Merit Ends Year Trumpeting Top Students, Underscoring Benefits of an Excellent Music Education

With the end of the 2016-17 academic year, Merit School of Music is tossing its mortar board high, celebrating the nearly 5,000 area children and teens who received high-quality music education through two of Merit’s signature programs.

Thousands of Chicago children at nearly 30 public and private schools and community centers in all corners of the city began their musical journey via Merit Music in Communities, Merit’s community-based instructional program.

Additionally, a select group of Merit’s most accomplished students from across the region auditioned into the school’s most advanced program, Merit’s Alice S. Pfaezler Tuition-Free Conservatory. This program provided conservatory-level training to an economically and ethnically diverse cross section of nearly 350 students this year, free of charge, at Merit’s Joy Faith Knapp Music Center, 38 S. Peoria St. in Chicago’s West Loop.

In May, Merit awarded diplomas to 55 graduating Conservatory seniors. Virtually 100% will continue their music studies at colleges, universities and music conservatories. The outstanding successes of select students demonstrate Merit’s deep impact – how it transforms the lives of Chicago youth by removing barriers to high-quality music education:

KGT Woodwind Trio takes first place in two national competitions in May

For the second year in a row, Merit’s KGT Woodwind Trio – Madeline Deanne (flute), Amer Hasan (clarinet) and Quincey Trojanowski (bassoon) – capped the year by taking first place in the nation’s largest chamber music competition, the annual Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition at Notre Dame University, winning the American Brass Quintet Wind Prize.

KGT also won first place and a $5,000 cash prize in the University of Michigan’s M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition, Winds-Junior Division, along with second place, wind division, and the Merit Ensemble Award at Merit’s fifth annual A.N. and Pearl G. Barnett Chamber Music Competition.

Flutist Madeline Deanne, age 18, is a resident of Evergreen Park and just graduated from Evergreen Park Community High School. After graduation, Deanne will attend Western Michigan University where she will major in flute performance.

Clarinetist Amer Hasan,18, performed live on WFMT Radio’s Introductions as the show’s featured guest on June 17. Hasan lives in Tinley Park and just graduated from Carl Sandburg High School. This summer, Hasan is joining the National Youth Orchestra of the USA, a group organized by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute, which will present a performance by the ensemble in conjunction with a tour to Latin America this summer. * This fall, Hasan will continue his studies at Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Bassoonist Quincey Trojanowski, 16, lives in Hillside and just completed her sophomore year at Hillside School. This spring, Trojanowski played as principal bassoon in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Youth in Music Festival Orchestra led by Riccardo Muti. Trojanowski looks forward to returning to Merit’s Conservatory for her junior year.

“KGT Woodwind Trio had an amazing run in their two years together. They really grew as an ensemble, culminating in their memorizing 45 minutes of some of the most difficult chamber music written for woodwind trio,” said their Merit coach, Timothy Riordan. “In addition to winning several competitions and awards together, they also had many individual accomplishments this year. Quincey won top prize in Merit’s Private Lesson Scholarship competition, Amer was appointed principal clarinet in the Carnegie Hall-sponsored National Youth Orchestra, and Maddy was selected for an Honors ensemble at Illinois All State.”

*Note: Merit Conservatory viola student Steven Baloue, an 11th grader from Roseland/Pullman, will also perform and tour this summer in the National Youth Orchestra of the USA.

Jazz vocalist Kopano Muhammad is a 2017 National YoungArts Foundation Merit winner

This year, South Shore’s Kopano Muhammad, 18, a Merit vocal student and graduating senior from Whitney Young High School, was named a 2017 National YoungArts Foundation Merit winner in Jazz Voice. She is one 691 of the nation’s most promising young artists in the literary, visual, design and performing arts representing 40 states. YoungArts Winners receive cash awards, mentorship and training from acclaimed artists, opportunities to participate in YoungArts programs and guidance in taking important steps toward achieving their artistic goals.

Muhammad has studied voice for seven years at Merit with Jade Maze. “Look out world! Kopano is a student with a brashness that matches her talent,” said Maze. “She is a well informed, socially conscious young woman who is determined to make a difference. I am certain she will succeed in anything she puts her mind to.”

In the fall, Muhammad is off to Oberlin College to study sociology and economics.

Merit’s Bone Rangers trombone quintet shakes, rattles and rolls to big wins

Merit’s award-winning trombone quartet, the Bone Rangers – featuring tromobonists Omar Tlatelpa Nieto (grade 11, Lansing), Karl Kirkpatrick (grade 11, Mundelein) and Jonah Blake
(grade 10, Chicago) and Michael Turner on bass trombone (grade 12, Chicago) – won several competitions in 2016-17.

The quintet took first in the open division at the Midwest Young Artists Conservatory Discover National Chamber Music Competition, and second place, wind division, behind Merit’s KGT Woodwind Trio at the 44th Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.

“The Bone Rangers continued their tradition of excellence in 2017, winning the open division other instruments category at the Discover National Chamber Music Competition and second prize at the 2017 M-Prize. They also participated in master classes I led at Lawrence University,” said their coach Timothy Riordan. “Omar sat principal trombone in the Illinois All State Honors Orchestra and Karl sat first chair in the All State Honors Band. Michael, who has been a student at Merit since the age of nine, was offered several full-tuition scholarships to top music schools and will attend Eastman School of Music in the fall.”

Merit piano prodigy Joshua Mhoon off to study at the New England Conservatory

Fourteen-year-old piano prodigy Joshua Mhoon is one of Merit’s most accomplished young students. During Mhoon’s five years at Merit’s Conservatory, he has studied with Lang Lang in Vienna, played live on WTTW-TV and WFMT-FM, been featured on ABC7’s Windy City Live as an “amazing Chicago kid,” played live at two Merit galas, and guest performed in countless venues ranging from Chicago’s United Center to New York’s Lincoln Center.

Mhoon is a resident of Arlington Heights and attended Quest Academy in Palatine. Oh yes, he’s a member of Mensa, too.

Mhoon’s accelerated studies have precipitated a move to the East Coast, where he will attend the Walnut Hill School of the Arts in Natick, MA, and study piano at the famed New England Conservatory. However, when he’s home from school on breaks he promises to return to Merit on Saturdays to check in and play with his fellow Conservatory classmates.

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