The People's Music School

The People’s Music School provides between three and nine hours of tuition-free music instruction by highly-trained musicians for 350 students each week.  With hundreds of students on a waiting list – based fully on word-of-mouth, as to date there has been no program marketing budget – openings are filled each year using a lottery to ensure open access.


Students from 35 zip codes across Chicago receive instruction at our Uptown Academy, or through our Community Programs, which are based an el Sistema-inspired approach: intense immersion in an orchestral setting that cultivates peer-to-peer learning, teamwork and active listening. All students embark on a four-pillar program each week: individualized instruction, group instruction, music theory and performance.  Musical achievement, along with behavioral criteria such as effort, attendance, respect, and preparation, are formally measured in twice-yearly jury evaluations.  Students who demonstrate continued progression in both areas are welcomed back each year to continue their journey to musical excellence. To offset costs and foster community ownership, families contribute eight hours of volunteer time per semester, resulting in the equivalent of 16 full-time jobs at the school covering duties from cleaning to electrical work to office assistance. The TPMS community is passionately committed to providing the opportunity for musical excellence for its students – excellence that is transferable to myriad areas of students’ lives now and in the future.