Merit School of Music

Partnership With Klepak Foundation Makes Amazing Work Possible!

At Merit School of Music, we believe that studying music should be readily available to every child, because music changes lives! But, for many parents across Chicagoland, the barriers to enrolling their children in music classes are just too great. Low-income families are oftentimes excluded from music education due to a lack of access, resources, and funds.

The questions for parents begin to mount: Where can I send my child for lessons? How will I afford the cost? Can I find the time between school and work to take my child to and from lessons? Will renting an instrument be too expensive? Merit steps in to solve these questions, and we are so fortunate to have thoughtful and effective allies in our mission, eliminating barriers to access and equity in music education.

This month, we are tremendously grateful to the Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts for being a part of Merit’s solution to these challenges for families.  Thanks to a generous grant of $250,000 from the foundation, students in our Merit Music in Communities (MMiC) programs at five elementary schools in Chinatown, Humboldt Park, North Austin, and West Town have new and exciting program offerings this year. With the support of the foundation, we have been able to expand our string programs at Ward Elementary, Nobel Elementary, Chopin Elementary and Burbank Elementary, and launch a new voice program at Otis Elementary.

Arianna Halpert, Sr. Program & Grants Manager at The Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts and Meredith Barber, Vice President of the Merit School of Music.

In addition to the expansion of classes and private lessons, we were able to allocate some of the grant funding to purchase highly needed violins, violas, cellos and double basses of all sizes. These instruments are now in the hands of budding MMiC musicians, at no cost. Access to this resource means MMiC students have an instrument to play in class, take home to practice on, and, when they’re ready, to bring with them to our Joy Faith Knapp Music Center in the West Loop for additional instruction!

For families at these schools, Merit programs are there when parents ask, “Where should I send my child for music lessons?” and “How will I find the time with our busy schedules to get them there?” The Merit Music in Communities program meets families where they are—in their schools and neighborhoods! MMiC provides the highest quality music education to over 1,000 students in 24 schools and community centers throughout Chicagoland. Most of these sites are in low-income communities, where the need is greatest.

But, we can’t do this work alone. It’s partners like the Klepak Foundation that help these programs thrive! Ralla Klepak’s vision was to advance world peace by providing performing arts to the disadvantaged and bringing future generations together through a mutual appreciation and love for the performing arts, and with the foundation’s support, we are doing just that.

Merit staff were thrilled to receive new violins, violas, cellos and double basses,  thanks to the Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts which made the purchase of these instruments possible.


The access and opportunities created by high-impact donors like the Ralla Klepak Foundation extends beyond students’ schools where instruction occurs. In December, the talented, motivated children from Chopin and Burbank elementary schools enjoyed the excitement and validation of public performance when ensembles performed a holiday concert at Willis TowerBrian Beach, Merit’s Strings & Orchestra Program Director, shares “for any musician, performing for an audience is an important culmination of all of their hard work. This is especially true for the musical development of young students. We were proud to watch our MMiC students perform at the Willis Tower—an opportunity they would not have been able to be part of without support of their instructors, community, and funders like the Klepak Foundation.”

Increasing access to music education is a community effort. Merit is proud to have the support of the Ralla Klepak Foundation for Education in the Performing Arts, as we work together to make Ralla’s vision of creating world peace through the performing arts a reality.

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