Over 1,000 Chicago Students to perform at Symphony Center, 5/12 & 5/19

Over 1,000 Chicago Students to perform at Symphony Center, 5/12 & 5/19

More than 1,000 2nd-12th grade students from 30 schools in Chicago, the suburbs and Northwest Indiana will be rewarded with the opportunity of a lifetime - to perform live on the stage of Chicago's renowned Symphony Center - at Merit School of Music's 23rd annual MeritFest.

The students, who all take music classes year round at their own schools via Merit's Bridges: Partners in Music in-school program, have been practicing all year for the two-day public concert.

Performances are Monday, May 12 and May 19 from 11 to 12:30 pm. Orchestra Hall is located at Symphony Center, 220 S. Michigan Avenue. Admission is free.

On May 12, Merit's string players are the stars. Chicago's renowned Lincoln Trio, Merit's first-ever artists-in-residence, will make a special MeritFest appearance. The program also features the Merit School of Music Honors Jazz Combo and Merit's Conservatory Chamber Orchestra, accompanied by saxophonist Shane Woods, winner of the 2013-14 Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory Concerto Competition.

Woods, a resident of Richton Park and a junior at Southland College Prep Charter High School, has been a Merit student for seven years. He also plays for Merit's award-winning Precipice Saxophone Quartet, which travels to Seattle this weekend to perform on NPR's From the Top, and to Notre Dame, Indiana next month to compete in the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, the largest chamber music competition in the world.

On May 19, highlights of the MeritFest Band and Choir Concert include the Alice S. Pfaelzer Tuition-free Conservatory Choir, the Conservatory Honors Bass Quintet performing selections from Arthur Frackenpohl's Brass Quintet and Canadian Brass Rag by Eldon Rathburn, and a return performance by the Merit School of Music Honors Jazz Combo.

"MeritFest gives students an experience that few musicians will ever have, even in their professional lives - an opportunity to perform on stage at Orchestra Hall," said Thomas Bracy, Executive Director, Merit School of Music. "Meeting other music students from all over the city and performing with more advanced musicians from Merit's Conservatory program creates a strong sense of belonging and accomplishment for them."

In addition to overseeing operations and programs at Merit, Bracy leaves his executive office at Merit's West Loop headquarters three times a week to teach band at Talcott Fine Arts and Museum Academy, a CPS elementary school in Chicago's West Town neighborhood that participates in Merit's Bridges: Partners in Music program.