Our History

Merit is founded on the belief that TALENT is equally distributed in every neighborhood and on every street, but the OPPORTUNITY to develop those talents is too often provided only to the privileged few.

In 1979, two pioneering women sought to fight that inequality.

Alice S. Pfaelzer

ALICE S. PFAELZER

Co-Founder; Executive Director (1979 – 1992)

Emma Endres-Kountz

EMMA ENDRES-KOUNTZ

Co-Founder; Artistic Director (1979 – 1983)

40 YEARS OF MAKING MUSIC FOR CHICAGO

When budget cuts in the Chicago Public Schools eliminated arts and music programming from its standard curriculum, Alice Pfaelzer and Emma Endres-Kountz responded by founding the MERIT Music Program. The inaugural program reached a cohort of 150 students and supplied weekend instruction of the highest caliber and at the lowest possible cost.

Forty years later, Alice and Emma’s vision has blossomed into Chicago’s community music school, providing equal access to excellent instruction to tens of thousands of talented youth and offering them the opportunity to be permanently transformed by music.

MERIT THROUGH THE YEARS

79-circle

Merit is founded by Alice Pfaelzer and Emma Endres-Kountz to provide music education through a Tuition-free Conservatory.

81-circle

Merit moves from Roosevelt University to the Fine Arts Building and adds private lesson instruction.

84-circle

Merit begins in-school programs, now called Merit Music in Communities.

87-circle

Merit expands to Dearborn Station to engage more students.

05-circle

Merit moves to its own home, the Joy Faith Knapp Music Center in the West Loop.

12-circle

Funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Merit creates its first daily, intensive off-site program at Carson Elementary in Gage Park.

18-circle

Merit partners with more than 20 other Chicago-area organizations to launch the Chicago Musical Pathways Initiative, a $3.5 million program designed to support students of underrepresented backgrounds pursuing careers in classical music.

SUPPORT THE FUTURE OF MERIT SCHOOL OF MUSIC