She built not only a career but a rather remarkable program.”
Linstrom, 81, died after a more than two-year struggle with lung cancer, having never smoked.
Robert Hanson, music director at the ESO, became friends with Linstrom before she was hired as a secretary and remained friends with her after she retired.
He said she rose through the ranks rapidly because of her sharp intellect and her ability to get rid of a deficit in her first year as executive director and keep it that way for the rest of her tenure.
She also came to the job after a period of four executive directors in four years, according to Hanson.
“She brought some real stability,” Hanson said.
Music and church defined Linstrom's life. She learned to play piano as a child in a devoutly religious family and went on to study music education at Lutheran schools in Nebraska and Minnesota.
She taught children's choir in multiple church schools throughout her life and sang in choirs for more than 50 years.
Linstrom and her husband, the Rev. Robert Linstrom, met on church steps in Rockford, Linstrom's hometown. They were married in 1955 and had four sons.
Robert Linstrom described his wife as a patient, kind and good person.
“I thought she was the greatest that ever was,” he said. “I was so blessed to have her as a life partner.”
After retiring from the Elgin Symphony Orchestra in 1995, Linstrom and her husband used their time to travel. They hosted groups of community and church members on European and Holy Land tours through 21 countries.
But even though she left her job, Linstrom never left the symphony. She saw her final performance last fall when the ESO performed Beethoven's 9th Symphony. In later months, she would listen to the recording from that show, contenting herself with a CD instead of the live acoustics of the concert hall.
The ESO lost what her son called a “tremendous advocate” in Marcene Linstrom, but she will live on in the hearts and minds of many friends.
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