CHICAGO — The People’s Music School will host its annual Performapaloozathon from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Saturday, June 1, at North Park University, 3225 W. Foster Ave.
The school serves nearly 850 students from over 50 ZIP codes across Chicago and Performapaloozathon is the culminating event of the year. Every student will get a chance to perform on stage.
The People’s Music School has been operating for over 40 years. It delivers tuition-free music education and its mission is to give opportunities to students of color. Today, 90 percent of the students aged 5 to 18 are children of color.
Even more impressive is the students’ high school graduation rate; last year it was 100 percent of the music school’s students.
Alli Henry, executive director of The People’s Music School, said performances Saturday would be from a variety of skill levels and age groups. She said beginner students (usually the youngest) are a fan favorite “because they are adorable.”
But she is especially excited about the mixed ensemble of older students who will perform Aretha Franklin’s “Respect.” She said they performed the piece in March and it brought down the house.
On Tuesday, the Tribune highlighted how the school is able to offer tuition-free music education. Parents volunteer at the school in exchange for music education for their kids.
Some do custodial work or security. Other parents answer phones or help with fundraising — whatever the school needs and however the parents can give back.
Henry said that The People’s Music School goes beyond teaching kids how to play a musical instrument. She said educators are masters at sneaking in “the vegetables of life” (valuable life skills) into the music education.
“Pursuing a musical career is not how we define success,” she said. “We want to give kids the tools they need so that they can be successful in whatever path they choose.”
In the past, The People’s Music School has had students perform with famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma. Other students have performed for the Obamas.
The People’s Music School is growing — and growing fast. In the last four years, enrollment has spiked from 325 to 850 students in this year’s class.
Henry said that as long as they grow sustainably, the school hopes to continue to expand. Next year, they hope to hit 1,000 enrolled students.
“I feel like Performapaloozathon is a special experience that is hard to capture in words,” she said. “It’s a special day.”
Do stories like this matter to you? Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.