2022 Gala Smashes Fundraising Records, Celebrates 75 Years

The 2022 CYSO Gala: Listen to the Future took place on Saturday, March 12 at the Marriott Marquis Chicago, celebrating our 75th anniversary and the past, present, and future of CYSO. Attended by more than 400 supporters, the event broke previous Gala fundraising records, bringing in more than $680,000 to support CYSO’s music education programming. We are so grateful.

“It was wonderful to gather in person once again so that our guests could experience the energy and enthusiasm of our young musicians performing live as we listened to the future,” said Gala Co-Chair and CYSO Board Secretary Angela O’Banion. “That this return coincided with CYSO’s 75th anniversary celebration made it even more special.”

The evening began at cocktail hour where guests were greeted with signature mixed drinks, hors d’oeuvres, and interactive exhibits celebrating CYSO’s history. A dozen students from Preparatory Strings, led by Director of String Ensembles Daniella Valdez, performed as an eager crowd of listeners gathered around.

Gala Co-Chairs Shawn O’Leary and Angela O’Banion

As the doors to the Grand Horizons Ballroom opened at 7:00, guests were met by the sounds of Symphony Orchestra performing Anna Clyne’s Masquerade led by Music Director Allen Tinkham, followed by Kaiso Steel Orchestra playing The Bees Melody by Aldwyn Roberts, led by Director of Steel Scott McConnell. Guests took their seats and the formal program began with a welcome by event chairs Shawn O’Leary and Angela O’Banion. O’Banion noted that though the event was joyous, hearts were with the people of Ukraine during this difficult time. Symphony Orchestra performed Prayer for Ukraine, known as the country’s spiritual anthem, as the stage was lit in the yellow and blue of the Ukrainian flag.

After a break for dinner, the evening continued with a spirited live auction, followed by excerpts from Wynton Marsalis’ Swing Symphony performed by combined members of Symphony Orchestra and Jazz Orchestra. CYSO is the first youth orchestra to tackle this notoriously difficult piece, which was written specifically for the musicians of Jazz at Lincoln Center. In his award acceptance speech later in the night, Mr. Marsalis himself praised the students for tackling such a challenge.

Following the performance, guests watched a special video presentation produced by our partners at Green River Films. In honor of CYSO’s 75th anniversary, the video highlighted the achievements of our alumni with the stories of four successful grads from the past 30 years. Featured alums were Oto Carrillo, ’89, who plays horn in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra; Carlos Garcia Leon, ’13, who is Individual Giving Manager at the Cincinnati Opera; Giacomo Glotzer, ’18, now studying neuroscience at Yale and performing in a “rock cello” ensemble; and Grace Kim, ’19, studying Law, Letters, & Society with a minor in Music at University of Chicago. The video elicited cheers and even a few tears from the crowd.

Following the video, guests participated in a record-breaking paddle raise to support CYSO’s scholarship fund, which provides financial assistance and free programming for nearly 40% of our young musicians. We are so grateful to the many donors, new and returning, who stepped up to support this ask.

Next came a performance from Jazz Orchestra, led by Director of Jazz Pharez Whitted. The audience was treated to a world premiere performance of two “groovements” from Derrick E. Gardner’s “Chi-Town Suite,” a new piece commissioned by CYSO in honor of our 75th anniversary.

Following the performance, the Note of Excellence Award was presented to Wynton Marsalis and Jazz at Lincoln Center for their contribution to jazz education nationwide. Mr. Marsalis was unable to attend in person and sent his regards and gratitude in the acceptance video embedded below. Accepting at the event was Todd Stoll, Vice President of Education for Jazz at Lincoln Center, who amused the audience with anecdotes about traveling and working with Mr. Marsalis over the years.

Board Chair Ross Bricker then took the podium to announce that CYSO is kicking off a $5 million endowment campaign to provide vital ongoing annual financial support to CYSO now and into the future. The initial $1 million dollars has been pledged by a cohort of dedicated supporters who came together over the past several months, and the ambitious campaign to raise the remaining $4 million will take place over the next 5 years. Thank you to the endowment’s founding donors, including: Dr. Louanne Cabrini and Shawn O’Leary, Pamela and David Conroy, J. Laurence (Larry) and Susan Costin, Kelly and Dennis Howe, Jim and Ginger Meyer, Jenni Myerberg and the Alvin and Louise Myerberg Family Foundation, Angela and Dana O’Banion, Delano and Bonita O’Banion, John and Joyce Schladweiler, Terry and Stephen Schwartz, and Nina Vinik and Ross Bricker.

In the first of two final performances of the evening, Kaiso Steel Orchestra had the audience clapping along to Stevie Wonder’s Masterblaster (Jammin) and Earth, Wind, and Fire’s September. Then Symphony Orchestra took the stage for the final time, first performing Marquez’ Danzon No. 2. In a touching moment, Maestro Tinkham expressed his gratitude that guests were able to gather in person this year, and that the orchestra would next perform the finale from Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite, which students recorded last year for our 2020 virtual gala as audiences watched from the safety of their homes. Following the moving performance, the night ended on the showstopper: Bernstein’s Mambo from West Side Story.

Thank you to everyone who attended, donated, spread the word, performed, volunteered, and cheered on our 2022 Gala. We are so grateful for the support of the CYSO community and can’t wait to celebrate with you again next year!

More information on the Gala and completed photo galleries can be found here.

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