Merit School of Music transforms the lives of Chicago-area youth through removing barriers to high-quality music education.



Merit School of Music is a nationally accredited music school located in Chicago’s West Loop. Our primary goals are to remove economic barriers to participation, help young people achieve their full musical and personal potential, and stimulate personal and educational growth through music. For 37 years, we have been home to a diverse community of talented young musicians and have acted as a springboard for exciting personal transformations. Known for providing access to high-quality music education, our 125 passionate and experienced teaching artists serve more than 4,000 students on site and off.

At Merit, our students, who come from every income level and every corner of Chicago, have the rare opportunity to learn together, dream together, teach each other, and broaden horizons while building inspiring lives through music. Not only do we help develop musicians, we provide young people with the tools they need to excel in life— whatever they may choose to do, with nearly 100% of graduates going on to a college or university.



At Merit, we provide a distinctive music education pathway unlike any other school in Chicago. Our continuum consists of five major program areas, which students may join at any stage, including Early Childhood, Instrumental Music and Private Lessons. Our continuum begins and concludes with our two signature programs, Bridges: Partners in Music and the Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory, which requires and represents the highest level of achievement.



Thanks to the support of Merit’s dedicated faculty, staff, board, donors, and parents, our students have the opportunity to unlock their talents. We provide financial support through program subsidies, need-based tuition relief, low-cost instrument rental, and music supplies so that motivated students can participate in every program regardless of economic circumstance. More than half of Merit’s budget is allocated to financial aid and scholarships, with 75% of its students receiving assistance. Merit is devoted to providing students the opportunity to grow through music by removing financial, geographic and personal barriers.



As a National Guild member, Merit School of Music is committed to ensuring all people have opportunities to maximize their creative potential.


Merit School of Music programs are partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

Steven, viola

"My dream is to be a professional violist, and Merit is helping me to reach this goal with quality training and excellent performance opportunities."

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