In response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the CDC’s current recommendations, Merit School of Music has closed the Joy Faith Knapp Music Center and suspended all in-person activities. Virtual options are now available for summer camps, private lessons, Early Childhood classes, and small group classes. We thank you for your understanding and continued support during this unprecedented situation.

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Faculty & Staff

Carling FitzSimmons

Piano Program Manager; Ensemble Director: Conservatory, Concert, & Children's Choirs, Mixed Chorus; Faculty: Private Voice


Kenyon College
B.A., Music and English



Soprano Carling FitzSimmons grew up surrounded by the sounds of her music-loving parents – from Handel to 10,000 Maniacs. She could hum Beethoven’s Pastorale by age four. This environment provided the basis on which to cultivate her own musical tastes after she joined a choir and learned how transformative music can be. She credits her “fantastic teachers” for guiding her down the musical path and, today, finds no greater pleasure than helping others experience the same joy and power of music.

Ms. FitzSimmons teaches in Merit’s Instrumental Music choirs – the Children’s Choir and Mixed Chorus. She is also the choir conductor at Burley Elementary School in Chicago, through Merit’s in-school music program. She equates singing in a choir to team sports; everyone must contribute. As the team’s coach, Ms. FitzSimmons teaches the full discipline of vocal music, from correct posture to healthy tone production to music theory. She sets the bar high and teaches students to enjoy the process. In return, they exceed her expectations every time.

Outside of Merit, Ms. FitzSimmons is the co-founder and artistic director of La Caccina, a professional treble a cappella ensemble in Chicago. She performs regularly around Chicago, appearing with various ensembles. She also teaches directing, playwriting, sketch comedy and improvisation at Northwestern University’s Center for Talent Development.

Ms. FitzSimmons has a Bachelor of Arts in English and music from Kenyon College in Ohio, where she studied voice with Dr. Nancy Jantsch and conducting with Dr. Benjamin Locke. She currently studies voice with Martha Swisher.

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“The Merit community is so supportive. I love that the administration is willing to take risks to ensure that our kids are getting the best music education possible.”