Peoria Symphony Orchestra Announces Herstory: A Tribute to Betty Friedan

PEORIA, IL – The Peoria Symphony Orchestra is proud to announce HerStory: A Tribute to Betty Friedan. This concert is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and an historic occasion for Peoria, taking place November 20, 2021 at 7:30 PM at the Peoria Civic Center Theater. Hear the world premiere of music composed in honor of the internationally famous Peorian Betty Friedan for the centennial of her birth. Credited with starting the second wave of feminism, Friedan authored The Feminine Mystique and co-founded the National Organization for Women.

The program will be narrated by Deborah F. Rutter, President of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and sung by the internationally renowned mezzo-soprano Michelle DeYoung. Rising star violinist Sirena Huang will collaborate with them and the Peoria Symphony Orchestra conducted by George Stelluto. Peoria’s Mayor Rita Ali will make opening remarks.

The concert features the music of the PSO’s 2021-22 Composer-in-Residence Stephanie Ann Boyd, as well as the world premiere of her piece, Everywoman: A Friedan Centennial Memoire, written in honor of Friedan. Tickets can be purchased at

Regarding the concert, Maestro George Stelluto comments:

“The work that Betty Friedan began over sixty years ago is still being carried on today. It’s exciting that we will celebrate her centennial birth year with the beautiful music of the PSO’s first woman composer-in-residence Stephanie Ann Boyd.

And to have international celebrities like singer Michelle DeYoung and Deborah Rutter, President of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, DC joining us for the performance underscores the importance of Betty’s legacy!”

Deborah Rutter, the President of the Kennedy Center and global cultural leader, notes:

“Betty Friedan’s iconic work and powerful voice catalyzed the women’s rights movement nearly 50 years ago. Her influence remains poignant today as we gather in Friedan’s hometown for her centennial celebration. I’d like to thank the Peoria Symphony Orchestra and George Stelluto for inviting me to be part of this wonderful program created by composer-in-residence Stephanie Ann Boyd. I’m proud to add my voice to the chorus of many in lifting up the important and inspirational stories of women past, present and future.”

The concert features three works by Boyd: Sybil, a lush, vivacious violin concerto Boyd wrote at 19; Sheltering Voices, a hauntingly beautiful cantata for voice and orchestra that the Boston Globe praised for its “ethereal dissonances”; and Everywoman: A Friedan Centennial Memoire, a work that treats its audience as an intimate being told a series of personal triumphs and tribulations as it traces moments of gravity in Betty Friedan’s life from her college-age musings to the world-changing victories in her call for equality.

About the Featured Artists

Stephanie Ann Boyd — Composer: PSO 2021-22 Composer-in-Residence Stephanie Ann Boyd’s music has been praised as “a racing, brassy score” (New York Times), “attractive lyricism” (Gramophone), “[with] ethereal dissonances” (Boston Globe), “[music that] didn’t let itself be eclipsed” (Texas Classical Review), “arrestingly poetic” (BMOP), and “wide ranging, imaginative” (Portland Press Herald). Boyd’s music has been commissioned and performed by concertmasters of the BBC Symphony Orchestra, Singapore Symphony, New York City Ballet Orchestra, Des Moines Symphony, Faroe Islands Symphony, Anchorage Symphony Orchestra, Fort Smith Symphony, Arkansas Philharmonic Orchestra, and principal players in the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Her music has been commissioned and/or played by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, New England Conservatory Philharmonic, Cape Cod Chamber Orchestra, New York Jazzharmonic, River Oaks Chamber Orchestra, Roosevelt University Orchestra, Eureka Ensemble, JVL Festival Orchestra, Texas State University Symphony, Cremona International Academy Orchestra, UW La Crosse Symphony, Detroit Civic Orchestra, and the El Paso Youth Symphony.

Deborah Rutter — Narrator: In an age marked by social and technological change, Deborah Rutter has emerged as one of the nation’s most adroit leaders in the arts, combining artistic daring with fiscal sustainability, inclusivity, and responsiveness to the needs of the community. Ms. Rutter began as president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on September 1, 2014, and serves as curator of the Kennedy presidential memorial, and artistic and administrative director to the world’s busiest performing arts center. In an ever-expanding celebration of JFK’s legacy, the Center presents theater, contemporary dance, ballet, vocal music, chamber music, hip hop, comedy, international arts, and jazz, alongside dynamic seasons with the Kennedy Center’s world-class affiliates: the National Symphony Orchestra and Washington National Opera.

Michelle DeYoung — Mezzo-Soprano: Mezzo-Soprano Michelle DeYoung continues to be in demand throughout the world, appearing regularly with the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Vienna Philharmonic, and the Concertgebouworkest. She has also performed at the prestigious festivals of Ravinia, Tanglewood, Saito Kinen, Edinburgh, and Lucerne. In Australia she has appeared multiple times with the Sydney Symphony and recently sang Kundry in concert performances of Parsifal at Opera Australia

Sirena Huang — Violin: Praised by The Baltimore Sun for her “impeccable technique… deeply expressive phrasing… and poetic weight,” Sirena Huang is one of her generation’s most celebrated violinists. She brings not only technical brilliance and powerful artistry to the stage, but also a profound sense of connection to her audience.

HerStory: A Musical Tribute to Betty Friedan is sponsored by Sid & Flo Banwart, Gilmore Foundation, Conductor’s Circle, Barbara J. Glick, and The Meredith Foundation. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Founded in 1897, the Peoria Symphony Orchestra (PSO) is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, not-for-profit organization whose mission is to entertain, educate, and inspire through music. The PSO presents excellent live musical performances, innovative music education programs, and engaging community outreach efforts, which significantly impact the cultural and economic vitality of Central Illinois.

You can stay informed about the PSO by visiting, the PSO’s Facebook page (, as well as our Twitter and Instagram accounts (@peoriasymphony). Those with questions can email or call 309.671.1096.

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