The second is benefits. Music education comes third.
Our mission requires us to be so much more than a free music school: We are an after-school provider, ensuring equitable access to high quality programming immediately after the bell rings. We are an education organization, with our program leading to gains in literacy, math and student engagement. We are a community institution, working with and empowering the families and communities we serve. Our students become so much more than musicians.
One of my favorite examples of our mission coming to life is the story of Bryce, a senior in our class of 2023. Bryce started as a seventh-grade tuba student in Fall 2018 at our Greater South Side site. Bryce grew steadily under Natalie Butler’s skilled baton, blossoming over time into a promising young musician. In those first years, he built community, confidence, and skill.
In March 2020, everything changed. During the pandemic, his amazing mother Bertina worked as a caregiver for elderly individuals, a job that required her to work outside the home in a historically challenging moment. Bryce worked hard to stay engaged, but his mental health slumped. Seeing that he needed a boost, we changed Bryce’s teacher to someone more adept at online instruction. With the encouragement and persistence of his mother and teachers, Bryce pushed through, entering the 2021-22 school year as TPMS’s first honors SLAM student from our Greater South Side site.
Bryce has grown at TPMS not only as a musician but as a determined learner and self-advocate. In the words of his teacher, “If he didn’t understand something, he would ask. And if he still didn’t, he’d ask me to explain it again and again until he did.” That growth mindset paid off: This year, Bryce was the only student at TPMS who advanced two music theory levels in a single year. This fall, Bryce enters Monmouth College on a music scholarship, scouted by a recruiter in the halls of TPMS. He hopes to study biology and become an ecologist.
Bryce’s story illustrates our aspirations for our students fully realized. Because of our focus on eliminating all kinds of barriers to access, Bertina first found us in her own community and was able to circumvent the typical financial barriers to intensive music education for her son. Because of our focus on the benefits of a long-term journey, our faculty and staff never gave up on Bryce, doing everything we could to support his persistence. Bryce’s musical training helped lead him to his chosen postsecondary path, where he will build a career in STEM. We are so proud of Bryce, and we can’t wait to see where he goes from here.
In this annual report, you’ll learn more about what makes our school one-of-a-kind for students like Bryce. You’ll read about highlights from a tremendous year, including the breakthrough success of our new site at Hyde Park Academy High School. You’ll learn about our leading-edge use of student data to inform our programmatic decisions, and our exemplary artistic partnerships. What I hope is clear from our stories is a laser focus on our mission: access to the benefits of transformational music education, for every Bryce in Chicago.
President & CEO