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Merit School of Music

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Arts Education, Education, Music, Performing Arts Schools, Scholarships, Scholarships & Student Financial Aid

Mission: The mission of Merit School of Music (formerly the MERIT Music Program) is to provide high quality music education to students in metropolitan Chicago. Its primary goals are to serve the economically disadvantaged, to help young people achieve their full musical potential, and to give them a sense of purpose by stimulating personal and educational growth through music. Merit's programs are provided without regard to national origin, race, religious belief, gender, or physical handicap.

Results: This past year, Merit School of Music has helped nearly 5,000 children across Chicago experience high-quality music education regardless of their economic circumstances.

Target demographics: Children from low-income families

Direct beneficiaries per year: Nearly 5,000 children across Chicago

Geographic areas served: Chicago metropolitan and surrounding areas

Programs: high-quality music education programs for children ages infant through high school.

Community Stories

7 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

It is a good feeling to be truly passionate about a cause, a mission, that benefits the community we live in. I found that passion about a year ago. It all started on a regular workday when I passed Union Station's Great Hall in downtown Chicago, catching my normal Metra train home during rush hour. I recall it was the only time I would not mind if there were mass train delays. Because on that early cool December evening, chamber music filled the Great Hall with familiar holiday tunes. It lifted my spirit and mesmerized the great many commuters that were either passing by or awaiting for their scheduled trains. I've passed that hall on a regular basis over some ten years and I've never seen this type of delightful public performances. What amazed me was the young musicians (middle/high school aged kids) that performed that day. Above the stage there was a banner that read 'Merit School of Music'. That name stuck with me since then. Months later, I decided to google it. To my amazement this school (www.meritmusic.org) has been providing free or low cost music education (with free/affordable instrument rental) for children (pre-K to pre-college) in Chicago area for nearly 4 decades. Their mission has been to inspire youth to achieve their fullest potential in life through music, focusing on underserved communities. In the following summer, I signed my 4th-grade daughter up for Merit School of Music's summer String Camp. It was truly an enriching experience, for both my daughter and I. The fun-filled summer camp allowed her to not only improve her music playing, but also to build friendship with fellow campers from various parts of the city/metro areas. As for me, I was deeply impressed with the integrity, talent, and dedication of Merit's staff and faculty. It was through that experience, I want to be part of Merit family and continue to support this organization in any way I can. This fall, my daughter started her weekly music education at Merit, with a more formal (and rigorous) curriculum. I myself have become part of the MPA (Merit Parent Association). As a parent, I value music education for the youth of our society in a nurturing, encouraging environment. With funding cuts in may area schools, quality music education is hard to find. Merit School of Music (www.meritmusic.org) filled that void and I'm grateful for that, as are many other parents. Most importantly I value the opportunities this school has provided to area children whose families may not otherwise have the financial means to seek quality music education. Merit is the only school in the area that insists on offering tuition-free conservatory program (for qualified and dedicated young talents regardless of family background). I believe Merit School of Music is one of Chicago area's greatest gems and they deserve our accolade and our financial support.

Review from #MyGivingStory

General Member of the Public

Rating: 5

Discipline, Hope, and Joy. That's what music education provides. I know firsthand its transformative power -- I spent many, many hours as a kid in Chicago practicing, going to violin lessons, working on theory homework, and rehearsing with orchestras and chamber groups.

Music provided me with lifelong lessons in discipline, hard work, and the rewards it provides. These lessons carried over beyond the concert hall and into my academics and later my professional life. It was a tremendous gift that my parents were able to afford.

Sadly, not everyone can and for those that cannot, public funding for music education has been on the wane for years. It's up to private organizations to step in and fill that gap. The Merit School of Music (www.meritmusic.org) does a phenomenal job of providing access to world class music education to students across Chicago.

Through its programs, students get top notch music instruction from the best teachers in the city. A masterclass with Renee Fleming or Yo-Yo Ma -- can you even imagine how exciting for a young student? Opportunities to go on tour? Amazing. It is truly remarkable to hear from students the ways in which Merit has touched their lives.

