Merit School of Music was founded in 1979 on the desire to provide life-changing experiences for children through music. This year, the School will reach more than 6,000 young people at dozens of locations throughout Chicagoland. Merit is committed to helping children realize their full musical potential, while helping them to excel academically and grow personally.

Merit is devoted to giving children throughout the Chicago metropolitan area the opportunity to grow through music, especially children living in economically disadvantaged communities. Merit offers a full range of music programming for children, ages newborn to 18 years, including early childhood classes, beginning, intermediate and advanced instrumental and vocal group instruction, private lessons, theory classes and music ensembles. Merit's classes are offered at dozens of sites throughout Chicago and Northwest Indiana, including Chicago Public Schools, private and parochial schools, community centers and homeless shelters, as well as at Merit's own 40,000 square foot state-of-the-art facility in Chicago's West Loop, the Joy Faith Knapp Music Center.

Last year Merit provided nearly $3 million in support to its students through program subsidies, need-based tuition relief, low-cost instrument rental, music supplies and more. Because of our focus on removing barriers to participation in music, Merit's student body comes from more than 140 Chicagoland ZIP codes and is diverse culturally, geographically, and in skills and aspirations. Our students and faculty create a dynamic learning environment that deepens the impact of music education as they influence and inspire one another.

The rigor and effectiveness of Merit's programs has been demonstrated year after year, as scores of students go on to acclaimed summer music festivals and camps.  The most advanced students win prestigious city, state and nationwide competitions, and receive praise from audience members and the public for the skill and maturity of their performances. We are proud that alumnus Anthony McGill was a featured performer during the 2009 presidential inauguration.