Since 1979, Merit has engaged thousands of Chicagoland youth through equal access to high-quality music education.

The Change We Create

Merit transforms the lives of our students both musically and personally:

Musical knowledge and instrumental technique

Fortified work ethic and increased self-discipline

Heightened teamwork and collaboration skills

A lifelong love and engagement with music

A more successful human being

Our mission to remove barriers to high-quality music education access ensures that students can benefit from these life-enhancing programs no matter their background.

Why Music Education Matters

Music is a means of expression, creativity, and communication, enabling individuals to connect with something larger than themselves.

Access to and engagement in high-quality music instruction engenders a wide range of positive musical and extra-musical outcomes.

Oboe player during an ensemble practice
  • Increased confidence and independence

  • Higher grades—an average of 17% in math and 19% in English

  • 24% more likely to graduate

  • Can better manage anxiety and express their emotions

By the Numbers

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students engaged annually

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Conservatory graduates accepted to college


Chicago-area partner sites

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financial aid and student support

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students learning at a reduced or no cost


esteemed teaching artists

Serving All of Chicagoland

In bringing together music students from 139+ zip codes, we foster a community that supports diversity, equity, inclusion, and a sense of belonging.

merit zip code map
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Merit’s Joy Faith Knapp Music Center

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Merit students come from these Chicago neighborhoods

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Merit students come from these suburban locations

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Merit Music in Communities sites as of fall 2023

We proudly engage a student body as vibrant and diverse as the city of Chicago itself.

Pie chart of Merit's student demographics: 31% Latinx, 10% Black, 21% Asian, 11% Information unavailable, 21% White, 6% Multiracial

What Our Students Are Saying

Our Alums

Two students studying sheet music together


of Conservatory graduates attend college

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study music

A merit student studying music in the hallway


study STEM fields

Merit students on their graduation day receiving applause


are the first in their family to go to college

Give the Gift of Music!

Your support transforms the lives of young musicians across Chicagoland.

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