Benefit Screening of DOC10 Film Festival Opener “Sweet Dillard” Raises $50,000 for Merit

Merit School of Music and the Chicago Media Project co-hosted Merit in Music, a unique benefit screening on opening night of the second annual DOC10 Film Festival.

The dinner-and-a-film fundraiser, held March 30th at Grassroots restaurant and the Music Box Theater, attracted more than 100 guests and raised $50,000. Proceeds support Merit’s mission to help young people transform their lives by removing barriers to high-quality music education.

The evening began with a pre-screening dinner at Grassroots, accompanied by live performances by Merit’s top conservatory students. After dinner, guests strolled down Southport Avenue to the Music Box to enjoy the DOC10 Film Festival opening night screening of Sweet Dillard.

Sweet Dillard is an inspiring documentary about the 2014 school year of Florida’s Dillard Center for the Arts Jazz Ensemble and how their irrepressible bandleader, Christopher Dorsey, led them to compete in the Essentially Ellington High School Jazz Band Competition in New York City. Due to its true story about the transformative power of music education, Sweet Dillard was an ideal fundraising fit for Merit, Chicago’s largest community music school.

Once at the Music Box, Merit’s Honors Jazz Ensemble serenaded guests with a live jazz set as they took their seats. Merit President and Executive Director Charles Grode welcomed the audience, then West Loop gallery owner Jeffrey Breslow, Merit in Music Host Committee Chair, explained how Merit is home to a socioeconomically diverse community of talented young musicians from the greater Chicago-area who, thanks in large part to donor support, are building more fulfilling lives through music. A lively post-show Q&A with filmmaker Jim Virga completed the event.

In addition to Breslow, Merit in Music Host Committee members were Carla Agostinelli, West Loop Community Organization (WLCO); Marisa Buchheit, Merit Alum, Soprano; Huan (Tina) Chang, MD, Associate Professor in University of Illinois at Chicago’s College of Medicine, Department of Rheumatology and her husband Robert (Bob) Stauffer, a partner at Jenner & Block (Chicago office); John Hill, Management and Tech Consultant; Robert Johannigman, Digital Factory; John Kalil, Tacklebox; Dr. Anthony King and Martha King, Private Dental Services; Lucy Minor, Merit Trustee; Amor Montes de Oca, 2112 inc.; Shelley Ochab, Merit Life Trustee and Chester Gougis, Cognitive Capital Partners; Jon Siskel, Siskel/Jacobs Productions; David Thomas, Merit Trustee
and Bright Horizons; Malcolm Weems, Denton’s; Brien Wloch, T2 Investments; and John Young, Merit Trustee and Polsinelli.


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