About the School
The People's Music School envisions a society where all children have access to quality music education. We believe music is transformative and empowers the lives of youth, families and communities.
Our mission is to cultivate access to free, quality music education. Through intensive instruction and performance our students learn more than music. They grow socially, emotionally and intellectually, and develop a foundation of responsibility, self-esteem and purpose.
- Community. Parents, Students, Instructors and Supporters work together creatively and harmoniously.
- Hard work. Discipline and focus guide each student's path to achievement.
- Passion and Joy. We nurture learning in a joyful environment where music sparks motivation.
- Opportunity. Music education is a key to understanding one's potential.
The People's Music School was founded by Dr. Rita Simo. Rita learned to play the piano in her native Dominican Republic, where music lessons are free. When she came to the United States to study at the Juilliard School of Music in New York, Rita was distraught to find that many American children were often denied the opportunity for private music lessons, simply because their parents could not afford to pay for them. After receiving her Doctor of Music from Boston University, Rita began to dream of creating a place where anyone could receive music instruction, regardless of their financial situation.
Towards the end of 1975, she began to take action on this dream. With hard work, $625, and a donated piano, the People's Music School was born in a one-room, converted beauty salon. Rita chose Chicago's Uptown neighborhood for her school because of its ethnic diversity and concentration of lower income families. On February 22, 1976, the school opened its doors to its first 50 students.
Since that time, the school has come quite a long way. After operating for twenty years in rented, makeshift quarters, the school constructed its own, specially designed facility in 1995. Today, the school's teachers offer instruction in many different instruments, plus theory and voice. They reach over 1,000 students every year between our classroom instruction and El Sistema-based orchestral instruction with the YOURS Project. The vast majority of these students are children of ethnic minorities.
In 2001, Rita retired from her role as Executive Director from the school, but she continues to be involved on its Board of Directors. In November 2005, the People's Music School hired Bob Fiedler as Executive Director. Bob, who formerly served as the Development Director for an Uptown homeless services agency (REST) and Director of a local Muscular Dystrophy Association chapter, brings over two decades of business experience with him, and a tremendous love of music.