Alan Heatherington has built his career in the Chicago Metropolitan area as a choral and orchestral conductor, a violinist/ concertmaster, and an educator. So distinguished are his accomplishments that the Chicago Tribune named him a Chicagoan of the Year in 2004. The Illinois Council of Orchestras has awarded him the title of Conductor of the Year for 2005. In 2010 he received the Cultural Leadership Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Illinois Council of Orchestras, for "sustained leadership, extending beyond his own organizations and community, that has profoundly impacted the state of the arts in Illinois."
Maestro Heatherington is the founder and Music Director of the Ars Viva Symphony Orchestra (1995–present). Chicago Tribune critic John von Rhein, reporting on recent Ars Viva concerts, called Heatherington a "visionary director" of "finely disciplined energy and commitment" who "knows precisely what he wants and has the leadership skills to bring his musical ideas alive through a solid ensemble that includes numerous Chicago Symphony players in key positions." Under his leadership, Ars Viva has twice been awarded Illinois "Orchestra of the Year" by the Illinois Council of Orchestras (2003 and 2008).
Since 2000 he has been Music Director of the Lake Forest Symphony, the only fully-professional orchestra in Lake County. Heatherington has also been Music Director of the Chicago Master Singers (CMS) since 1989. This 140-voice auditioned chorus performs major choral works as well as a cappella repertoire often accompanied by the Ars Viva Orchestra. CMS has issued four CDs: Masters in this Hall; Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs; The Wearin' of the Green (English and Irish folk songs) and A Christmas Collection. In the summer of 2010 the Chicago Master Singers gave a concert tour of Germany, their ninth European tour under Maestro Heatherington.
Heatherington was also the founding Music Director of the Chicago String Ensemble , which he directed from 1979 to 1995.