The National Youth Orchestra = The Summer of a Lifetime for Two Merit Students

This summer, two Merit Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory students had the experience of a lifetime. After completing a rigorous application process, Irene Castillo, violin, and Rafael Noriega, bass trombone, were invited by Carnegie Hall’s Weill Music Institute to join the National Youth Orchestra of the United States (NYO). The program brings together the brightest young … Continued

Merit Wind Symphony Performs at University of Illinois

At Merit School of Music, we know that an excellent music education can change a child's life. But what exactly do we mean by "excellent"? Our skilled, experienced teaching artists and rigorous curriculum are a huge part of it. However, the once-in-a-lifetime concerts, masterclasses, competitions, and trips that we expose students to are also key … Continued

What Would Duffie Do: A Celebration of Duffie Adelson

Since 1982, Duffie A. Adelson has dedicated her life to the students and the mission of Merit School of Music. As their mentor and role model, countless friends, students, and colleagues have routinely asked themselves, "What would Duffie do?" To make a gift in honor of Duffie, visit and direct your support to the … Continued

Student Stories: “A Better Dream of Myself”

Merit School of Music believes in the transformative power of music. Hear from four of our students whose lives have been changed by the access our school provides them to intensive, excellent music education. Support our mission by making a donation today. Make your gift at

THIS MY JAM: Mr. Steven Gooden

What's your jam? Watch as our students and faculty share some of their favorites through this new video series. In the first episode of THIS MY JAM, Symphonic Band conductor Steven Gooden shares his love for "Blue Ocean Floor" by Justin Timberlake.

Heroes: Role Models in Music

Mentorship matters! This year, Mr. Gooden's Proviso Mathematics & Science Academy band spent a day speaking, teaching, and playing for younger Merit students -- showing them how heroes help us set high goals and reach them. "They see me, who looks like them, come in and play all these instruments. And they say, 'Here's a … Continued

Pass On Music: A Merit Donor’s Story

Friend of Merit Diana Leifer supported music education in a way that made sense to her, proving that EVERY. GIFT. COUNTS. To make your own personal gift, visit or explore additional ways to support Merit on our Ways to Give page.

3 Merit Musicians Participate in NYO-USA’s Summer Tour

    This summer, three Merit musicians were selected to participate in the Weill Institute of Music’s National Youth Orchestra of the United States (NYO-USA) programs and experienced extraordinary performance opportunities, like the chance to play in Carnegie Hall, go on tour, and travel throughout Asia with their orchestra. Quincey Trojanowski, a senior bassoonist, performed with … Continued

ComEd Volunteers Help Beautify Partner School

    On August 8, fifteen enthusiastic members of ComEd’s awesome Strategy and Technology team, directed by Merit Trustee Jennifer Montague, volunteered their time and muscle to organize the music room at Pilsen’s Whittier Elementary Dual Language School and put a fresh coat of paint on the cafeteria walls. Whittier is a long-standing member of … Continued

Alumni Spotlight: Emily & Samuel Alvelo

Meet Merit Alum Siblings Emily Alvelo & Samuel Alvelo Year(s) Attended Merit: EMILY: 1991 to 2001 SAMUEL: 1991 to 1996 Program(s): EMILY: Private Lessons Program and Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory Class of 2001 SAMUEL: Merit Music in Communities (formerly Bridges) and Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory   Instrument(s): EMILY: Cello and Voice (I also … Continued