Strings Classes, Lessons, & Orchestra

Whether you’re the first chair in your high school’s orchestra or are just getting started with music, Merit’s celebrated Strings faculty are here to help unlock your full potential.

For over 40 years, Merit students have made All-State, gone on to attend some of the country’s best music conservatories, pursued careers as teaching artists and performers, and gained the confidence to chase their dreams in music and beyond.

Merit offers Strings classes, ensembles, workshops, camps, and private lessons for the following instruments:

  • Bass
  • Cello
  • Viola
  • Violin
A quartet of bass players rehearsing in a group class

Programs for Musicians of All Levels

Hone your skills and technique, build confidence, and forge life-long friendships in group classes and ensembles. Beginners welcome!

Work one-on-one with skilled and supportive faculty to explore your individual talents and musical interests.

Join the best of Merit’s talented student musicians by auditioning for Merit’s prestigious tuition-free Conservatory.

Make friends, memories, and music all summer long with Merit’s line-up of camps, classes, workshops, and ensembles.

Watch Merit Strings Students in Action

Each year, Merit violinists, violists, cellists, and bassists, of all ages come together to perform in concerts at the Joy Faith Knapp Music Center and venues throughout Chicago.

Past performances include concerts at the Symphony Center, Chicago History Museum, Chicago Cultural Center, Lincoln Park Zoo, and the World Suzuki Convention in Masumoto, Japan.

Chicago's Best Strings Teachers

“My role is to guide students through their many years at Merit, to offer them different encouraging paths, to lift them up when they are in doubt, and redirect them when they are losing strength. Thankfully, music is my greatest ally. Who can resist music’s beauty, its capacity to enter into everyone’s inner spirit? My students look back and realize their transformation through music. They look back and realize the immeasurable value of what Merit helped them achieve.”

Monica Lugo
Head of Merit’s Suzuki-Alegre Strings Ensemble
& Strings Faculty Member

Meet Our Faculty

Our celebrated teaching artists are working jazz, classical, and pop musicians who have toured nationally, led ensembles, and supported students in achieving ambitious goals. Committed to helping Merit students succeed in music and in life, our Strings faculty provide students with the immersive training, feedback, and mentorship they need to learn and grow. 

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Strings & Orchestra FAQs

What age can my child start learning string instruments?

Your child can begin learning string instruments starting at age 4 or 7, depending on the instrument. Learn why.

If your young music-lover isn’t old enough for their intended instrument, there are plenty of classes we recommend that will help prepare them for instrument study:

  • Music Masters 1 (Ages 3-5) – This class teaches children the components of timbre, rhythm, pitch, beat, and style. Your child will explore the building blocks of music, experiment with percussion instruments, and play and sing along to music from world cultures.
  • Music Masters 2 (Ages 5-7) – This class prepares young music-lovers for instrument study. Your child will learn the basics of music theory, note reading, and music composition through playing the glockenspiel and exploring musical games and stories. Children ages 5 to 7 explore the instrument families, learn to read music notation, compose, sing with Curwen hand signs, and complete short weekly homework assignments to reinforce learning.

Browse Classes & Lessons →

How do I know what level of strings I should sign up for?

New to Merit? Use our handy strings placement quiz or feel free to reach out to Merit’s Strings Program Manager, Nicole Hernandez, at if you need help! Returning Merit strings students should reference their teacher recommendation when selecting a Continuing Strings class.

What is the difference between Suzuki-Alegre and Traditional Strings?

The Suzuki method applies the principles of language acquisition to the learning of music. Parents play an active role in the learning process and the curriculum incorporates constant repetition, learning music by ear, and memorization. At Merit, Suzuki-Alegre students benefit from the pairing of the Suzuki method with a diverse array of music from Latinx culture. Suzuki students are also required to sign up for private lessons in conjunction with their group classes. Merit currently offers Suzuki-Alegre classes for the violin and cello.

In Traditional strings classes, parent involvement is still encouraged—through providing a supportive practicing environment at home and ensuring your child sticks to their practice routine—but parents/caregivers don’t regularly attend classes. In addition, note reading skills are taught earlier on and memorization of music isn’t usually required. Merit currently offers Traditional classes for violin and bass.

How can I rent a string instrument?

Every student will need their own string instrument before their first class or lesson. Learn more about your instrument rental options.

What are the audition requirements for the Conservatory Orchestra Division?

Learn more about audition requirements. Keep in mind that these requirements are updated each year.

What is the attendance policy for classes and lessons?

Students are expected to be present and on time for all classes and lessons. We are unable to provide refunds, credits, or make-ups for any lessons missed by students.

Read more about Merit’s attendance policies.

Still have questions? Visit our FAQs page or contact us at

Additional Resources

Financial aid is available for qualifying students. Learn more about how to apply.

We’re here to help! Find answers to your questions. Click here.

Three easy steps. All ages, instruments, and skill levels are welcome. Get started today!

Start Making Music with Merit!

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