Sure, you could
spend the rest of your years lamenting the lame state of today's music...or you could get off your butt and start learning how to make some real change. Even if the only musical experience you have is a wicked sweet recorder solo in the 3rd grade, there are plenty of music schools around Chicago that can help turn your performances from vile to virtuoso.
Old Town School of Folk Music You may know the Old Town School as a performance venue, but it lives up to its name by offering a full load of classes for all ages at both its Lincoln Park and Lincoln Square locations. Professional musicians teach group sessions on everything from the accordion to the ukulele (this is one school where the old "those who can't do, teach" adage definitely does not apply). Most adult classes cost $150 for eight weeks. If you're wary of commitment, try a two-hour workshop ($25), where you can get quick instruction on DJing, bluegrass banjo, dobro and more. Don't have your own instrument? You can rent pretty much anything you'll need on site.
People's Music School Dr. Rita Simo has run this Uptown institution for 30 years, and it's hard to imagine how many classical musicians might never have picked up an instrument had it not been for her. The free (yep, free) school offers theory classes for children and adults, as well as instruction in piano, strings, woodwinds, brass, percussion, guitar or voice. But just because it's free, it doesn't mean you can take the weekly sessions lightly. Each student must sign a contract that pledges regular attendance, active participation in fundraising events and two hours of volunteer work per month. A rigorous jury review process will help ensure you keep your neighbors awake with hours of late-night practice.
Chicago Center School of Music The former zZounds School of Music at Pipers Alley has grown up, and you can develop right along with it, with group and private classes for all ages in a variety of disciplines. Try the intermediate jazz piano workshop ($50), or learn how to set up your own home recording studio with the Cubase system ($250). Kids have a wider range of options, from rhythm circles to the opportunity to play in a real rock band with others of the same age. If you really want to get serious, tuition for private lessons will run from $421-$801 for a 16-week quarter, depending on the instrument you choose and the length of each lesson.
Music Institute of Chicago If you're in the 'burbs, there's really no reason not to check out the Institute. With four campuses (Evanston, Winnetka, Highland Park and Lincolnshire), this conglomerate has much to offer, from instruction in keyboard, voice and other instruments to art therapy classes. Spend your summer learning the trade at several different camps, institutes and festivals, then show off your newfound skills throughout the year at one of the Institute's weekly recitals.
Paul Green's School of RockThe national institution may have been the inspiration for the 2003 Jack Black comedy of the same name, but this after-school program is no joke. With the motto "saving rock & roll one kid at a time," the school's goal is to foster a new generation of rockers by concentrating on both musicianship and showmanship. Before too long, students will find themselves playing real concerts at Chicago venues like Subterranean and the Beat Kitchen. The School of Rock All-Stars even got some stage time at Lollapalooza in 2007. The original School of Rock was founded in Philadelphia in 1998, but there are now outposts across the country including one in suburban Highwood (and another one in Evanston slated to open this fall). Beginners can try out the program for $230 a month, while intermediate players will pay a monthly tuition of $300 (these are the classes that will perform actual concerts).
More spots to build your skills:
Sherwood Conservatory of Music offers a slate of popular classes including Reading Orchestra, Sing Out!, music theater workshops, adult cello and chamber ensembles and more. Private and group lessons on particular instruments start at $33 per week.
Suzuki-Orff School of Music has been providing classical musical instruction for a quarter-century in the shadows of Cabrini Green.
Merit School of Music makes sure no aspiring musician is left back due to financial concerns; the comprehensive school serves a diverse population at a low cost.
Avenue N Guitars offers private and group lessons in all styles of guitar right in its Wicker Park store.
AACM School of Music gives students the opportunity to learn from some of the most talented black musicians in Chicago.