Merit School of Music

Gala 2023 Raises $1.2 Million for Music Education

Several students playing brass instruments at the Gala

Guests ascended the Four Seasons grand staircase in style, serenaded by more than a dozen young violinists and cellists. Live jazz provided the perfect ambience for cocktail hour. From the moment our guests arrived at Merit School of Music’s Gala 2023 on May 17th, they experienced a true celebration of musical excellence.

Emmy Award-winning WGN reporter and Merit alum Gaynor Hall served as the emcee for the evening’s program. We proudly presented the Alice S. Pfaelzer Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts to Liz Stiffel, whose generosity to the arts and education has touched the lives of so many throughout Chicago. We also paid tribute to Merit alumni Nico Segal and Nikko Washington, presenting them with the Award for Citizen Artistry. Nico and Nikko recently supported Merit by donating their time and talents through an interactive community art piece celebrating the power of music.

Nico Segal speaks at a podium, gesturing to Nikko Washington.

Nico Segal and Nikko Washington accept the Award for Citizen Artists.

Of course, what better way to celebrate Merit’s mission and work than to see our students in action? Between speeches, awards, and a delicious dinner, guests enjoyed beautiful performances, kicked off by Simon Cegys and Robert Tang with a piano duet; listening to them play, you would never guess they are only 12 and 11 years old! The Honors Jazz Combo provided smooth tunes to transition back into the program after dinner, and the Brass Ensemble closed out the evening with a flourish. In addition to the ensembles, two 2023 Conservatory graduates performed stunning solos: Nazeeh Shahid enraptured the audience with a lush, haunting Bach prelude on the viola, while Hannah Gill’s powerful, heartbreaking rendition of “On My Own” from Les Misérables brought the house down.

Hannah Gill performs in front of a blue curtain.

Hannah Gill performs “On My Own” from the musical Les Misérables.

Guests heard directly from students, who shared their experience with Merit and the sense of belonging they feel as part of this community.

Together, we raised $1.2 million to further our mission: to remove barriers to high-quality music education so that all children can experience the transformative power of music. Thank you to each and every one of you for being a part of Gala 2023. Your support is vital to the thousands of children we engage across the city.

Now, let the countdown to Gala 2024 begin!

Add a Little Music to Your Inbox

Share This Post

More To Explore