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‘The Best of Both Worlds’

Esther Joy Schwartz brought her passion for music to the stage

Published in 2023 Illinois Super Lawyers magazine

Esther Joy Schwartz has been practicing law for more than 40 years, but she’s been playing the violin even longer. “Music is my passion,” she says.

She joined the University of Chicago Symphony Orchestra (USO) as an undergrad (class of ’78), continued through law school (Chicago-Kent class of ’81), and paused her involvement at the onset of the pandemic in 2020.

The approximately 100-member USO includes undergraduate and graduate students, faculty and staff, alumni and community members. It is directed by Barbara Schubert, “a fabulous conductor,” Schwartz says.

Schwartz grew up in a family dedicated to the arts. She still plays the violin her parents gave her when she graduated high school. “It’s an old instrument that’s been with me a long time,” says Schwartz, who also plays guitar and piano.

As an attorney, she attended Wednesday evening rehearsals for the USO to prepare for its six annual concerts at Mandel Hall. As concerts approach, rehearsal schedules ramped up. Early in her law career, Schwartz also joined the orchestra on a summer trip to Europe. “I work really, really long hours, so it’s very hard sometimes as a litigator to have time for the music,” she says. “I religiously tried to be very dedicated to my rehearsals and my performances.”

Schwartz always looked forward to the outdoor summer concert series and the Halloween show—“everybody dresses up, and there’s spooky music and lighting,” she says—as well as concerts in which colleagues and clients attend.

“There has been so many wonderful experiences,” she says. “I’ve just had the best of both worlds. I could perform in the orchestra as if I was a professional, and then I could also practice law.”

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