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Making It Easy For Kids to Get – and Stay – Involved in Music

The Merit School of Music provides Chicago youth with affordable, life-changing experiences through music.

Since 1979 Merit has been committed to helping children achieve their musical potential. This year the school will help nearly 6,000 young people at dozens of Chicago locations excel academically and grow personally through music.

What makes this organization unique is their full range of music programing for children ages newborn to 18 years. They offer all levels of training for instrumental and vocal instruction, group and private lessons, theory classes, ensembles, and musical theatre. 90% of the students don’t pay anything out of pocket, and in 2010 Merit provided almost $3 million of support to its students through subsidies, tuition discounts, affordable instrument rental, supplies, and more.

With an ongoing presence in after-school programs at almost 60 sites including Chicago Public Schools, YMCAs, churches, and public facilities, Merit is making music education as available as possible. Merit President Duffie Adelson told the Chicago Journal, “The magic of Merit is that we’re able to find so many kids who would never have had the experience otherwise, the opportunity to discover this wonderful world of music. Once they discover it and show an interest, they have a real pathway they can follow from beginning to end.”

One of their main goals is to make it as easy as possible for students taking lessons at a partner school to transition into the more intensive programs at Merit’s main location. Adelson says providing this type of pathway gives Chicago youth an alternative to a rougher life.

“If you can capture a student’s passion, you won’t have kids hanging out on the street,” she said.

Merit’s success can be measured by the many students who move on to participate in summer music festivals, camps, and competitions. Merit alumnus Anthony McGill was even a featured performer during the 2009 presidential inauguration. Many Merit students have appeared on From the Top, including the septet “Septacular,” who performed on Show 238 in Chicago.