Join our First Movement

By joining our First Movement major giving program, you will join a community of like-minded leaders making a transformational impact on access to intensive music education.

The People’s Music School is Chicago’s largest 100% tuition-free music school, providing access to the transformative benefits of music education for hundreds of students each year who would otherwise face financial barriers to that access. We are embarking on an exciting plan to grow both our enrollment and the quality of our student outcomes.

To support this ambitious vision, we are embarking on First Movement, the organization’s first dedicated campaign to grow leadership in major gifts. Your new or increased gift will be doubled up to $100,000 thanks to generous support from a family foundation.

Our model relies on the commitment and generosity of leaders like you, who understand that what we do is so much more than music. Your gift to the Composer’s Circle ($5,000), Conductor’s Circle ($10,000), or Rita’s Circle ($15,000)  will position you not only as a founding leader in the school’s first major gift development campaign, but also as a central partner and collaborator in our impact. 

Become a partner in our journey towards student impact. Make a gift today or get in touch. 


  • Follow our students’ journeys: Receive quarterly updates about the ensemble you sponsor, including repertoire and concepts they are learning, student stories and artwork, and successes and challenges
  • Meet the faculty and staff: At some giving levels, join us for a breakfast reception with the faculty and staff that support the ensemble you sponsor, learning about how students have changed over time and how our team supports our students’ growth and persistence
  • Participate in rehearsals: At some giving levels, come to our program, pick up an instrument, and sit alongside our students for a rehearsal!
  • See the triumphant performances: Receive invitations to and reserved seating at our community concerts featuring the ensemble you sponsor. Bring friends and family!

Join our First Movement and choose an ensemble to follow this year!

Albany Park Transform String Ensemble

Hibbard Elementary School, Albany Park

Number of students: 26

Level: Growing beginners

Faculty member: Felipe Tobar

Albany Park has long been TPMS’s crown jewel for string instruction. Our Transform String Ensemble is composed of mostly second-year students in their middle elementary school years (3rd-5th grade). These students have learned the foundations of their instruments and have progressed to learning more complex rhythms, melodies, and repertoire.

Greater South Side Discover Wind Ensemble

Hyde Park Academy High School, Woodlawn

Number of students: 26

Level: Beginners

Faculty member: Natalie Butler

The winds and brass programs at our Greater South Side site have been taught since 2016. The Discover Wind Ensemble at GSS features beginner students in their first year learning their instrument. The ensemble is led by Dean of Learning and Teaching Natalie Butler, who has been at the helm of People’s programming for over a decade. Her ensemble has performed pop favorites like “Take a Bow” and beginner band pieces like “Champions.”

SLAM Chamber Wind Ensemble at estudiantes de Back of the Yards

Agustin Lara Elementary School, Back of the Yards

Number of students: 8

Level: Intermediate to advanced

Faculty member: Megan Robbins

Students in the SLAM Wind Chamber Ensemble are some of the most advanced wind players at The People’s Music School. They demonstrate the four pillars of SLAM: Service, Leadership, Artistry, and Mentorship. Several ensemble members have gained opportunities to perform across the city, including at the Museum of Science and Industry’s 90th Anniversary celebration. The ensemble features a wide range of instruments, from flute and clarinet, to oboe and bassoon.

Transform Band at Uptown Academy

Uptown Academy, 931 West Eastwood Ave.

Number of students: 24

Level: Intermediate

Faculty member: Felix Ponce

Transform Band at Uptown Academy consists of winds, brass, and percussion students who have learned the basics of their instrument and are moving on to more complex repertoire. Band Director Felix Ponce is a Grammy-nominated music educator who has taught at The People’s Music School for six years. Several TPMS students have named Mr. Felix as the reason they love learning music, and the work of the Transform Band demonstrates just that.

SLAM String Orchestra

Uptown Academy, 931 West Eastwood Ave.

Number of students: ~20

Level: Intermediate to advanced

Faculty member: David Sands

The SLAM String Orchestra is composed of some of the most advanced strings students at TPMS. Led by Senior Manager of Artistic Engagement David Sands, the orchestra headlined our annual Performapaloozathon with a performance of “Instrument of Peace,” featuring musicians from Chicago Sinfonietta. Members of the orchestra have gained opportunities to play for world-renowned violinist Hilary Hahn and for President Barack Obama.