In the News

Photo Courtesy of the Obama Foundation


People’s Music School making sure students don’t miss a beat

FOX 32 Chicago | April 2024

“The federal government says music is an important part of students having a well-rounded education. That statement comes at a time when many districts are battling budget issues and music is often one of the first cuts. The People’s Music School is making sure students don’t miss a beat.

Learn about the work we’re doing to expand access to music education here. 

Jennifer Surprises Tuition-Free Chicago Music School with $10,000

Jennifer Hudson Show | February 2024

“Jennifer welcomes educators Natalie Butler and Nyle Taylor from The People’s Music School, a tuition-free music school serving youth from underserved communities throughout Chicago. Natalie and Nyle were surprised with a $10,000 donation to help support their efforts of bringing music into children’s lives.”

Watch Natalie Butler and Nyle Taylor on the Jennifer Hudson Show here. 

The People’s Music School offers free music education to Chicago students

FOX 32 Chicago | February 2024

“The People’s Music School currently serves over 700 children across four Chicago locations. President and CEO Miriam Owens joined Good Day Chicago along with assistant band director Nyle Taylor, to go over what the school has to offer.”

Watch Miriam Owens and Nyle Taylor’s interview here. 

Uptown Chamber of Commerce hosts 9th annual Winter Walk on Wilson

WGN Morning News | November 2023

“Director of the commerce Sarah Wilson joined WGN Weekend Morning News to share more — as well as a special number from the SLAM Brass Ensemble from the People’s Music School.”

Watch the SLAM Brass Ensemble perform on air here. 

‘Mixtape Trilogy: Stories of the Power of Music’ comes to Chicago

Reel Chicago | October 2023

“It’s…empowering that we’re able to partner with an organization such as The People’s Music School which is an embodiment of our documentary’s mission to inspire social awareness and create music and arts access for all,” added [filmmaker Kathleen] Ermitage.

Read about the film and the screening benefitting The People’s Music School here. 

Performapaloozathon Held at Northeastern Illinois University

WGN News | June 2023

Northeastern Illinois University hosted Performapaloozathon. Nearly 700 students from The People’s Music School performed this year. 

Watch WGN News’s coverage of Performapaloozathon 2023 on YouTube.

Performapaloozathon Lands At Northeastern

New City | June 2023

Performapaloozathon, a year-end jamboree in which 700 K-12 students from The People’s Music School perform in seven hours of musical performances, takes place at Northeastern Illinois University on Saturday, June 3, 9am-5pm.

Read more about this student music marathon at newcity.com

The People’s Music School presents Performapaloozathon 2023 at Northeastern Illinois University on June 3, 2023

May 2023

The People’s Music School will bring in nearly 1,500 people to its all-day student music marathon at Northeastern Illinois University on June 3 in collaboration with Chicago Sinfonietta and Violins of Hope presented by JCC Chicago.

Read more about this student music marathon on our blog.

The 2022 Better Guide to Giving in Chicago and Beyond

Better.net | December 2022

“The People’s Music School delivers access to quality, tuition-free music education, allowing students to grow musically, socially, emotionally and intellectually.”

Read more about giving to TPMS at Better.net.

Giving Tuesday 2022: 30 Ways to Give Back or Donate Around Chicago

Better.net | November 2022

“The People’s Music School centers their work on creating access to high-quality, tuition-free music education for kids across Chicago.”

Read more about how to support TPMS at Better.net.

NEA gives more than $2 million to Illinois and Chicago arts organizations

Chicago Tribune | May 2022

“People’s Music School, Inc. [awarded] $25,000 for arts education.”

Read about the grant in the Chicago Tribune as well as on our blog.

Hyde Park Academy High School partners with The People’s Music School

Weekly Citizen | April 2022

“The People’s Music School will partner with Hyde Park Academy High School, beginning September 2022, to open a satellite program for the students in Woodlawn and surrounding communities.”

Read about the new partnership.

People’s Music School gets settled

Axios | February 4, 2022

“Francis “Frank” Graffeo arrived this week to lead the People’s Music School at 901 W. Eastwood, where it’s been since 1995, with satellite spots in Albany Park, Back of the Yards and Grand Crossing.”

Read about our new president’s arrival.  

