Merit School of Music

Music inspires us as people. It moves us, meets us where we are, and makes us part of something bigger—and nobody knows this better than the members of Merit School of Music’s Associate Board. This Merit ambassador organization began over a decade ago, connecting music-lovers from throughout Chicagoland who wanted to take their passion for equitable music education to the next level.  

Today, Merit’s Associate Board is built of Merit alumni and other music-loving professionals who support our mission by lifting up Merit in their personal and professional networks, raising critical funds to support the school through both personal contributions and fundraising events (like our Play On benefit concert!) and serving as mentors for our students. The Associate Board is truly the megaphone of Merit, spreading the word across Chicagoland—and the country—for all the reasons music education matters.  

We are incredibly grateful for the leadership of this amazing board. As we begin a new school year, we welcome a new team of Associate Board Executive Leadership. We have immense gratitude to our outgoing executive team, especially outgoing chair Catie Wloch, who supported the board and Merit itself through these very tough COVID years.  



Andy Scroggins

Seyfarth Shaw LLP 

What Andy loves about Merit is the sense of community—its passionate students, supportive parents, engaged alumni, talented and committed instructors, inspirational leaders, dedicated staff, and active boards—and its deep roots in our city. 

As a self-described “hack musician” who these days, likes to listen to music more than make it, Andy is thrilled to lead our Merit Associate Board as we host Play On 2022—our first in-person Associate Board fundraiser since March of 2020. We look forward to hosting Play On 2022 featuring Merit Alum Peter CottonTale at one of Andy’s favorite venues for lives music: City Winery! Andy says that while “there are many great venues in Chicago, City Winery stands out for the quality of the sound and ambiance. They’ve been a great partner to Merit as well and hosted some excellent performances by Merit alums.”  

John Kalil
Vice Chair

John has served on the Merit Associate Board Executive Committee in numerous roles, most recently as Membership Chair. He’s looking forward to stepping into his new role as Vice Chair. John’s favorite thing about Merit is attending student performancesHis favorite things about the Associate Board are membership events, like our annual “Friendsgiving” dinner, or our summer picnic in Millennium Park for the Grant Park Music Festival. These events allow members of the Associate Board to get to know each other better, network, and share their experiences and passion for music education with one another. 

McKay Harline
Bylaws Chair
Mayer Brown

This year marks McKay’s second year as Bylaws Chair, helping to manage the Associate Board’s organization, onboarding of new members, and the annual election of new chairs. As a former violinist, McKay’s favorite place for live music in Chicagoland is Ravinia: “We get the opportunity to see exciting artists [including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra] coming through as well and the venue and scenery, which are perfect.”

Richard Riedl
Finance Chair
Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association

As a recent transplant to Chicago, Richard has found community and connection at Merit and with the Associate Board. Music plays a big role in both his personal and professional life in his position as our Associate Board Finance Chair, and his job in fundraising at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. Richard “loves that Merit works to remove the economic barrier that keeps many kids out of classical music. Finances should never keep a child from engaging with classical music, and Merit’s mission supports this fully.”  

As lover of classical music, Richard’s favorite place in Chicago for live music is Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center because it’s the best place to hear the Chicago Symphony Orchestra!

Tom Severson
Fundraising Chair
Morgan Lewis

Tom joined the Associate Board after learning about it from other employees at his company. His new role as Fundraising Chair means Tom oversees the Associate Boards efforts to raise money to support our Merit students through financial aid, instrument rentals, and more. He can’t wait for Play On in November, because Tom is a big fan of City Winery: My favorite live music venue in Chicago is, without a doubt, City Winery.  The acoustics are great, the vino is fantastic, and you can enjoy the show from your seat without having to deal with crowds, waiting in lines, or using a porta potty!” 

Jamal Elam
Membership Chair
Encore Event Technologies

Anyone who knows Jamal knows that he carries an amazing enthusiasm for Merit. “Merit always feels like a home away from home every time I walk in the building,” shares Jamal. “I love the fact that there is an open-arms feeling with both the students and staff. It’s very warm and welcoming.” As Membership Chair, Jamal supports prospective and new members through the process of joining the board, and plans programs which foster connections for board members to each other and to the school itself.  

Jamal’s favorite Merit experience has been interviewing prospective Conservatory families because he loves to support our students and be a guide for them to love Merit as much as he does.

Angie Chiesa
School Relations Co-Chair
American Red Cross

Angie joined the Associate Board in 2020 and looks forward to supporting our students this year as co-chair of the School Relations committee. Her favorite Merit memory is seeing our students perform at Movies in the Park over the summer. Angie says, seeing these performances has “helped to connect me to the mission. I was impressed with how the students handled themselves and their musicianship.” Angie’s favorite places in the city for live music are Martyrs’ for music and dancing country two-step on Sunday afternoons, or Sleeping Village for seeing live shows at a small, local venue.

Eduardo Lopez
School Relations Co-Chair

As an alumni of Merit’s Conservatory program, Eduardo really knows the value of music education. His involvement with the Associate Board is a continuation of his life-long relationship with Merit, and he enjoys serving as co-chair of the School Relations committee because it means supporting our students as a mentor and providing them with opportunities to take their Merit experience to the next level.

We are excited for an amazing year with our Merit Associate Board, beginning with Play On 2022, Tuesday, November 8 at City Winery. We hope you will join the Associate Board in their efforts to raise critical funds to support Merit and its students, all while having an amazing time together as a community! And if you want to learn more about how you can join Associate Board, reach out to us at [email protected] anytime. We welcome new members!