Abril and her family arrived home just as the man was climbing out her bedroom window. Furniture was overturned, the TV was gone, and Abril’s parents worried that their children wouldn’t be safe in their own beds that night. Abril and her siblings went to a friend’s house to sleep, but she lay awake until morning.
Abril’s mother picked her up the next day with more bad news – the family’s music books had gone missing during the break-in. Twelve-year-old Abril was visibly shaken.
“You don’t have to go to Merit today,” her mother told her. Abril shook her head. She wasn’t going to miss her classes.
Nearly five years after the break-in, Abril still remembers what brought her comfort during that difficult summer. “I was in the middle of piano camp, and I knew I needed to go. I wanted to be at Merit,” she recalls.
Abril’s teacher, Mr. Norris, knew something was wrong the moment he saw her. She was wearing the same clothes from the day before, and she didn’t have any of her music. He asked her what happened and, through tears, she explained.
“He listened and was so kind,” says Abril. “He told me they would find me some books and made me feel like everything would be ok. I went to all of my classes. And I was right – even though I was tired and scared, coming to Merit and playing piano made me feel so much better.”
Life Before Merit
Abril grew up with an abundance of music in her home. Her father was always listening to something new – classical music, rock songs, mariachi. Many evenings Abril’s mother would sit down at the small organ in the living room and play. Abril’s parents had always wanted their family to experience the transformative power of music education, but they weren’t sure they could afford lessons for three children. Then a friend told Abril’s mother about Merit School of Music and dreams of lessons and music education for Abril and her siblings were back on the table.
“We’re a low-income household. Music lessons are the last thing you want to give up, but sometimes they’re the first thing that has to go,” explains Abril.“Merit made sure that my family didn’t have to make that tough decision.”
Going Beyond Music
Abril studied piano at Merit for nearly a decade. She took weekly private lessons and was accepted into Merit’s prestigious Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory. But Abril’s time at Merit was about even more than learning music. Studying piano put her on track for a lifetime of success. “Merit helped me become the person I am today. I’ve learned to fully dedicate myself to everything I do. I’m very focused.”
Now a student at the University of Illinois, Abril still finds time to play piano even when she’s busy studying graphic design. Her two siblings, both gifted violinists at Merit, hope to follow in their sister’s footsteps.
Merit has given Abril and thousands of other young artists the opportunity to be mentored by some of the country’s top music teachers and supported by a vibrant peer community. By providing access to high-quality music education, Merit broadens horizons and helps Chicago’s young people realize their immense potential.
Abril’s mother knows that a commitment to excellence and accessibility sets Merit apart from other music schools. “I don’t have the words to express what Merit means to my family. Thanks to the generous donors of Merit, I have a place where my kids can learn music,” she says. “Without support, my family would never be able to participate in these life-changing programs.”
Merit’s supporters ensure that Chicago’s talented student musicians have a place to thrive and grow, regardless of economic circumstance. Please consider making a tax-deductible gift to Merit School of Music today.