Merit School of Music

Charles Grode

President & Executive Director


Northwestern University, MA, Theatre History
Lawrence University, BM, Theatre & Drama

West Central Association – Member, Board of Directors
Economic Club of Chicago – Member
Strategic Perspectives in Nonprofit Management participant – Harvard Business School, Summer 2019


Charlie Grode is a seasoned leader in arts and education, with more than 25 years’ experience in organizational, relationship, resource and staff development. He is happy and proud to serve as Merit’s President & Executive Director since 2015.

Charlie was born in Kaukauna, Wisconsin and lives in Chicago’s West Loop neighborhood—a short walk from Merit’s Joy Faith Knapp Music Center—with his wife, Heidi, their cat Bixby, and their Westie, Pearl. He is an avid runner.

Favorite Musicians:

My wife and I love Pink Martini, which is really a little orchestra, rather than a band. No words can better describe why we love them than those of the group’s bandleader and pianist, Thomas Lauderdale:

“Pink Martini is a rollicking around-the-world musical adventure…if the United Nations had a house band in 1962, hopefully we’d be that band.”

“We’re very much an American band, but we spend a lot of time abroad and therefore have the incredible diplomatic opportunity to represent a broader, more inclusive America…the America which remains the most heterogeneously populated country in the world…composed of people of every country, every language, every religion. Except for Native Americans, all of us are immigrants from every country, of every language, of every religion.”