Merit’s New “Emerging Artists Chicago Scholarship Fund” Emerges as a Winner

“Growing up, my father always encouraged my passion for classical music. Although I never progressed to the level of playing professionally, my time spent with [my] youth symphony orchestra was fulfilling and unforgettable. My experience went beyond learning to play the violin—it was made more meaningful by the lessons I learned and the friends I made along the way. Our support for Merit School of Music is my way of giving back to the musical community, as well as honoring my family’s love for music.”

– John Fife, Chicago philanthropist & co-founder of Emerging Artists Chicago

When the pandemic took over her students’ daily routines, Mio Nakamura, who founded Emerging Artists Chicago along with John Fife, recognized the challenges that would face musical teaching and performance in a world that required physical distance from each other. Mio, a native of Kyoto, Japan, and a graduate of Roosevelt University’s Chicago College of Performing Arts, saw a communal need for support from the music world. “I always wanted to do something to help the Chicago community through music. [Emerging Artists] began right after COVID-19 started because we were so separated from each other. I wanted to make some moments that could bring [people] together.” Mio’s partnership with her longtime friend, entrepreneur John Fife, allowed her vision to support the human connection of music through unprecedented times to become a reality by creating Emerging Artists Chicago.

Through Emerging Artists, Mio was able to produce virtual concerts, friendly music competitions, and build community amongst musicians whose worlds were upended due to the pandemic. “[After] realizing how much we enjoyed being together virtually, we realized we wanted to do something to help others. So, John and I decided to expand Emerging Artists to support other [music] schools,” shares Mio. Knowing how committed Merit School of Music is to young artists, Emerging Artists created a five-year financial commitment to support fifteen scholarships for young musicians’ group and private lessons through Merit’s robust financial aid program. Music lessons would be cost-prohibitive for these students without this newly designated Emerging Artists Chicago Scholarship Fund.

Mio Nakamura (center), Emerging Artists Chicago’s Co-Founder, with Charles Grode (left), Merit School of Music’s President & Executive Director, and Meredith Barber (right), Merit’s Vice President for Development & Marketing.


Emerging Artists aspires to create a meaningful local and global impact on the music world. For Mio, this comes together in a multitude of ways: “I am a performing artist, both as a soloist and a collaborating pianist, so I serve my community in that way, through my music, pretty regularly. But there’s a limit to what I can do. Through Emerging Artists and by giving scholarships to Merit, we thought we could help even more people.” Both Emerging Artists and Merit School of Music are part of the human connection behind what makes music so meaningful. As our world grows and changes, playing music, composing music, and experiencing music is essential.

For Mio, “Music is a universal language. It just goes to your soul. It’s easy for schools to cut music programs for budgetary reasons, but without music, I don’t think we can survive emotionally and spiritually. We often forget this, but the limitations we had during COVID reminded me of how much we need [music]. It’s not something we can ignore or cut.”

We sincerely thank John Fife, Mio Nakamura, and Emerging Artists Chicago for being an integral part of the local and global music community, and especially, for being part of the Merit family.

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