Co-Founder; Executive Director
(1979 – 1992)
Co-Founder; Artistic Director
(1979 – 1983)
When arts programming in Chicago Public Schools was under threat in the 1970s, 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.
More than 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 expands to Dearborn Station to engage more students.
Merit moves to its own home, the Joy Faith Knapp Music Center in the West Loop.
Funded by the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation, Merit creates its first daily, intensive off-site program at Carson Elementary in Gage Park.
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.