Women’s Board marks 50 years of service
Some women refuse to share their age. In the case of Ravinia Festival’s Women’s Board they can’t wait to tell you. The board — a vital component of America’s oldest outdoor music festival — turns 50 this year, celebrating a half-century of invaluable educational and cultural programming.
The 50th anniversary gala benefit, appropriately titled “Leading Ladies,” features a concert by celebrated divas Patti LuPone and Patricia Racette, led by music director James Conlon (who, incidentally, will be celebrating the 35th anniversary of his own Ravinia debut).
“In a year in which we honor and applaud our Women’s Board on their 50th anniversary, it made such sense to celebrate in a big way with two leading ladies, honoring Ravinia’s own leading ladies,” says Ravinia president and CEO Welz Kauffman. Without the support of the Women’s Board, “the Festival would not be what it is today,” he says.
After the performance, the more than 800 expected guests will enjoy dinner on the grounds. Despite being the non-profit Ravinia’s largest annual fund-raiser, it is unique from other galas in that it will include no auction and no raffle. “We basically come to appreciate what Ravinia is, which is fabulous music,” says Women’s Board chairman Jeanne Denison of Northbrook.
To date, the gala already has grossed $900,000. Regular seating and pricing are available for those who simply wish to attend the concert.
The musical program chosen for the concert features selections played on Ravinia’s stage in 1962 to harken back to the founding of the Women’s Board.
Denison describes the board as a “terrific group of women” whose hallmark is being multi-generational. “We have women who have been on the board from when it first started in 1962, and we have women who have just started in the past year who have embraced the whole Ravinia family concept,” says Denison.
The board’s broad-based mission includes fund-raising and volunteer support of Ravinia’s Reach-Teach-Play programs, which strive to help make music education accessible.
Serving as gala co-chairmen are Judy Castellini of Winnetka and Elizabeth Bergmann of Evanston. Bergmann’s mother spearheaded Ravinia’s outreach and education programs in the ’80s. Both of her parents served as board trustees, and Bergmann attended the Ravinia festival as a child before working there as a high school student.
“Ravinia is a wonderful Chicago institution that is very dedicated to our community and to making fabulous music — in particular classical music and concerts — accessible to everyone,” says Bergmann.
Ravinia’s remaining season includes performances by the Knights with Yo-Yo Ma, Itzhak Perlman and Dawn Upshaw; James Taylor; Crosby, Stills & Nash; Train; Seal; Diana Krall, and Boz Scaggs.
“It’s just a spectacular venue, and the quality of the musical programming that is offered there is far and above the best in Chicago,” said Denison.
The Chicago Sun-Times is the media sponsor of this event.