Summer is an ideal time to learn a new skill. School is out, days are longer and energy levels are high.
Thanks to the rich culture and diversity of this unique city, Evanstonians young and old can take a class in just about anything, from jewelry making to scuba diving to learning how to meditate.
This article is the first in a summer-long series titled “Where to Learn …” This week the RoundTable focuses on where to learn how to play an instrument.
The Musical Offering
743 Custer Ave.
This neighborhood music school has been an integral part of Evanston’s arts community since opening in 1999. The school offers students, from preschoolers to retirees, group and private instruction in strings, woodwinds, piano, voice, Irish music, chamber music and composition.
Owner and founder Rick Ferguson says he is proud of their process-oriented teaching philosophy, professional and friendly faculty and investment in local schools, but what makes The Musical Offering unique is the student-to-teacher relationships.
“We carefully match students and teachers,” says Mr. Ferguson. “We trust our highly skilled teaching staff to do what is best for their students. In turn, the attention that is given to each student is phenomenal.”
The school has well over 125 students and more than one dozen faculty members. The students reflect Evanston’s racial, ethnic and income diversity and offers scholarships for students who need financial assistance.
Music Studio at the McGaw YMCA
1000 Grove St.
Program Director Liz Plemmons started the Music Program at the YMCA four years ago. The daughter of two music teachers, Ms. Plemmons says she was destined for a career in music and loves every minute of it.
“I believe music is a cornerstone to being a well-rounded human being,” says Ms. Plemmons.
With arts programs being cut everywhere, Ms. Plemmons says she felt music was something that needed to be available to all kids and the Y was the perfect place for it. Scholarships are available.
The program offers lessons in piano, guitar, voice and violin. Although it is geared toward children, lessons for adults are available.
“We are not focused on making kids into stars,” says Ms. Plemmons. “My hope is that kids learn and have fun while exploring a part of themselves they might not have the means to explore.”
Music Institute of Chicago
1490 Chicago Ave. and
2008 Dempster St.
Founded in 1931, the Music Institute of Chicago (MIC) is one of the oldest community music schools in Illinois. With locations throughout Chicago and surrounding suburbs, MIC has two Evanston locations with a wide variety of early childhood, youth, and adult offerings, including private instruction, group classes, ensembles and enrichment opportunities.
The school provides lessons in brass, composition, harp, organ, guitar, percussion, piano, strings, voice and woodwinds, among others. It serves students 8 months to 100 years old.
“The quality of our teaching is unparalleled,” says Director of Marketing and Communications Erin Fusco. “The depth and breadth of our offerings is what makes us unique.”
The school also has a comprehensive creative arts therapy program offering music lessons for children and adults with emotional and/or physical disabilities.
Music Academy of Northwestern University
1818 Hinman Ave.
Music enthusiasts do not need to be enrolled as Northwestern University students to take advantage of its unique music program. More than 400 community students, newborn to adult, participate each week in Kindermusik classes, piano, string and voice lessons.
Kindermusik is a popular series of music exploration classes for children newborn to age 7. Young students are encouraged to navigate the world of music through moving, singing and playing instruments.
To make music study available to all children, financial aid and scholarships are available, as are outreach programs for the general community and at-risk children.
1920 Central St.
This folk-oriented music shop has been in the same Central Street location since it opened in 1978. A purveyor of new and used guitars and other folk-style instruments such as banjos, mandolins, fiddles, ukuleles, dulcimers and harmonicas, the shop also offers music lessons for children and adults.
All lessons are private and taught in the store. Owner Jim Craig started out as an instructor at Hogeye Music and bought the store from the original owners 20 years ago. The eclectic mix of instructors comes from all over Chicago to teach at Hogeye, and many have 20 to 30 years of teaching experience.
“Our instructors are very talented and passionate about their music,” says Mr. Craig. “I believe we are open-minded about what students need. Some people want to know everything about an instrument, and others just want a general lesson on how to play.”
School of Rock Music
1311 Sherman Place
The national performance-based music education program opened its Evanston division this past fall. Started in 1998 in Philadelphia, the company now has 58 schools in 23 states. According to its website, the school served as the inspiration for the Jack Black comedy “School of Rock” as well as the subject of the A&E documentary “Rock School.”
The school offers private lessons for guitar, drums, bass, keyboard, saxophone, vocals and songwriting for kids ages 7-18 of all skill levels. Each student is placed in a group or “band” with other students at similar levels. The students attend group rehearsals, where they get an opportunity to apply what they have learned in lessons and prepare for a live performance.
“Students develop their musical skills preparing for the show, but they also develop confidence and self-esteem through the process,” says Robin Koelsch, director of School of Rock Evanston.
Students also have an opportunity to record live music at S.P.A.C.E. recording studio.
Adults are not left out. The school offers a 12-week Adult Rocker program where private one-on-one lessons, combined with group rehearsals, lead up to the big finale: a real rock show at a local music venue. No previous music training necessary.
1823 Church St.
Boocoo is a cultural center and café located across the street from ETHS at Church Street and Dodge Avenue. The center was opened three years ago with the mission to provide a safe and nurturing environment where individuals could explore their creative passions through the arts.
Music lessons in a wide array of instruments are available, the most popular being piano, guitar, base, trombone, violin and saxophone.
“If someone wants to learn how to play an instrument, we will find a teacher to do it,” says Alicia Hempfling, who began working as a volunteer at Boocoo last year and is now a paid administrator.
Ms. Hempfling says it is the unique community that makes Boocoo’s music school stand out from the rest.
“In addition to being a music school, it’s a place where people can meet, hang out and get to know each other,” says Ms. Hempfling.
The building has a recording studio as well as a performance space for students to utilize.
The Chop Shoppe
2522 Green Bay Road
The Chop Shoppe, formerly known as Flynn Guitars, sells new and vintage guitars and amplifiers. But it also has an extensive guitar school offering group and private lessons six days a week.
“We see approximately 200 students each week,” says Steve Schmidt, owner of Chop Shoppe.
Six private-lesson rooms and a soundstage are used by teachers and students of all ages and abilities. Lessons are taught in six-week sessions by highly trained professionals. Students are encouraged to focus on a genre they prefer, from country to rock to heavy metal and everything in between.
The Chop Shoppe is offering a Summer Music Day Camp this year. Three one-week sessions are designed
for kids ages 9-17 to experience what being a rocker is
all about. Every day from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., kids are immersed in the full rock experience with group instructions, band rehearsals and daily workshops.