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Judy and Verne Istock

Leadership Circle


Music has been a part of Judy Istock’s life for as long as she can remember. As a child, she remembers watching family members gather around a piano to play songs together.

“People would take turns on the piano, and I would think, ‘someday I’m going to do that,’” she says. “I started to play by ear when I was three or four years old.”

Although none of her family had formal training, Judy decided to pursue music as a career, enrolling as a piano performance major at the University of Michigan. Along the way, she found the life of a pianist too isolating and instead focused on choral education. She ended up teaching junior high music.

But her impact on the arts has been much greater than only the students she taught directly. A generous philanthropist, Judy and her husband, Verne, have supported a wide variety of music programs both in their hometown of Chicago and here in Naples. Judy has served as a Life Trustee of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for more than two decades and in a similar role for the Merit School of Music.

Subscribers to the Naples Philharmonic Pops series since Erich Kunzel served as principal pops conductor, the Istocks always buy two extra seats to bring friends along to enjoy the experience. Or, perhaps to experience seeing her friends on stage.

“I had a conversation with Emanuel Ax recently,” Judy says. “I didn’t get to hear him when he played with the orchestra last time. But he was very complimentary of the orchestra. He thinks they are good.”



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