Alice S. Pfaelzer
Tuition-Free Conservatory


The Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory is the culmination of Merit’s instructional continuum and represents the best of Merit’s talented student musicians. Committed, passionate and disciplined, students in the Conservatory are showcased annually during Winter Concerts, Spring Concerts, and Performathon, an event which features each performance class in the Conservatory for a total of 20 hours of music.

For 26 Saturdays during the academic school year, Conservatory students receive instruction from Chicago’s finest music educators in large ensembles, instrumental and vocal technique classes, music theory classes and a variety of elective classes, including chamber music, composition and piano as a second instrument—all tuition free. At noon each week, the entire student body comes together for Live from Gottlieb, a concert series featuring world-class musicians from Chicago and beyond.

All new students interested in the Conservatory must pass an entry audition in order to enroll. After gaining entry to the Conservatory, students participate in annual chair placement auditions for large ensembles, competitive chamber groups, and jazz combos.

Major Dates for 2016-2017:

  • January 20 – Conservatory Chamber Ensembles Concert, 7:00 PM*
  • January 21 – Conservatory Solo Voice Concert, 6:00 PM*
  • January 28 – Regular Conservatory day Conservatory Piano Concert, 4:00 PM*
  • February 22 – Symphonic Band dress rehearsal, 6:15 – 9:00 PM*
  • February 23 – Wind Symphony dress rehearsal, 6:15 – 9:00 PM*
  • February 24 – Performathon Evening Concerts, 7:00 PM*
  • February 25 – Performathon, 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM*
  • March 4 – No Conservatory classes
  • April 10 – 15 – Spring Break (No classes. Please note: Wind Symphony DOES rehearse on Apr. 11)
  • April 21 – Conservatory Chamber Ensembles Concert, 7:00 PM*
  • April 22 – Regular Conservatory day and Conservatory Solo Voice Concert, 6:00 PM*
  • April 26 – Symphonic Band dress rehearsal, 6:15 – 9:00 PM*
  • April 27 – Wind Symphony dress rehearsal, 6:15 – 9:00 PM*
  • April 28 – Conservatory Spring Concerts (Band), 7:00 – 9:30 PM*
  • April 29 – Conservatory Spring Concerts (Voice, Jazz, Orchestra), 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM* and Conservatory Piano Duet Concert, 6:00 PM*
  • April 30 – Conservatory Graduation, 1:00 PM* (Mandatory for Conservatory Seniors, call time: 11:30 AM)

*Please note: these are mandatory events where attendance is required.

Download the complete 2016-2017 Conservatory Calendar


  • 3 Concert Bands
  • 2 Orchestras
  • 3 Jazz Ensembles
  • 2 Choirs
  • Solo Voice Program- With concentrations in either Opera and Musical Theater or Jazz as part of a partnership with Lyric Opera of Chicago
  • Piano Program
  • Guitar Program
  • Jazz Combos
  • Instrumental and Vocal Technique Classes
  • Chamber Music
  • Music Theory
  • Electives


The deadline to schedule an audition for the 17-18 academic year has passed. Please contact Merit’s program coordinator to inquire about future dates and enrollment in the Tuition-free Conservatory.


$125 registration fee


Upcoming Conservatory Events

Summer Conservatory Wind Ensemble Begins

Date: Tuesday, June 27th, 2017

Location: Merit School of Music, Joy Faith Knapp Music Center

More Information

View Calendar

Lisamarie, horn

"I enjoy attending Merit because everyone is so welcoming and they have made a difference in my life by bringing me closer to what I love doing!"

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