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A decade ago, WGN News met a 6-year-old piano prodigy from Rockford, Ill., who admired Mozart and had dreams of becoming a classical composer and film scorer like John Williams. WGN’s original story on Emily Bear in 2008, now has more than 32 million hits on YouTube.

Emily is now 16 and has composed and performed everything from symphonies, to film scores to jazz albums. But, as WGN’s Steve Sanders reports, Emily is taking a stab at a crossover career that even she could not have imagined.

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This past weekend, Emily was one of eight distinguished Illinois residents who received the Order of Lincoln Award. It’s the state’s highest honor for professional achievement and public service. And Emily is the youngest person ever in 54 years to win this award.

Others honored include YouTube co-founder Steven Chen, Father Michael J. Garanzini, President of Loyola University Chicago, and football great Dick Butkus.  Emily premiered a new orchestral piece that she performed with the Rockford Symphony.  You can read more about it here.

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Chicago Performance

You can see Emily on the 4th of July in Chicago where she’ll be performing “Rhapsody in Blue” with the Grant Park Orchestra. The concert starts at 6:30 at the Pritzker Pavilion of Millennium Park.

Previous Stories

Reporter Steve Sanders, Producer Pam Grimes, and Photojournalist Mike D’Angelo have been covering Emily Bear for a decade. Click the links below to the original story that caught the eye of Quincy Jones.  We’ve also included a link to our half hour special in 2013, “Girl with a Gift” which won a Chicago / Midwest Emmy award.

Original WGN-TV Cover Story in 2008:


“Girl with a Gift” half hour special on WGN-TV / Emmy Award winner