Starting the Year on a High Note: A Letter from the Dean

letter from the dean

Dear fellow music-lovers,

Welcome to Merit School of Music’s 2022-2023 Academic Year! I can hardly wait to walk down the halls of Merit’s Joy Faith Knapp Music Center and visit our community partner sites across the city to hear the sounds of young people making music! Some will be starting their musical journey for the first time. Others will be finding new and inspired ways to refine their musical craft. Either way, one thing we hear time and time again from students and parents alike is:

Merit is home.

Merit is where our students meet “their people”, feel safe and supported, find themselves, and discover they’re capable of accomplishing things they once never thought possible. Though we all come from different neighborhoods and walks of life, music brings us together. So, welcome back and welcome home. We’re absolutely thrilled to have YOU in the Merit family.

Here are just a few of the highlights we’re looking forward to sharing with you this year:

New Residencies: Lyric Opera of Chicago, Music of the Baroque, & More

The new Conservatory year kicks off on September 24 accompanied by an impressive set of new residencies:

  • Enrique Mazzola, Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Music Director – Advanced Choir and Orchestra students will have the chance to work with Maestro Mazzola through a series of workshops, visits, and rehearsals, all leading up to an open rehearsal for students and families on November 19.
  • Nicholas Kraemer, Music of the Baroque’s Principal Guest Conductor – Members of Merit Philharmonic will rehearse under the direction of Maestro Kraemer and showcase all they’ve learned through a collaborative performance with Music of the Baroque musicians. This was a success last school year that we are delighted to repeat.
  • Peter Slowik, Oberlin Conservatory of Music’s Head of String Department & Viola Professor – One of the world’s most acclaimed artist-teachers of viola, Slowik will visit Conservatory every 3-4 weeks to work directly with Orchestra students of all experience levels.

Play On Returns

Play On, Merit’s annual benefit concert hosted by our Associate Board, returns to City Winery on Tuesday, November 8. We’re over the moon that Merit alum, producer, and Grammy award-winning musician Peter CottonTale will headline this year’s event. Our Conservatory Honors Jazz Ensemble will perform as the opening act. Learn more and buy tickets (starting at just $25).

Expanding Our Community Partner Programs

Merit’s community-based programming, Merit Music in Communities (MMIC), provides transformative music education in schools and community centers across the city. From Bronzeville to Humboldt Park to Uptown and more, we are delighted to bring music education to hundreds of new students this year. Tremendous thanks to our institutional funders who support our Merit Music in Communities programs, making so much of this expansion possible.

Sensory-Friendly Concert

Merit will host its first Sensory-Friendly Concert specifically geared to audience members with sensory processing issues and/or special needs, such as autism, ADHD, and other needs, in our West Loop Music Center on Saturday, February 25. Keep an eye out for more details to come!

Free Instrument Exploration Workshops

Figuring out what instrument to play as a beginner can be complicated! This summer we introduced young music-lovers to a host of instruments through our free Instrument Exploration! Workshops. These fun and educational workshops for kids and teens ages 4-13 provide the chance to explore various age-appropriate instruments and pick the one that is right for them and their personal musical journey. Stay tuned for upcoming dates!

Save the Date: Gala 2023

Mark your calendars for Wednesday, May 17 when Merit’s Gala 2023 returns to the Four Seasons Chicago for a night of celebrating the power of music education and beautiful student performances.

The new school year brings new music and, with that, new friendships and new accomplishments. Whether you are a student, parent, or longtime friend, I look forward to meeting you in the halls of Merit soon. It’s going to be a great year!

See you soon,

Kurtis Gildow Headshot Signature

Kurtis Gildow
Dean & Vice President for Educational Affairs