Merit School of Music

Alumni Spotlight: Pamela A. Meadows


Year(s) Attended Merit: 1980 – 1988

Program(s): Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory (Class of 1988)

Instrument(s): Violin

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Education: BA from Grinnell College, Grinnell, IA; M.Ed. from University of Illinois at Chicago

Current profession: Outreach and Recruitment Coordinator at University of Illinois College of Medicine, Chicago Campus

Favorite Merit Teacher(s): Ms. Bernice Ransley — she was tough! She demanded the best performances from all of us in orchestra; her relentless standards pushed me to strive to do better and better. Mr. Sten Halfvarson — one of the nicest, most approachable teachers with his rich, baritone singing voice. He helped me understand music theory, deciphering it in a non-threatening and fun way. Ms. Duffie Adelson — she is the epitome of an invested, compassionate music educator who’s helped thousands of children to find their voices in the world.

Favorite Music Genre(s): My go-to music is jazz. I grew up on the more classic old school jazz—Count Basie, Duke Ellington, Sarah Vaughn, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald. It just speaks to my soul.

How she’s currently involved at Merit: Member of Merit’s Associate Board, and organizer for the Leadership Institute.

Describe the key life skills that Merit helped you to develop and how those skills have helped you succeed in life. Being a Merit student, I shared classrooms with a diverse student body that had a variety of life experiences, which empowered me to socialize with people from all socio-economic backgrounds. Our bond was our love for music, learning and performing to the best of our abilities. Merit facilitated that healthy balance between pursuing learning music as a discipline and celebrating the joy of learning. Those life skills are what I continue to implement in my personal and professional life. As a higher education administrator and student advisor, I frequently give presentations to a student audience to inform them about applying to college, admission processes, etc. I channel the same skills I used as a Merit violinist when I had to perform: to prepare with heart, dedication, and precision, and when it is “show time,” to perform with confidence, and engage the audience with heartfelt emotion and entertain them to the best of my ability. The result is that as a presenter, I am in the moment enjoying the experience, and the audience truly resonates with my performance, providing positive feedback. After the presentation, I remind myself that one is only as good as your last performance; therefore, the discipline to strive to do better is a continuous endeavor in my work ethic.

Thinking back to your days as a Merit student, is there a particular Merit event or concert that stands out in your mind? Perhaps a favorite master class or guest artist performance? I performed with renowned Chicago news anchor and reporter Harry Porterfield, who is also a violinist. He came to visit when Merit was located at the Fine Arts building at 410 S. Michigan. There is a photo of us performing, and it’s hanging currently in Merit–see if you can find it and identify my younger self!

What is the most memorable and/or difficult piece of music that you played as a Merit student? The Vivaldi Concerto for Four Violins in B minor Mvt.1 and the Vivaldi Concerto for Two Violins in A Minor. For the B minor Mvt 1, it is a group of four violin concerti by Italian composer Antonio Vivaldi. In the tenure of my Merit experience, I played all four parts, starting from Violin IV (when I was young beginner) to Violin I. For the Vivaldi Concerto for Two Violins in A Minor, I was selected for the 1st violin part by the time I was a high school senior, graduating from Merit. It was a personal crowning achievement, marking my evolution as a violinist, and is an embedded Merit memory, to be sure!

What prompted you to become more involved with Merit and decide to join the Merit Associate Board? Merit holds some of my best memories of my adolescent life, so I would like to help others have a similar experience. I love what Merit offers, and the opportunities students gain to pursue music as part of their growth as individuals. Duffie Adelson, past Merit President and current Merit Life Trustee, was so kind to grant me the opportunity to “pay it forward” years ago. I volunteered and gave college preparatory workshops so students could be more confident and supported in their next steps after their Merit experience. My involvement with the Merit Associate Board is an extension of that experience. The Merit Associate Board actively cultivates Merit’s mission into a living, breathing reality: providing high-quality music education to students in metropolitan Chicago. We all are like-minded advocates for the musical arts. I love our dedication to develop opportunities and events as well as expand awareness of Merit’s music education programs and services.

You’re playing a key role in Merit’s 2017-2018 Leadership Institute activities. Can you tell us more about the Leadership Institute and what’s in store for students? The Leadership Institute is about preparing students for their journey towards college. It is designed to give insight not just about the overall college application process, but to encourage Merit students to explore which colleges are the right fit for them. Each event offers a personalized experience based on Merit students’ interests. Students interact with Associate Board members who are experts in their field and are excited to help them define and reach their goals. Below are two photos from the recent January 20th Leadership Institute. Some of my fellow Associate Board members led a discussion on “Music Auditions/Music Business” covering topics such as how to make the most of your audition time and the variety of things you can do with a music  degree.


What are some easy ways that Merit alumni can re-connect with the School? Just call, email, reach out. I asked how I could contribute, and the rewards have been immeasurable. Connect through the special Merit Alumni Facebook Group for news updates. So many events exist for alumni to participate in, whether if it is to socialize, volunteer, or visit Merit’s Peoria Street location. Alums could also consider joining the Associate Board which meets regularly and has a variety of special events and “Friend-Raisers” such as the Hopewell Brewery event last fall, Kuma’s Corner and Kuma’s Too events coming up in March, and, of course, Merit’s fantastic Gala in June. Merit has such heart, and the organization has a wealth of new opportunities that did not exist before. With alumni engagement and participation, we can inspire and support Merit towards further greatness together.

To learn more about Merit’s Associate Board, contact Cathy Wloch at 312-676-3692 or [email protected].

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