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Music Institute Academy Moves To Lake Forest College


The 2021–22 Academy roster includes 35 students from Illinois and other Midwest states, selected from the highest number of auditioning students in the past five years.

Music Institute Academy Moves To Lake Forest College

The Music Institute of Chicago's Academy, a pre-conservatory training program for advanced string and piano musicians in high school, has a new home at Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois. Now in its 16th year, the Academy has welcomed students from around the U.S. and across the globe for pre-professional training and exposure to some of the world's leading musicians.

After more than a decade of weekly programming in the Harza Building on the Ravinia Festival campus, Academy staff initiated a search for a new home after learning Ravinia needed the space to accommodate the growth of its neighborhood outreach program.

Music Institute Vice President and COO Sue Polutnik led efforts to approach schools and examine campuses to secure the right fit for the internationally recognized Academy. She shared, "Academy students had performed on several occasions in beautiful Lily Reid Holt Memorial Chapel at Lake Forest College, so I was familiar with the lovely grounds and the acoustics in the chapel, which would pair well with our orchestra and chamber music, as well as our master classes. If the music building could accommodate all our group classes, I knew the gorgeous stone buildings and pastoral campus were equal to the prestige of the program."

Polutnik worked closely with the Lake Forest's Department of Music Chair Dr. Scott Edgar, also associate professor of music and director of bands, along with Director of Conferences and Facility Rental Kristen Nolan, to accommodate 30 nine-hour Saturdays. As part of the new partnership, the Academy is inviting Lake Forest music students to its weekly master classes and enrichment offerings.

"We, at Lake Forest College, are thrilled to be the new home of the Music Institute of Chicago Academy," Edgar said. "We look forward to developing this relationship to further both the Academy and Lake Forest's tradition of musical excellence building on each of our strengths. We are excited to be able to offer the Academy students and families our campus to explore their musicianship in a collegiate environment while exposing our students to some of the best teachers and young musicians in the world."

On September 25, the Academy-with a roster of 35 students from five states-held its first full day of in-person classes, after pivoting to online classes in 2020. Students participated in a music theory class placement exam and spent hours in orchestra rehearsal, chamber music coachings, keyboard history, and improvisation classes for pianists, ending the day with ice-breaking games presented by Music Institute Director of Arts Integration Matt Boresi.

Academy Director Jim Setapen spoke to the students about "the special world they are fortunate to be part of as outstandingly talented musicians and young people who already know what they are passionate about. The inspiration these young people receive from the Academy's extraordinary faculty-and from each other-in this unique program elevates them to exceed their goals year after year."

Academy parent Sam Lee commented, "Lake Forest College has a comfortable, homey, intimate feel to it. Certainly it's a nice place to spend the day (for the students and the parents), surrounded by great music and a beautiful campus."

The Academy of the Music Institute of Chicago, led by Director James Setapen, is a nationally recognized training center for gifted pre-college pianists and string players that provides a comprehensive music education for students who aspire to be professional musicians. Faculty, staff, and students come together for an intensive 30-week program that includes private lessons with Academy artist faculty, a rigorous chamber music component, a stimulating chamber orchestra experience, and accelerated music theory classes. Pianists additionally study keyboard history and literature, improvisation, and keyboard skills in an intimate group setting. A hallmark of the Academy is the weekly master class when students perform for and observe acclaimed musicians and educators who share their knowledge. The Academy faculty, who teach at some of the country's most prestigious conservatories and music schools, have a passion for developing young talent and an established track record of student achievement.

The 2021-22 Academy roster includes 35 students from Illinois and other Midwest states, selected from the highest number of auditioning students in the past five years. Students, who range in age from 12 to 18, live in downtown Chicago; suburbs including Arlington Heights, Deerfield, Evanston, Highland Park, Hoffman Estates, Lake Zurich, Morton Grove, Mount Prospect, Northbrook, Oak Park, Park Ridge, Skokie, Vernon Hills, Wilmette, and Wood Dale; and other Midwest locations, including Bloomington, Indiana; Coralville, Iowa; Roseville, Minnesota; and Brookfield, Middleton, Shorewood, and Whitefish Bay, Wisconsin.

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