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.
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 String Orchestra Concert

Date: Wednesday, July 26th, 2017
Time: 7:30 pm

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

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Summer Wind Ensemble Concert

Date: Tuesday, August 8th, 2017
Time: 7:00 pm

Location: Welles Park

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Into the Woods, Jr.!

Date: Saturday, August 19th, 2017
Time: 7:00 pm

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

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View Calendar

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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