Our History

Our History

Merit is founded on the belief that talent is distributed in every neighborhood, on every street, and on every city block of the world, but the opportunity to develop those talents are provided only to the privileged few.

In 1979, two pioneering women sought to fight that inequality when budget cuts in the Chicago Public Schools eliminated arts and music programming from the schools’ curricula. That year, Alice Pfaelzer and Emma Endres-Kountz founded the MERIT Music Program with an inaugural cohort of 150 students receiving weekend instruction at no cost.

Forty years later, Merit School of Music has provided access to instruction to tens of thousands of talented youth, offering them the opportunity to be permanently transformed by music.

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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