Howard Kain, First Bank of Evanston. Photo by Evanston Photographic Studio

After her State of the City Address, Feb. 25, Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl awarded Evanston Children’s Choir founder and director Gary Geiger, television host Bill Campbell, and First Bank & Trust for their contributions to the arts in Evanston.

Initiated in 1979 by then-Mayor Jay Lytle, the Mayor’s Awards for the Arts are given to organizations or individuals for community contributions for excellence in the arts.

Mr. Geiger, a pianist who said he “backed into directing,” started the Evanston Children’s Choir nine years ago with only three kids “who couldn’t sing a note.” Now, the choir has over 100 children in 35 schools that come from “all walks of life,” he said. The choir focuses on teaching the kids to appreciate multiculturalism, and turns no one away, Mr. Geiger said.

“We have a blast,” he said about his experience with the kids, “I get energy from them.” Some things in life do not work out as planned, Mr. Geiger said, but “the only way to find out is to get behind something and push with all of your might.”

Bill Campbell was next to receive an award for his years of involvement with the Evanston Ethnic Arts Festival. “I am just really honored to be here,” he said. Mr. Campbell said he loves the City of Evanston saying, “It truly is what I believe to be [a city] reflective of positivity and of purpose.”

First Bank &Trust was the final recipient and received the 2010 Leadership Award. The award is given to an Evanston-based business that shows special support for the arts. Howard Kain, co-founder and managing director of the bank, accepted the award, saying, “It is nice to see the recognition.”

Penny Rotheiser, chair of the City’s Arts & Business Committee, presented the award and said the bank has supported over 15 local arts organizations over the last year. “They’ve been behind the scenes of organizations that have needed help,” she said. Some of the organizations they have supported include the Evanston Symphony Orchestra, the Evanston Dance Center and the Kiwanis Club.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Kain said the bank realized “the abundance of opportunities in the arts was, and is, extremely important in the fabric of our community.”

Both Mr. Geiger and Mr. Campbell received framed prints by artist Elizabeth Ockwell, and First Bank &Trust was given an award designed by Evanston metalsmith and jewelry designer Nancy Sickbert-Wheeler.