Merit School of Music, a nationally accredited music school helping young people of all backgrounds achieve their full potential in and through music, raised more than $1.1 million at its annual gala that honored world-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma and Chicago-based philanthropist Howard Gottlieb.

A member of Merit’s National Advisory Board for many years, Yo-Yo Ma was honored with Merit’s Alice S. Pfaelzer Distinguished Service to the Arts Award. Before the presentation of the award by Julie and Dan Baumeister, Ma performed a movement of Bach’s third Brandenburg Concerto with Merit students and faculty, one of six inspirational performances during the course of the evening.

Gottlieb, a Merit Life Trustee, received the inaugural Merit School of Music Lifetime of Service Award from Deborah F. Rutter, president of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts who, for many years, served as the president of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association. Preceding the presentation of the award, celebrated baritone Thomas Hampson performed “When I bring to you colour’d toys,” the first song from John Alden Carpenter’s Gitanjali cycle, accompanied by pianist Kuang-Hao Huang, who has performed throughout the United States as well as in Europe and Asia.

“We are deeply grateful for and humbled by the amazing support shown by a cross-section of Chicagoans who understand the transformative power of music-making on the lives young students, and who support Merit School of Music’s efforts to provide excellent music instruction and all of its benefits to a diverse student body representing more than 145 zip codes in our region,” stated Charles Grode, president and executive director, Merit School of Music.

In speaking about the evening’s honorees, he noted, “Yo-Yo Ma’s commitment to passion-driven learning through music sets a sterling example for us all. We are grateful for his enduring friendship and advocacy for our school, students, and mission, and are privileged to honor him with our Alice S. Pfaelzer Distinguished Service to the Arts Award. Howard Gottlieb’s exemplary, generous support of Merit has been central to of our ability to grow as an organization, and to develop thousands of young musicians throughout the Chicago area by removing financial, geographic, and personal barriers to excellent musical instruction,” Grode concluded.

Performances by Merit students during the evening included:

  •  Trombone Choir playing Back to the Fair by B. Reichenbach;
  •  Nova Piano Trio playing Primavera Porteña by A. Piazzolla; and
  • Merit Students and Faculty combining to perform the Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major III. Allegro assai by J.S. Bach

Dedicated to helping young people transform their lives by removing barriers to a high-quality music education, more than two-thirds of Merit’s students benefit from need-based financial aid and low-cost instrument rental. The annual gala is an integral part of the funding of these programs. Co-chaired by the Baumeisters and Judy Istock with honorary co-chair, Duffie A. Adelson, a long-time staff leader and champion for Merit, the Gala attracted 455 Merit supporters to the Ritz-Carlton, 160 E Pearson on Tuesday, June 12, 2018


About Yo-Yo Ma

Yo-Yo Ma’s multi-faceted career is testament to his enduring belief in culture’s power to generate trust and understanding. Mr. Ma maintains a balance between engagements as a soloist with orchestras, recital and chamber music activities, and collaborations with a wide circle of artists and institutions. With partners from around the world and across disciplines, Mr. Ma creates programs that stretch the boundaries of genre and tradition to explore music-making as a means not only to share and express meaning, but also as a model for the cultural collaboration he considers essential to a strong society.

Mr. Ma is a founder of Silkroad, an organization he founded to promote cross-cultural performance and collaborations at the edge where education, business, and the arts come together to transform the world. More than 80 works have been commissioned specifically for the Silkroad Ensemble, which tours annually. Mr. Ma also serves as the Judson and Joyce Green Creative Consultant to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Negaunee Music Institute. His work focuses on the transformative power music can have in individuals’ lives, and on increasing the number and variety of opportunities audiences have to experience music in their communities.

Mr. Ma was born in Paris to Chinese parents who later moved the family to New York. He began to study cello at the age of four, attended the Juilliard School and in 1976 graduated from Harvard University. He has received numerous awards, among them the Avery Fisher Prize (1978), the National Medal of Arts (2001), and the Presidential Medal of Freedom (2010). In 2011; Mr. Ma was recognized as a Kennedy Center Honoree. He has performed for eight American presidents, most recently at the invitation of President Obama on the occasion of the 56th Inaugural Ceremony. For additional information, see:, and


About Howard Gottlieb

Howard Gottlieb is the General Partner of Glen Eagle Partners, Ltd., a family private investment firm. He was a founding partner of Glenwood Partners and Chairman of Glenwood Financial Group. Mr. Gottlieb is an accomplished violinist. He has played in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and performed widely with orchestras and chamber music groups in the United States and Europe.

He is a Life Trustee of the Merit School of Music, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Ravinia Festival and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra. He is a former trustee of the Aspen Music Festival and School and past member of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. Mr. Gottlieb is a graduate of the University of Chicago and serves on the University’s Visiting Committee.


About Thomas Hampson

Thomas Hampson, America’s foremost baritone, has received many honors and awards for his captivating artistry and cultural leadership. Honored as a Metropolitan Opera Guild “Met

Mastersinger” and inducted into both the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and Gramophone’s “Hall of Fame”. Hampson is one of the most respected and innovative musicians of our time. With an Opera repertoire of over 80 roles sung in all the major Opera houses of the world, his discography comprises more than 170 albums, which include multiple nominations and winners of the Grammy Award, Edison Award and the Grand Prix du Disque. He received

the 2009 Distinguished Artistic Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, and was appointed the New York Philharmonic’s first Artist-in-Residence. In 2010 he was honored with a Living Legend Award by the Library of Congress, where he has served as Special Advisor to the Study and Performance of Music in America. He also has received the famed Concertgebouw Prize.

Hampson was made honorary professor at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Heidelberg and holds honorary doctorates from Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, Whitworth College and San Francisco Conservatory, as well as being an honorary member of London’s Royal Academy of Music. He carries the titles of Kammersänger of the Vienna State Opera and Commandeur dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres of the Republic of France, and was awarded the Austrian Medal of Honour in Arts and Sciences. In 2017 Thomas Hampson received the Hugo-Wolf-Medal from the International Hugo-Wolf- Academy together with his long-time musical companion Wolfram Rieger for their outstanding achievements in the art of song interpretation.

Thomas Hampson enjoys a singular international career as an opera singer, recording artist and “ambassador of song,” maintaining an active interest in research, education, musical outreach and technology. Through the Hampsong Foundation, which he founded in 2003, he employs the art of song to promote intercultural dialogue and understanding.


About Merit School of Music

Chicago’s Merit School of Music is a nationally accredited music school helping young people transform their lives by removing barriers to high-quality music education. Our 125 passionate and experienced teaching artists engage nearly 5,000 students annually through sustained introductory, preparatory, and conservatory level music instruction – including classical and jazz, and featuring band, voice, and orchestra, as well as guitar and piano.

Merit’s comprehensive array of course offerings is distinguished by two signature programs, beginning with our community-based program, Merit Music In Communities, and building toward the intensive, audition-based Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory. Thanks to the dedication of Merit’s faculty, staff, board, donors and parents, nearly 70 percent of our students receive need-based aid. This enables motivated students, regardless of economic circumstance, to develop their talent and to use Merit as a springboard for achieving their full musical and personal potential, with virtually 100 percent of our conservatory graduates going on to conservatory, college, or university.

To learn more about Merit School of Music, visit or call 312.786.9428.

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