Introducing Our New Faculty

A collage of three new faculty members' headshots: Chad Polk, Lillia Woolschlager, and Everardo Sanchez.

This school year, Merit School of Music is proud to introduce 10 incredible new instructors to our faculty. Whether they are teaching group classes and private lessons, working with the Alice S. Pfaelzer Conservatory, or representing Merit in local schools through Merit Music in Communities, we are so excited to welcome some of Chicago’s finest teaching artists.

Get to know a few of our new faculty members and their roles here at Merit!

Cello Faculty – The Alice S. Pfaelzer Conservatory, Private Lessons

Eva María Barbado Gutiérrez was born in León (Spain). She holds a bachelor’s degree from the Higher Conservatory of Music of Castile and Leon (Spain), where she studied with Aldo Mata with the prestigious Professor María de Macedo. She received her diploma in Cello Performance and Professional Diploma in Orchestral Studies from Roosevelt University, studying under the supervision of Richard Hirschl and John Sharp and currently the Assistant Principal Cellist of the Opera Festival of Chicago. In addition, she was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, where she was able to work with world-class conductors such as Riccardo Muti, Jaap Van Sweden, Ken-David Masur, Emmanuel Krivine, and Rafael Payaré. As a member of this group, she was part of educational and community engagement programs that allowed her to work with young cellists and guide them in their musical journey, nurturing their skills and fostering a deep love for music. In March 2020, she performed in a cello quartet at Symphony Center with Yo-Yo Ma. She has also collaborated with orchestras such as the Chicago Philharmonic, Orchestra Iowa, San Antonio Opera and Ballet, and Castile and Leon Symphony Orchestra, among others.  Ms. Barbado is dedicated to promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion in the music community and creating a welcoming space for all students.

Guitar Faculty – Instrumental & Vocal Music, Private Lessons

“Music helps us develop flexibility and creativity, both things I think help us get in touch with ourselves on a deeper level to enjoy our lives.”

Gabrielle McCarthy received her Bachelor’s in Classical Guitar Performance at Northwestern University. She gained new insights in technique and pedagogy under the instruction of Anne Waller as well as through master classes she attended featuring Oscar Ghiglia, Anton Baranov, Hopkinson Smith, and Jason Vieaux. Through these experiences, Gabrielle discovered that her passion expanded beyond simply playing and ventured into sharing and teaching music. She currently plays in bands around the Chicagoland area and is finishing her master’s degree in Guitar Pedagogy at Northeastern Illinois University.

Piano Faculty – Instrumental & Vocal Music, Private Lessons

“I believe an artistic education is one of the most important things to give to a young person, as it will give them the tools to expand their minds and souls, to express themselves in a way that is meaningful to them, and to appreciate the art that was produced by the great minds of the past.”

Originally from Monterrey, Mexico, Héctor Melicoff’s passion for piano began when he was only four years old when his mother began to teach him how to play, and it has persisted ever since. He has built a reputation in Mexico as one of the brightest pianists of his generation through his numerous appearances in concerts and competitions, particularly during the First International Xalapa Piano Festival 2018, where he obtained the first prize by unanimous decision of the jury. He has also performed alongside famous conductors such as Phillipe Entremont and Rodolfo Barráez. His teachers include Dr. Robert Roux—highly regarded for his decades of experience as a professor of professional pianists—and renowned Mexican pianist Jorge Federico Osorio. He has been teaching professionally since 2017 and is committed to cultivating his students’ love for music by focusing on strong fundamentals and a mastery of a variety of skills related to the pianistic profession, such as sight reading and improvisation.

Cello Faculty – Merit Music in Communities, Private Lessons

Originally from Boston, Chad Polk is a cello teacher, orchestral player, and chamber musician. Chad’s primary teachers have consisted of world-renowned soloist and chamber musician Sharon Robinson, as well as Stephen Balderston, former Assistant Principal of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Chad also received long-term Suzuki Pedagogy training from acclaimed teacher-trainer Abbey Hansen and has continued to teach throughout Chicago in addition to Cleveland and Boston. Chad started cello at the age of six as a member of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestra’s Intensive Community Program, which provides children from historically excluded communities the opportunity to learn an instrument, driving him to always want to support the next generation of musicians from similar backgrounds. When Chad is not playing the cello, he spends his time poorly singing along to his favorite R&B, pop, and hip-hop divas.

Cello Faculty – Merit Music in Communities, Private Lessons

“I wanted to join Merit because I was seeing all the amazing music that was coming from the school and I knew I had to be a part of it! The past couple of weeks have been wonderful, filled with great private lessons and amazing group classes. I look forward to a great year at Merit!”

Born and raised in El Paso, Texas, Everado first started learning flute at the age of 11before switching to cello in his teenaged years. Everardo graduated with his Bachelor’s degree in Cello Performance from Chicago College of Performing Arts (CCPA) at Roosevelt University and completed an additional Performance Diploma in May of 2021 where he studied with Dr. Tanya Carey. Everardo received his master’s degree from DePaul University under the guidance of Professor Stephen Balderston in June 2023. They have completed Suzuki teacher training in Cello Books 1-10 of the Suzuki Method with Dr. Tanya Carey and Avi Friedlander. During their teacher training, they received instruction on how to engage students, maintain a profound and professional bond with parents and students, and engage a range of all ages.  Everardo is currently a member of the faculty at the Music Institute of Chicago, Merit School of Music, and Urban Prairie Waldorf School located in Pilsen.

Away from the cello, Everardo loves to tend to his many plants, make coffee with his espresso machine, read, cook, and go on very long bike rides around the city.

Piano Faculty – Merit Music in Communities, Instrumental & Vocal Music, Private Lessons

“All of the skills gained in learning how to make music are part of the process that gives each student a toolbox of elements to use to express their emotions, paint a picture, or portray an atmosphere to any listener.”

As a freelance musician and teaching artist, Lillia has performed with various groups including Northbrook Symphony, Battle Creek Symphony, Oistrakh Symphony, 5th Wave Collective, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.  She has performed with Chicago’s Classical Music Chicago Foundation as part of the Rush Hour concert series, collaborating with world-renowned oboist Alex Klein, and performed as part of the Dame Myra Hess Concert Series with many outstanding musicians. She is an accomplished collaborative pianist, accompanying local university students and professional musicians throughout the city.

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