Merit School of Music

Voice of America: Music helps students to learn not only about themselves, but also about others.

30 March 2017, 8:31pm

Voice of America
Reporter: Alexander Yanevsky

Click here to view the video story that aired in Russia.

His favorite composer is Dmitri Shostakovich, and favorite work is “Five Pieces for Two Violins [and Piano]” – Merit student Steve Belu shares his experience during our interview.  For three years Steve has attended The Merit School of Music in Chicago.  Steve’s talent, dedication to his lessons, and commitment to his study were ultimately rewarded:  in 2017 Steve was selected to be a member of the National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America.

I saw a friend playing it in a talent show.  I really liked the sound, and I also decided to try – and played for about two years.  [So, along] with a violin, we also bought a viola.  I didn’t play the viola in my first orchestra, but when they [eventually] needed another viola, I decided to learn how to play the viola,” said Steve Belu.

From his first day of study at Merit, Steve formed many friends and Merit’s orchestra became his second family.  For almost forty years, the school has positively changed the lives of young people in Chicago.  According to the administration, Merit’s uniqueness is that it removes barriers in obtaining a musical education.

What makes Merit unique among other schools is our diversity:  our students represent the ethnic and socioeconomic wealth of the city they live in.  Music is the driving [unifying??] force which gathers everyone under one roof,” says the President and Chief Executive Officer of the Merit School of Music, Charles Grode.

Several years ago the violinist Carly Zarate was a Merit representative at the 16th Suzuki Method World Convention held in Matsumoto, Japan, in 2013.  Carly’s favorite composer is Antonin Dvorak and his “American” String Quartet [No. 12, Op. 96].

I just loved playing it with my quartet;  we are all one big family: my teachers know my name, I know them, and if we have any problems while studying a particular work, we can always turn to them for help,” Carly shared with the Voice of America.

Through music we really help young people learn not only themselves, but others.  Yes, we teach music, but also something else: teamwork, discipline, self-esteem and communication skills,” Charles Grode added.

The school is proud of its graduates – such as Anthony and Demarri McGill – who became the principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra and the principal flute of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, respectively.  The McGills’ success is also the success of the school:  an incredible story of young people who fell in love with music, and discovered their talent.


(About the author:)

Alexander Yanevsky is a journalist and graduate of the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, in Kiev, Ukraine.  He has worked for the Ukrainian television channel “1+1” and “5 Kanal” (Channel 5) in Ukraine.  Alexander has worked for the Voice of America since 2014.

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