MIC prepares to make a little night music
EVENT: Music Institute of Chicago 82nd Anniversary Gala
BENEFITING: Music Institute of Chicago scholarship fund
WHEN: 5:30 p.m. May 1
WHERE: Four Seasons Hotel, 120 E. Delaware, Chicago
COST: $550 per person
CONTACT: (847) 905-1500, ext. 180; musicinst.org/2012-gala
Updated: May 21, 2012 8:15AM
There just might be a little night music during the evening of May 1, when the Music Institute of Chicago honors Broadway composer Stephen Sondheim during its benefit at the Four Seasons Hotel.
Sondheim will receive the institute’s prestigious Dushkin Award, named for David and Dorothy Dushkin who founded the community music school in their Winnetka home 82 years ago.
The composer has won eight Tony Awards (more than any other person) as well as eight Grammy Awards, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama for “Sunday in the Park with George,” and even an Academy Award for best song, “Sooner or Later” written for the film version of “Dick Tracy.”
“So when we approached him about accepting this award, we also gave him a big package with information on the quality of the people who have received it in the past,” said Alexandra Nichols of Winnetka, who is chairing the event for the third consecutive year.
That list is star studded. Last year the Dushkin Award went to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s new conductor, Riccardo Muti, and in 2010 it was given to superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Since 1985 the honors have been awarded to musical luminaries such as soprano Renee Fleming, conductors James Conlon, Pierre Boulez, Christoph Eschenbach, Bruno Bartoletti and Sir Georg Solti (which was also given to Lady Solti for her enthusiasm for Chicago and the CSO), plus opera singers Sherrill Milnes, Placido Domingo and William Warfield, and stellar arts managers Henry Fogel of the CSO, Zarin Mehta of Ravinia Festival, and the late Ardis Krainik and William Mason, successive general directors of the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
“He responded very quickly and said yes,” Nichols continued.
Nichols Concert Hall in MIC’s Evanston building is named for Alexandra and her husband, John. She also serves as chair of the MIC board.
“It is a lot of responsibility,” she said, “and I will pass the baton as benefit chairman next year.”
Right now, however, she is busily involved in coordinating all aspects of the upcoming gala.
“Everything from the benefit goes to our scholarship fund,” Nichols said. “It allows talented young people to study with our outstanding teachers.”
Among the teachers are composer Mike O’Mara of Evanston and lyricist Matt Boresi. They direct the musical theater program, which seems to be one of MIC’s best-kept secrets even though 100 students are enrolled. Some of those students are part of the gala program.
“We’re doing a musical tribute to Sondheim,” O’Mara said. “We’re using 28 choristers and bringing in four soloists, all MIC alums. The tribute will take some cues from Sondheim’s scores, and some of his melodies will be in the piano accompaniment.”
O’Mara prefers to have lyrics in hand when he begins to write a melody, but he does not seem daunted by writing music to be heard by the master himself, whose mentor was no less than Oscar Hammerstein II.
“Matt and I write original material every term for the older students, so we work very fast,” he said. “Our students suggest the subject to us.”
The Chicago area has a good relationship with Sondheim. In 2003 the Goodman Theatre presented the premiere of his musical “Bounce,” and from 2001 to 2006 the Ravinia Festival in Highland Park presented a Sondheim musical each season.
In addition to the award for Sondheim, MIC will present its Cultural Visionary Award for Chicago to philanthropist and patron of the arts Marilynn B. Alsdorf, who for decades was a resident of Winnetka.
“Marilynn so deserves to be honored,” Nichols said. “She is very generous to the arts, plus she is a real joy to be around.”