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Merit Gala Will Honor Alums The McGill Brothers

The New 411

By Raymond Ward, Chicago Crusader

Merit School of Music will honor two of its most distinguished alumni, brothers Demarre and Anthony McGill, their parents, Ira Carol and Demarre McGill, and corporate leader Northern Trust Corporation at the Merit Gala, May 10, 2016, at 6 p.m. at the Radisson Blu Aqua Hotel Chicago, 221 N. Columbus Drive.

Gala 2016 will be a celebration of Merit’s distinguished history and its exciting future, all built on its nationally accredited, high-quality music education program, which it provides to Chicago children regardless of their economic circumstances. This year, the theme is “The Warmest Sound,” applauding the McGill family, Northern Trust Corporation and the donors that support Merit for their dedication to “nurturing warmth of sound, mind and heart in the next generation of musicians and leaders.”

Demarre McGill
Demarre McGill

Demarre and Anthony McGill are internationally renowned musicians and the first African-Americans named as principal players in their respective orchestras. Both give credit to their peers and their conservatory-level, tuition-free training received at Merit as crucial to their success. They grew up on Chicago’s south side with tremendous support from their parents, began their music instruction at Merit and were both students in the mid-1990s at what is now the Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory, Merit’s highest-level program. Both went on to professional classical music careers, winning countless awards, playing on international stages and sharing the media spotlight. Guests at the Gala will be treated to live performances from both Demarre and Anthony alongside current Merit students.

Today, Demarre is Principal Flute of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, and has appeared as a soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra and the symphony orchestras of Chicago and Pittsburgh, among others. Anthony is Principal Clarinet of the New York Philharmonic, and has appeared as a soloist with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, American Symphony Orchestra and the New York String Orchestra, and performed with Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Gabriela Montero at the first inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Both brothers regularly return to Merit when they visit Chicago, and each has worked with Merit’s students. In fact, when recently profiled by NBC Nightly News, the brothers insisted the story be filmed at Merit.

Throughout their childhood, Demarre and Anthony’s parents, Ira Carol and Demarre, were wholly committ- ed to their sons’ music education. They sacrificed much, and in the process, raised two amazing men, both master musicians. Demarre McGill wrote a book about it, “A Father’s Triumphant Story: Raising Successful African-American Men in Contemporary Urban Times.” For their devotion to their sons, Merit will present the 2016 Alice S. Pfaelzer Award for Distinguished Service to the Arts not just to Demarre and Anthony, but to their parents as well.

“At Merit we believe that a musical education can help every individual achieve their full potential,” said Charles Grode, President and Executive Director, Merit School of Music. “Demarre and Anthony’s tremendous talent and commitment – and the enduring support of their parents – exemplify this belief. What they have accomplished together is truly inspiring, and worthy of honoring.”

This will be the first Gala for Grode as the school’s President and Executive Director, who joined Merit last September. Grode is “thrilled to celebrate the musical and personal achievements of Merit’s very talented students with the support of family, teachers, board members and staff.”

Ira Carol and Demarre McGill
Ira Carol and Demarre McGill

Northern Trust Corporation will receive Merit’s 2016 Corporate Leadership Award. Merit has benefited from Northern Trust’s support for 26 years, which has been critical in nurturing programs that have offered tens of thousands of children life-changing opportunities through music study, performance and appreciation.

Gala attendees will enjoy hearing student success stories and be treated to live performances by Merit’s talented student musicians, representing all parts of Chicago.

Cocktails start at 6 p.m. followed by a delicious sit-down dinner at 7 p.m. Tickets are $500. All proceeds benefit Merit School of Music and its mission to give children – especially children living in economically disadvantaged communities – the opportunity to achieve their full musical and personal potential through accessible, high-quality music education. To reserve tickets, call Merit School of Music, 312.553.2000. Cocktail attire is recommended.

Co-chairs of the Merit Gala are Merit Trustee and Alum Jennifer Montague, and her husband, Reginaldo Montague, and Merit Trustee Ryan DeVore, and his wife, Amy DeVore. Honorary co-chairs are Judy Istock and Richard L. Thomas.

For more information about Merit’s Gala, call 312-553 -2000 or visit


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