Virtual Gala 2020

Tuesday, May 5 | 7pm CT


Thank you to all who helped make Merit School of Music’s Virtual Gala such a great success. Over 500 families tuned in and we exceeded our anonymous donor’s generous matching pledge!

Our students, faculty, and staff are so thankful for your continued support as we work hard to keep the music going.


Virtual Gala Full Livestream Recording

In the event that you weren’t able to celebrate live with us or want to relive the unforgettable night all over again, you can rewatch the entire event from start to finish. Enjoy!

The Unstoppable Power of Music

While our brick-and-mortar school may be temporarily closed, Merit students and faculty have come together online to keep lessons, classes, and performances going while we’re all sheltering in place.

Thank You, Essential Workers!

Merit’s Philharmonic and String Orchestras performed Holst’s Jupiter in honor of the all the essential workers who are keeping us safe.

Growing Up at the Merit School of Music

As she prepares for the next chapter in her life as a musician and student, Carly Zarate reflects on the Merit community that helped her become the person she is today.

Celebrating Gala Honoree Richard W. Colburn

Richard W. Colburn of The Negaunee Foundation is visionary philanthropist whose life’s work has changed the landscape of music in Chicago and beyond. Please join us in thanking Mr. Colburn.

Perfect Cadence Shares a Song for Peace

Merit’s Perfect Cadence Ensemble performs Amani (A Song for Peace) by Jim Papoulis & Jacques Sebisaho.


richard colburn


Alice S. Pfaelzer Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts

Richard W. Colburn spent his early years on Chicago’s North Shore in an era when public schools offered music education. After several years studying cello, Richard quit, mainly because of residual shoulder problems from a near-fatal attack of polio at the age of 8.

He later learned liberal thought and activism at Antioch College. Since the 70s, he has managed businesses that primarily sell pieces of aluminum and stainless steel to companies that make things with them.

Richard’s early exposure to music, reinforced by much music being played in his home, led to an appreciation of most forms of music and a strong belief in music education for everyone. In 1987, Richard benefitted from an investment that permitted the creation of The Negaunee Foundation, his vehicle for supporting classical music education and performance to the highest standards of excellence, primarily in the Chicago area.

Richard currently serves on the boards of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Ravinia Festival and WTTW, as well as the Colburn School in Los Angeles and The Field Museum of Natural History.

civitas ensemble



Merit School of Music Award for Citizen Artistry – Inaugural Year

Civitas Ensemble, performing at ‘an exceptionally high caliber” (Chicago Classical Review), enriches the community by fulfilling its threefold mission: to present engaging live performances, to inspire a young generation of musicians, and to bring the healing power of music to those with limited access.

During the past nine years, Civitas has collaborated with numerous artists, released two albums, offered many free coaching sessions in schools, and performed over 40 outreach concerts in hospitals and senior residences.

Currently, Civitas Ensemble is pursuing new collaborations that promote cultural diversity, while launching a concert series designed for memory loss patients as part of Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s medical research effort.


howard gottlieb greis

Barbara Greis and Howard Gottlieb


Judy and Verne Istock

helen richard thomas

Helen and Richard Thomas



Richard and Helen Thomas and Family


Howard Gottlieb and Barbara Greis
Charlie and Caroline Huebner
Judy and Verne Istock
The Negaunee Foundation


Earl Rusnak, Jr. and Sandra Rusnak


Anonymous (2)
Julie and Dan Baumeister
BMO Harris Bank
Ginny and Peter Foreman
Joe and Madeleine Glossberg
Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund
Janice Honigberg
Julian Family Foundation
Peggy and Dick Notebaert
David Thomas
Zell Family Foundation


Jeffrey Breslow
Clean Law PC
Anne L. Kaplan
Gabrielle Klein Family
Jim and Kay Mabie, Chicago Capital
Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, Thomas Linguanti and Olivia Tyrrell
Cathy and Bill Osborn
Lorna and Ellard Pfaelzer, Jr.
Carol Prins and John Hart
Ann and Ray Rusnak
Sage Foundation
Nina G. Stillman
Susie Pfaelzer Sultan and John M. Sultan
US Bank
Elizabeth Williams


Duffie A. Adelson
Baker McKenzie
Huan J. Chang and Robert R. Stauffer
Anne and William Goldstein
Jenner & Block
Madison Industries
Shelley Ochab and Chester Gougis
Heidi Lukas and Charles Grode
Carol and Ken Grode
Thomas and Janet Leopold
Judy and Scott McCue
Doris Roskin
Smart Family Foundation
Liz Stiffel
Donna and Tom Stone
T. Rowe Price Private Asset Management
Dia S. and Edward S. Weil, Jr.
William Blair & Company
Sheri and Sherwin Zuckerman


Susan and Lawrence Aaron
Alper Services LLC
Meredith Barber and Tom Fitzsimmons
Jayson Bronchetti/Lincoln Financial
Rosemarie and Dean L. Buntrock
The Clinton Family Fund
Lois and Steve Eisen
Philip M. Friedmann
Jennifer and Isaac Goldman
Varda and Joel Goldman
Debra Kerr and Steven Thompson
Emily and Christopher Knight
Robert Kohl and Clark Pellett
Karen Z. Gray-Krehbiel and John H. Krehbiel, Jr.
Diane v.S. Levy and Robert M. Levy
PJH & Associates, Inc.
Susie and Sam Tenenbaum

Merit School of Music deeply appreciates the individuals and organizations who celebrate the accomplishments of our honorees, Richard W. Colburn and Civitas Ensemble, and support the nationally-renowned programming at Merit School of Music.

In addition to the opportunities listed below, benefactors will receive special acknowledgment of their support in the Gala invitation, a listing on Merit’s Gala webpage, and in Merit’s annual report.

Contact Meredith Barber at 312-267-4461 or via email for more information and to reserve your level of support.



  • Premier recognition of your support in the Gala event materials


  • Priority recognition of your support in the Gala event materials


  • Prime recognition of your support in the Gala event materials

VIRTUOSO | $10,000

  • Preferred recognition of your support in the Gala event materials


  • Recognition of your support in the Gala event materials

ALLEGRO | $2,500

  • Recognition of your support in the Gala event materials