Ravinia’s President and CEO, Welz Kauffman was one of two outstanding Chicago area musicians who were honored on Friday by the Union League Club of Chicago. Kauffman, an accomplished pianist, and esteemed jazz vocalist and composer Kurt Elling received the club's Distinguished Musicians Award. This award – which includes induction into the club—is given annually to two artists. Previous recipients include Josephine Lee, Ramsey Lewis, Rachel Barton Pine and Nicole Cabell, among others.
The evening’s reception and dinner featured performances by the two inductees and guest performances by student musicians from many different organizations, including a string quartet from the Chicago Symphony Youth Orchestra that performed during the reception hour.
Kauffman received his award at the top of the program and performed several selections, beginning with a piece written for him by past honoree Ramsey Lewis. Kauffman then performed a Brahms selection with Desirée Ruhstrat and David Cunliffe of the Lincoln Trio, noting the affinity he has for Abraham Lincoln and Ravinia’s musical tributes to Lincoln during his bi-centennial year. Kauffman next performed a jazz quintet with four members of the Ravinia Jazz Scholars, talented high school students trained through the festival's education programs. The piece was by composer and Steans Music Institute alum Paul Johnston. Before accepting his award, Kauffman accompanied the Chicago Children’s Choir in a selection from Faure’s Requiem.
Kauffman mentioned in his remarks that, as a child of educators, he was pleased that the performances that evening were highlighting young people and Ravinia’s REACH*TEACH*PLAY education programs, which enhance the lives of 75,000 people throughout Chicago. He accepted his honor graciously, saying that the distinguished musicians award for him was an honor for the Ravinia Festival.
Grammy Award-winning jazz great Kurt Elling also performed a selection with one of the Ravinia Jazz Scholars and several selections with the Chicago Children’s Choir. Kauffman and Elling performed an encore, “Embraceable You,” together to the delight of the 450 guests in attendance.