Constellation is a performing arts presenter with an emphasis on forward-thinking practices particularly in the areas of jazz, improvised, experimental, and contemporary classical music. Its programming fosters collaborations between disparate musical communities, helping to enrich and enhance a broader understanding of how these traditions have developed and intersected. Since it opened Constellation has been dedicated to elevating and providing support to talented, ground-breaking, and excellent artists from Chicago and the world at large, producing events with the best production and audience experience possible. With expanding resources and a strengthened reputation, the venue seeks to do more to support the artists that perform at the space as well as the local artistic community in general.
In March of 2013 Chicago musician and arts presenter Mike Reed opened Constellation in the building that formerly housed the Viaduct Theater. Launched in a unique partnership with Links Hall, which shares space in the building and frequently organizes and produces cross-disciplinary programs and events together, Constellation quickly filled a void in the city’s cultural landscape by providing a reliable, high-end performance platform for jazz, improvised, experimental, and contemporary classical music. Constellation was initially founded as an African-American owned business, and in 2018 Constellation officially developed its NFP arm to further address the needs of the artistic community through its diverse programming. From the beginning the venue’s professional facilities have allowed musicians from Chicago and abroad to perform and develop work without stifling commercial pressures. It has become a vital resource and meeting place for artists involved with all disciplines, including visual art, film, literature, and dance. Constellation has become an important hub for the city’s contemporary music community through the weekly Frequency Series and the annual Frequency Festival, presenting Chicago musicians and composers on equal footing as visiting artists from across the US and the rest of the globe.
Annually, more than 600 musicians —the bulk of which hail from the Chicago area—perform at Constellation on more than 220 concerts. While the majority of the performances at Constellation feature local working groups, the programming has consistently facilitated collaborations with visiting artists from around the US and the rest of the world, either through direct musician-to-musician partnerships or endeavors organized with other programming partners including Doek (Netherlands), Jazztopad (Poland), and the Bridge (France), often in programs that send and facilitate performance opportunities in foreign countries for Chicago area musicians. Series and events of note include, Frequency Series and the annual Frequency Festival, annual Dog Days Festival (programming surrounding Jazz Fest), the 29th Annual Winter Solstice Sunrise Concerts. GETTING HERE
CONSTELLATION’S MISSION IS TO PRESENT PROGRESSIVE PERFORMANCE AND FORWARD-THINKING MUSIC WITH A FOCUS ON JAZZ, IMPROVISATION AND CONTEMPORARY CLASSICAL.
Staff and Board of Directors
Nolan Chin Production Coordinator
Alyssa Martinez Development Coordinator
Shannon Marks Marketing Coordinator
Nicole Muto-Graves Programming Coordinator
Mike Reed Board President
Mike Reed is a musician, composer, and presenter based in Chicago. While performing in a variety of projects locally, nationally and internationally, Reed also leads two widely acclaimed groups, Loose Assembly and People, Places & Things. Reed was named Chicagoan of the Year for Jazz (2008) by the Chicago Tribune and in the 57th annual Downbeat critics poll was distinguished as “Rising Jazz Star”. (People, Places & Things also named as “Rising Jazz Group”.) Over the years he has had the pleasure to work with luminaries in the jazz and improvised music world including Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, Fred Anderson and Julian Priester among others. As a producer Reed serves as Chairperson for the Chicago Jazz Festival Programming Committee and from 2009-11 he served as vice chairman for the Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM). Reed is also the producer of the internationally renown Pitchfork Music Festival, drawing over 50,000 attendees to Chicago over 3 days and featuring today’s most cutting-edge rock and pop artists. In April 2013 Reed opened Constellation, a venue with a mission to present progressive performance and forward-thinking music with a focus on jazz, improvisation, and contemporary classical.
Peter Margasak Treasurer
Peter Margasak is a veteran music journalist who spent 25 as a staff writer at the Chicago Reader, covering a wide range of music. His work has also appeared in the New York Times, Chamber Music, DownBeat, the Wire, National Public Radio’s All Things Considered, Die Tageszeitung, Chicago Tribune, and others. He served as a member of the programming committee for the Chicago Jazz Festival between 2011-2018, and since 2013 he has programmed the Frequency Series at Constellation. He is also the festival director for Frequency Festival, which recently celebrated its fifth anniversary in 2020.
Tim Epstein Secretary
Attorney Tim Epstein serves as chair of DUGGAN BERTSCH’S Litigation group, and brings to the Firm a reputation as one of the top lawyers in sports and entertainment in the country. Tim serves as general counsel and outside consulting counsel to numerous music and arts festivals and events, including Pitchfork, Life is Beautiful, and Riot Fest. Tim’s trusted counsel in the entertainment space has made him a sought-after speaker at major entertainment meetings and conferences including Billboard, IEBA, and Pollstar. As an educator, Tim serves as an Adjunct Professor of Law at Loyola University Chicago School of Law. He currently teaches courses in Sports and Entertainment Law. Tim also serves as a curriculum advisor for EXPLO’s Sports and Entertainment Law course offered at Yale University. Tim is an accomplished legal writer, published as an author and contributor in nationally respected law reviews, periodicals, and bar association publications including the University of Virginia, the University of Texas, the Chicago Tribune, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Bar Association, Crain’s Chicago Business, USA Today, the University of Illinois, ESPN the Magazine, the University of Pittsburgh, the Seattle Times, Sports Litigation Alert, Legal Issues in Collegiate Athletics, the American Lawyer, and the Sports Business Journal.
Flutist, composer, bandleader, and educator Nicole Mitchell is a towering figure in creative music who first made her mark as a crucial instigator and organizer within Chicago’s jazz and improvised music community. She is the William S. Dietrich II Endowed Chair in Jazz Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, serving as director of jazz studies and director of the school’s Creative Arts Ensemble. Between 2013 and 2019 she taught at University of California, Irvine. Since the 90s she’s led her own Black Earth Ensemble and she’s composed an impressive number of conceptual suites including Mandorla Awakening and Xenogenesis Suite: A Tribute to Octavia Butler. Mitchell is involved with several collectives including Tiger Trio with Myra Melford and Joelle Leandre, Artifacts, a trio with Tomeka Reid and Mike Reed, Dusty Wings with Taylor Ho Bynum, Fay Victor, Shirazette Tinnen, and Rahsaan Carter, and duos with pianist Corey Smythe, sound artist and poet Moor Mother, and electronic artist Christina Wheeler. Mitchell has worked in other contexts with musicians like Art Ensemble of Chicago, George Lewis, Steve Coleman, Mark Dresser, Craig Taborn, Anthony Braxton, Bill Dixon, Geri Allen, Anthony Davis and Muhal Richard Abrams.
Tomeka Reid is a cellist, bandleader, and composer and she is one of the most in-demand improvisers at work in creative music today. In addition to leading her own critically acclaimed quartet, she’s a member of the collective string trio Hear in Now and the trio Artifacts with Nicole Mitchell and Mike Reed. In recent years she’s also joined the legendary Art Ensemble of Chicago and she works regularly in projects led by AACM founders Roscoe Mitchell and Anthony Braxton. Reid is also the founder and director of the annual Chicago Jazz String Summit, which is hosted by Constellation. She currently serves as the Darius Milhaud chair in composition at Mills College in Oakland, California.