Merit’s Tuition-free Conservatory Students to Offer 12 Hours of Live Music at Free Performathon Fundraiser, February 24 & 25

More than 300 talented young musicians – the most accomplished students at Chicago’s Merit School of Music – will play more than 100 free performances over 12 hours at Performathon, a marathon concert and fundraiser, Friday, February 24 from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday, February 25, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Music lovers of all ages are invited to come to the Joy Faith Knapp Center, 38 S. Peoria St., Merit’s home in Chicago’s West Loop, to be amazed and inspired by Merit’s most talented young musicians and ensembles performing on two stages, over two days. For the weekend’s full schedule, visit or call (312) 786-9428.

No matter when you stop by to enjoy live jazz and classical music, Performathon also serves up pizza on Friday night, delicious Ethnic Food Fair on Saturday, Merit merchandise sales, and a raffle for three terrific prizes: a Martin D-18 Dreadnought acoustic guitar from Chicago Music Exchange (retail value $2,500), a new Prime Alloy track bike with accessories and two years’ maintenance from Big City Bikes ($500) and a $75 gift certificate to Wishbone Restaurant. Proceeds support Merit’s mission to transform the lives of Chicago-area youth through removing barriers to a high-quality music education.

All of the performers are enrolled in Merit School of Music’s Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory, home to Chicago’s most committed, passionate and disciplined young music students. For 26 Saturdays during the school year, student musicians from all corners of the city and every socioeconomic background come to Merit’s West Loop facility to share their love of music and receive instruction from Chicago’s finest music instructors, all on a tuition-free basis. Highlights from Merit’s roster of individual players and ensembles appearing live at Performathon include:

Piano soloist Oscar Basza

Basza, from Arlington Heights and a 10th grader at Rolling Meadows High School, recently won Merit’s Concerto Competition.

Piano soloist Joshua Mhoon 

Joshua Mhoon, a top piano student at Merit, has played with Yo Yo Ma, the Chicago Sinfonietta, and legendary pianist Ramsey Lewis, among others. Mhoon was one of only ten young pianists worldwide selected to study with internationally renowned pianist Lang Lang last year in Vienna, Austria. He recently returned from studying with Germany’s top music instructors, and performing concerts in Germany and Ireland. He is a resident of Arlington Heights, an 8th-grader at Quest Academy in Palatine, and a member of Mensa.

Kopano Muhammed and the Vocal Jazz Ensemble

Kopano Muhammed is a senior at Whitney Young High School, a resident of Chicago’s Jackson Park Neighborhood, and a young jazz vocalist on the brink of a promising future. She recently was named a 2017 National YoungArts Foundation Merit winner in Jazz Voice.

Vocal soloist Jack Rasmussen

Rasmussen, from Hinsdale and a senior at Hinsdale Central High School, was recently selected to participate in a master class with Renée Fleming as part of Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Chicago Voices Expert Panels and Master Classes. Rasmussen will attend NYU after graduation to pursue a degree in music theater.

Bone Rangers Trombone Quartet

Jonah Blake (Grade 10, Chicago), Karl Kirkpatrick (Grade 11, Mundelein), Omar Tlatelpa-Nieto (Grade 11, Lansing), and Michael Turner (Grade 12, Chicago) have performed at Grant Park Music Festival, the Grant Park Music Festival Gala, and the National Guild for Community Arts Education Conference.

KGT Woodwind Trio

Maddy Deanne, flute (grade 12, Evergreen Park), Amer Hasan, clarinet (grade 12, Tinley Park) and Quincey Trojanowski, bassoon (grade 10, Hillside) won the prestigious 2016 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition Junior Division Wind Prize last May.

All of Merit’s Conservatory students were selected by audition and attend Merit on a tuition-free basis. The education they receive, valued at $2,500 per year, is provided with no financial obligation thanks in part to fundraisers like Merit’s annual Performathon.

As a result, incredibly accomplished students from all corners of the city and every socioeconomic background are able to convene at Merit on Saturdays to perform in large ensembles, take instrumental, vocal technique and music theory classes, and electives including chamber music, composition and piano for future college music majors. Virtually 100% of the conservatory’s graduating seniors are accepted into college, and many continue their music studies at top universities and music conservatories.

Now in its 35th year, Performathon is the largest annual fundraiser sponsored by the Merit Parent Association and relies on dozens of parent volunteers to raise funds to sustain Merit’s Tuition-free Conservatory remains tuition-free.

William Blair is the Presenting Sponsor of Performathon 2017, which is presented in memory of Dick Kiphart, who passed away in September 2016. Kiphart served as a Merit Trustee beginning in 1998, he was Board chair from 2001-2005 and he was particularly devoted to Performathon. His leadership made a critical difference in achieving Merit’s goal for its capital campaign, which raised nearly $20 million to create Merit’s current facility, the Joy Faith Knapp Music Center, as well as to establish an endowment for the school.


« Back to Press Releases