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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 2022

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

Pie chart of Merit's student demographics