Nancy and Scott Santi: A Music Institute Salute







The Cultural Visionary Award to be presented by the Music Institute of Chicago at its June 2 gala at the Four Seasons will be going home with the most deserving of recipients, Nancy and Scott Santi. Each a far-sighted leader when it comes to crucial community change, together they orchestrate arts education programs for children through their dedicated nonprofit work.


Nancy and Scott Santi. Photo courtesy of Nancy and Scott Santi.

The Award recognizes individuals who make an indelible impact on the community through their philanthropic, civic, and cultural leadership. The Santis have been friends of the Music Institute for nearly two decades. Scott Santi is chairman and CEO of Illinois Tool Works, one of the Music Institute’s largest sponsors and a corporate sponsor for more than 25 years. In his nonprofit service he participates on the boards of Northwestern University, Rush University Medical Center, The Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association, the Lyric Opera, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the United Way of Metropolitan Chicago. Also on the board of Ravinia Festival, he is looking forward to the summer’s events and the outdoor concerts: “With funding cut back for arts education, it is great to see a program like Ravinia’s Reach Teach Play, which put music back into the classrooms,” he says.

Nancy Santi, a former elementary school teacher in Ohio, Houston, and the Chicago area, who has also implemented programming and tutored in our city’s LEARN Charter Schools, says, “Just as with the Music Institute’s mission, what Scott and I value so much about our arts organizations here in Chicago, is their outreach programs, bringing the arts to communities in Chicago that might not otherwise be exposed to music, dancing, stage setting, the visual arts, and more.”


LEARN Charter School drumline, who will be performing at the June 2 gala. Photo courtesy of Music Institute of Chicago.

Nancy Santi serves as a trustee for the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, a board member for PAWS Chicago, and a member of the Women’s Board at Lyric Opera, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Art Institute of Chicago, and Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago.

“It’s very gratifying, knowing the seeds that can be planted, as kids from communities who might not have experienced such spectacular music, singing, dancing, or acting, not only are exposed to the joy of them but also get to work with artists of all backgrounds,” she explains. “During COVID, our Boys & Girls Clubs kids loved participating in four sessions of a virtual workshop with the Lyric Opera. Seeing the children being presented with fun and creative ways of experiencing the different sounds and moods of instruments, or being able to create their own storytelling set to music, you get a sense of fulfillment, knowing this could create lifelong passions or even possible careers, for these kids.”

The children also experienced a movement workshop at the Harris Theater, exposing them to the “joys of both dance and music, as well as showing them these art forms are meant for all people.”

Another highlight Nancy Santi shares is seeing the amazed faces of the young people from the ITW Speer Academy witnessing their very first opera, Fire Shut Up in my Bones: “Not only did they just witness such a dynamic performance of acting and incredible music and singing, but they saw that the storytelling of opera pertains to all lives, even their lives, not just those of past centuries.”

She adds, “It’s tremendous seeing children from all communities at our Art Institute interacting with or creating art, knowing they too can feel the same wonderment we all can feel when experiencing art, both in the beauty of it as well as what ideas the artists are conveying. This expands their minds to the ideas of our world. It’s incredible, seeing this happen. So, needless to say, our passion in these organizations lies in the offering of the beauty of their art forms to our most underserved communities.”

Celebrating more than 90 years of advancing innovation, access, and excellence in music education, the Music Institute of Chicago once again recognizes extraordinary individuals at the upcoming gala hosted with co-chairs Carlos R. Cárdenas, Hans and Denitta Germann, and Catherine M. and Frederick H. Waddell. Honorary Gala Chairs are Peter Dushkin, Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols, and Deborah Rutter.


Hilary Hahn. Photo by Dana van Leeuwen.

Grammy Award-winning violinist Hilary Hahn will be presented the evening’s Dushkin Award. A prolific recording artist and commissioner of new works, Hahn is a recipient of many international awards. A true fan favorite, she has received over 500,000 posts from fellow performers and students on her Instagram-based practice initiative, #100daysofpractice, which helps demystify the typically grueling and isolating practice process, transforming it into a community-oriented social celebration of artistic development. The Chicago Symphony Orchestra named Hahn Artist in Residence in 2021.


Dr. Tanya Carey. Photo courtesy of Dr. Tanya L. Carey.

Dr. Tanya L. Carey will receive the Richard D. Colburn Award for Teaching Excellence. In addition to Carey’s daily teaching in Chicago and work as a guest master clinician, she has trained hundreds of cello teachers around the world and performed at Tully and Carnegie Halls, as well as other venues. She is a past president of the Suzuki Association of the Americas and an artist-teacher at Roosevelt University Chicago College of Performing Arts. She is the author of the Cello Playing is Easy series, a comprehensive guide for teachers and players.

Proceeds from the evening provide the single largest source of funds for financial aid and scholarships, tuition-free community engagement and school programming, and neighborhood-based service activities for all ages and backgrounds. Students from the Music Institute’s Community School and its Academy for gifted pre-college musicians will be among the evening’s performers.


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