I support Merit because music education builds character and community -- and its dividends are long lasting and far reaching. In a time where hope and joy are sometimes in short supply, music fills that void and Merit is on the front lines preparing the next generation of music performers and equally important, music appreciators.

Review from #MyGivingStory

Client Served

Rating: 5

We moved to Chicago last year and my daughter has found a second home at Merit School of Music. She has played violin in 3 other schools and I feel fortunate to have found a school that makes music not only fun but also available to all kids, regardless of their family income. This organization is a great place to nurture music, create a sense of community and develop the best of our youth. We love being a part of Merit.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Merit is a magical place where children from all over Chicago receive the gift of musical education. The teachers in Merit are wonderful. They and the entire staff of the school are committed to providing the students with much more than instruction in their particular musical instrument. Musical education at Merit includes access to first rate performances as well as opportunities to perform, classes in musical theory, master classes by renown musicians, and even seminars helping older students apply to college. If you think that this is a description of some elitist institution few can afford--you cannot be further away from the truth! Merit is committed to making music education available to any musically gifted child, and the amazingly talented and diverse student body there is testimony to the extensive outreach Merit performs in Chicago schools and neighborhoods.

My son is entering his fourth year at Merit. He spends there many hours every week. He has flourished there, and not only musically. Merit is a place very close to our family's heart. If you have a child who loves music--take her/him to Merit. You won't regret. Even if you don't have children--look up Merit and come for one of the wonderful (and free) performances offered there. You will see for yourself--it is a truly magical place!

1

Client Served

Rating: 5

I'm a violin student at Merit School of Music. Merit is a special place for me because it makes learning music fun! I am part of the Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory, and I am at Merit every Saturday from 9am to 3pm. It is the best day of the week for me because I get a chance to share my love for music with kids from all over Chicago. Merit has so much to offer for all instruments and ages, such as orchestra ensemble, music theory classes, instrumental technique classes, chamber music and composition. There are also a lot of opportunities to perform. The faculty and staff are great, and really care about all the students. If you love music, Merit is the right place for you. I love it!

1 Deb K.

Board Member

Rating: 5

A close friend recommended me to the board of the Merit School of Music, knowing that my daughter is a musician and that I am passionate about the role of music in developing poise, confidence and teamwork in young people. I was somewhat familiar with the organization, but coming on the board gave me deep insight into the programs and impact of this remarkable organization. One of my favorite aspects is that, at most board meetings, a musician alum of the school comes to perform and tells his or her own personal success story, brought about by Merit and the role of music in his or her life. The young African-American flutist who was on his way to study in Paris particularly brought me to tears. He'd switched from drums to flute, because he loved orchestral music. I've also attended auxiliary board functions and fundraisers, visited one of the outreach programs in an elementary school, and attended the group recital for the outreach program in the Latino community. Seeing the tiny violinists with their tiny violins always moves me, but I'm just as moved by the pride and support they get from their parents, who see their child playing music as a dream come true. I'm not able to contribute as much money as some other board members, so I try to give my time through being at events, volunteering my expertise, and showing support for the young musicians, offering my praise and congratulations on their performances.

1

Volunteer

Rating: 5

Located just west of downtown, I consider the Merit School of Music to be an absolute gem when it comes to music schools in Chicago. My family knew we were a part of something special when we first walked through Merit’s doors. We immediately felt the musical energy permeating throughout the building. Being a Merit parent and volunteer for over 6 years now, it is evident to me that this non-profit organization is committed to promoting excellence on so many different levels. The professional staff and instructors consistently provide an atmosphere which fosters growth and creativity. The wide variety of music classes offered gives every child, regardless of economic background, an opportunity to express themselves to the highest levels. Merit’s Tuition Free Conservatory, a phenomenal program for advanced music students, is second to none and must be experienced live to truly appreciate. I have witnessed the personal and musical growth of my two children since attending Merit and can proudly say that the school has done wonders for building their self-esteem and confidence. My family has been blessed to find such a wonderful music school and my only regret is that we did not find it sooner.