Inclusion, Diversity, Equity & Antiracism (IDEA)

Merit aims to become a more inclusive, multi-cultural institution that represents the demographics of Chicago.

Our Commitment to IDEA

Merit School of Music aims to be an inclusive, multi-cultural institution that represents the demographics of the City of Chicago and delivers on our mission to remove barriers to excellent music instruction.

As a school that proudly engages students from all neighborhoods across the Chicagoland area, Merit is dedicated to being an antiracist organization.

Reflecting on the racism that pervades our city and beyond, we seek to actively dismantle any biases of our school, and pledge to identify and take a stand against racism in our geographical and musical communities, wherever and however it occurs.

Music-making gives us the opportunity to offer comfort, reflect on the diversity of our experience, and come together during times of change and challenge. We make the commitment to use our resources and platform to challenge the status quo and take concrete daily action in pursuit of this goal.


Merit’s Long-Standing Commitment to IDEA Was Formalized in 2020 with an Action Plan Rooted in Three Main Areas of Focus:


Focus: Conduct training to acquire a shared language around IDEA and begin coalition building focus

We recognize that being a diverse and inclusive organization is a journey that requires discourse, collaboration, and an openness to change. We understand that this journey may not always be comfortable, but we are fully committed to engaging in the process.


  • Implemented antiracism and implicit bias training for all our staff, faculty, and trustees.
  • Conduct ongoing personal and professional development sessions and affinity spaces for all staff and faculty in order to deepen capacity to recognize and interrupt racist attitudes and behaviors that occur around us all.
  • Partner with Enrich Chicago as Cohort Members to remain accountable to the community on our antiracism goals and to receive coaching and ongoing feedback on IDEA initiatives.

Focus: Grow and develop a diverse staff and faculty

We strive to model this ideal by creating and sustaining a diverse, equitable, and inclusive environment for all our employees. We strongly believe that diversity of backgrounds, experiences, and ideas is essential to our success.


  • Implement anti-bias measures in our selection and assessment of candidates to root out skewing towards like hiring like.
  • Provided more transparency (e.g., salary bands, job expectations) for candidates throughout the recruitment process to create greater equity across the candidate pool.
  • Maximized our use of external job boards and internal referrals that attract applicants of color and increase activities that solicit more referrals from current employees.
  • As a result of these efforts, approximately 50% of new hires at Merit are now people of color. Over the past year alone, Merit’s staff and faculty increased to 48% people of color in 2022 vs. 43% people of color in 2021, better reflecting the community we support.

Focus: Diversify the curriculum and strengthen the student experience

We are committed to building a world in which historically underrepresented groups can attain access to quality music education. Simultaneously, Merit is continually working toward becoming an organization that is truly reflective of the demographics of the city and the students we serve. 

Music is foundational across all cultures, and music classrooms are an opportune place where differences and respect of a wide variety of cultures can be recognized, practiced, and celebrated.


  • Assessed the established curriculum to gauge the current state of diversity or lack thereof in course materials.
  • Continually update our curriculum and repertoire performed so it gives students the opportunity to see themselves in the music industry and reflect their lived experiences.
  • Revise the audition process to be more accessible and work to promote greater clarity into how one advances as a Merit student.
  • Encourage students to be co-leaders in their educational experience at Merit and mutual drivers of change.

Listen to Merit’s Spotify Playlists Celebrating Diverse Composers & Artists

Want to Learn More about Merit's Commitment to IDEA?