2018 CYSO Gala: West Side Story Mambos the Night Away


The 2018 CYSO Gala: West Side Story on February 10 brought in a record $425,000 to support CYSO’s music training, education, and community engagement programs. Celebrating the energy of Bernstein’s American classic and the talent and achievements of CYSO’s student musicians, it was an evening to remember!

Hosted at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, more than 320 guests ascended the grand staircase leading to the ballroom, where they were serenaded with a performance by young Preparatory Strings musicians. A cocktail reception included a red-carpet experience, West Side Story-themed cocktails, appetizers, mini-live auction, and music provided by members of Kaiso Steel Orchestra. 

Jamie Bernstein, broadcaster, author and eldest daughter of Leonard Bernstein, was the special guest at a VIP reception which featured a performance by a CYSO jazz orchestra trio.

As doors opened to the Grand Ballroom for the seated dinner portion of the evening, CYSO’s Symphony Orchestra welcomed guests with a performance of West Side Story’s Symphonic Dances under the baton of CYSO Music Director Allen Tinkham. 

Event chairs Saurab and Anjani Bhargava welcomed guests. Saurab remarked, “To provide an opportunity to celebrate the timeless music of Leonard Bernstein and simultaneously foster the long-term education and growth of our city’s top young musical talent is a truly special occasion indeed. My wife, Anjani, and I are proud to chair a gala that gives the community a chance to have a front row seat to the talents of our city’s top young musicians.”

Master of Ceremonies Lourdes Duarte, WGN-TV anchor and investigative reporter, made introductions and recognized sponsors and others who made the evening possible. Throughout the evening she introduced the Symphony Orchestra’s West Side Story music performances. The three sets included popular classics such as the Overture, “Somewhere,” “Mambo,” “Cha Cha,” “Cool,” and “Rumble.”

A spirited live auction offered several packages in collaboration with auction partner, Skylark. These included a London and Cornish Coast trip, a private seaside cottage in Frances’ Charente-Maritime region, a Mexico City getaway, and a “Bernstein’s New York” experience. Other items included an EL Ideas Chef-for-a-Day and an opportunity to conduct the orchestra at the 2019 CYSO gala.

new video created by Green River Films highlighted CYSO’s many programs and the impact donor support has on young musicians. The paddle raise brought in nearly $121,000 to support CYSO’s financial assistance program and help keep program tuition affordable for all families. 

The Note of Excellence Award was presented to Jamie Bernstein, who, upon receiving the honor, said, “I am so honored to be here tonight and receive this award and want to thank the CYSO for being a part of the centennial celebration of my father’s work.  If my dad was around and could see the sharing and reading of his works, and the social and musical impact he continues to have, he’das we say in Yiddish plotz!”

Executive Director, Susan Lape said, “We are so grateful to our community of supporters who made this evening possible.  The funds we raised at this event will help us to bring exceptional music education to more students than ever before.”

Gala proceeds will benefit nearly 10,000 young people from across the Chicago region who are enrolled in CYSO music training, education, and community engagement programs.

Thank you to the many individuals and organizations who supported this year’s gala, our fantastic parent volunteers, and the CYSO musicians who kept us entertained throughout the evening!

See the full photo gallery from the 2018 Gala.


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