The filming of a TV show in close proximity to Merit is affecting traffic and parking. Please plan your commute accordingly from 1/22 through 1/24.


Merit School of Music’s 39th Gala | The Ritz Carlton Hotel | © Todd Rosenberg Photography 2018


Gala 2018 was a star-studded affair! In addition to the prestige of our honorees, Yo-Yo Ma and Howard Gottlieb, Merit was graced with remarks and a performance from baritone Thomas Hampson, a generous tribute by Deborah Rutter of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and video testimonials from Renee Fleming, Damian Woetzel of The Juilliard School, Jeff Alexander of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and many more.

Not to be outdone, our host of music-minded benefactors, event co-chairs, and attendees helped Merit raise $1.1 MILLION in support of our excellent, inclusive, and diverse music education programming. To all who made Gala 2018 a night to remember, Merit offers it sincerest gratitude. THANK YOU!

To view photos from the evening, access our Facebook album (login not required).


Honoring: Yo-Yo Ma

The Alice S. Pfaelzer Distinguished Service to the Arts Award

The many-faceted career of cellist Yo-Yo Ma is testament to his continual search for new ways to communicate with audiences and to his personal desire for artistic growth and renewal.  Mr. Ma maintains a balance between his engagements as soloist with orchestras worldwide and his recital and chamber music activities.  His discography includes over 100 albums, including 19 Grammy award winners.

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.

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The Merit School of Music Lifetime of Service Award

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.


Gala Co-Chairs

Julie and Dan Baumeister

Judy Istock

Honorary Co-chair – Duffie A. Adelson


Leadership Circle

Judson and Joyce Green

Howard Gottlieb and Barbara Greis

Kenneth C. Griffin Charitable Fund

Judy and Verne Istock

The Negaunee Foundation


Emerald Society


Janice L. Honigberg

Helen, Richard and David Thomas


Sterling Society



Julie and Daniel Baumeister

Ellen and Paul Gignilliat

Caroline and Charlie Huebner

J. Thomas Hurvis


Julian Family Foundation

Beth and Barry Mitchell

Peggy and Dick Notebaert

David Rosen

Earl Rusnak, Jr. and Sandra Rusnak

Sage Foundation

Sirius Fund, Ginny and Peter Foreman

The Steans Family

Zell Family Foundation





Julie and Roger Baskes

Kathleen and Gerhard Bette


Jim and Kay Mabie

Morgan, Lewis & Bockius,
Thomas Linguanti and Olivia Tyrrell

NIB Foundation

Cathy and Bill Osborn

John Hart and Carol Prins

Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan

Nina G. Stillman

William Blair and the DeVore Family



Susan and Lawrence Aaron

Baker McKenzie

Carol Lavin Bernick Family Foundation

BMO Harris Bank

Jeffrey Breslow

Rita and John Canning

Helen and Paul Chang

Robert and Margaret Fisher

Madeleine and Joe Glossberg

Anne and William Goldstein

Shelley Ochab and Chester Gougis

Justin and Katharine Greis and EY

Heidi Lukas and Charles Grode

Klein Family

Thomas and Janet Leopold

Robert M. and Diane v.S. Levy

MB Financial

Charlotte and Gil Minor

Northern Trust

Susan and Ted Oppenheimer

Lorna and Ellard Pfaelzer, Jr.

Doris Roskin

Ann and Ray Rusnak

Donna and Tom Stone

T. Rowe Price

Zeller Realty Group

Sheri and Sherwin Zuckerman