People’s Music School offers free classes to underserved kids

WBEZ | December 17, 2021

“The People’s Music School wants to give students who otherwise couldn’t afford expensive music lessons the opportunity to learn an instrument–and also gain some life skills in the process.”

Read about The People’s Music School’s work to expand access to music education.

People’s Music School Offers Free Music Classes In Back Of The Yards, Giving Students Access To The Arts

Block Club Chicago | December 15, 2021

“The People’s Music School works in Uptown, Back of the Yards, Albany Park and Bronzeville to provide kids access to a quality music education who otherwise might not be able to afford it.”

Read more about the impact The People’s Music School has on our students. 

The Two-Minute Guide to Nonprofits Worthy of Your Money

Chicago Magazine | November 9, 2020

“The People’s Music School seeks to interrupt the baked-in classism of classical music by providing tuition-free music education for low-income kids and teenagers.”

Read The People’s Music School feature in Chicago Magazine in full.

Rita - People's Music School
Rita Simo, visionary founder of the People’s Music School, has died. ‘Rita always strove for justice.’

Chicago Tribune | September 23, 2020

“It will never go away, what she built. She just said, ‘I’m going to build this beautiful thing and it’s going to be messy and it’s not always going to be pretty, but it’s going to be magical.’ And it was.” – Lilly Torres, Associate Director of Community at The People’s Music School

Read the Chicago Tribune’s beautiful tribute to Dr. Rita Simó in full.

Rita Memory - People's Music School
Rita Simó, who founded People’s Music School to offer free lessons for all, dead at 86

Chicago Sun-Times | September 23, 2020

“Rita was a defining force — a pioneer of social justice and equity who never stopped fighting for what our children deserve. Rita epitomized the love, truth and power of music.” – People’s Music School President Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa

Read more about our fearless founder and her legacy.

In Uptown, the mosaics at 2 schools reflect the community and their missions

Chicago Sun-Times | September 18, 2020

The works created by the Green Star Movement for Uplift Community High School and the People’s Music School aim to reflect and beautify the community.

Learn  how the mosaic at our Uptown Academy site reflects our history and culture.


The People’s Music School is shaping kids’ futures one note at a time

Chicago Sun-Times | October 9, 2019

“The People’s Music School’s average student retention is seven years. Families commit to their children. They serve predominantly children of color. Their high-school graduation rate is 100 percent. That’s a successful outcome.” – Bronzeville Classical School Principal Nicole Spicer

Read about how our Greater South Side Band is growing!

Transforming Music: How The People’s Music School is Changing Lives

Chicago Ideas | August 27, 2019

“You’ve never heard anything like this before. And that’s what the People’s Music School is counting on.”

Watch our students transform a classical piece into a classic hit!

People’s Music School Bringing Free Music Classes To South Side Kids With New Location In Bronzeville

Block Club | August 6, 2019

With its south side program doubling in size this year, the school is moving to Bronzeville Classical while it searches for a permanent South Side home.

Read more about our new home on the south side!

Chicago’s New Mayor Lori Lightfoot Kicks Off People’s Music School Celebration

WGN | June 1, 2019

WGN and four other news networks captured our 2019 Performapaloozathon event and Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s visit with our students. Watch the full clip here. 

Hundreds Of Kids Unite For ‘Performapaloozathon’ At The People’s Music School

Block Club | May 30, 2019

The school serves nearly 850 students from over 50 ZIP codes across Chicago and Performapaloozathon is the culminating event of the year. Every student gets a chance to perform on stage.

Check out the article to learn about our biggest community event of the year!

At People’s Music School, parents clean toilets, repair leaks, work security — all for a shot at a world-class education for their kids

Chicago Tribune | May 28, 2019

“It’s the college cheating scandal flipped on its head: Parents going to great lengths to access a world-class education for their children, only here it’s done with integrity and grace, with an eye toward the greater good.”

Read the full article to learn more about what all our amazing TPMS parents and families do.

At People’s Music School, parents clean toilets, repair leaks, work security — all for a shot at a world-class education for their kids

Chicago Tribune | May 28, 2019

“It’s the college cheating scandal flipped on its head: Parents going to great lengths to access a world-class education for their children, only here it’s done with integrity and grace, with an eye toward the greater good.”

Read the full article to learn more about what all our amazing TPMS parents and families do.


ABC7 News Showcases TPMS President Jennifer Kim-Matsuzawa as part of Asian-American Heritage Month

ABC7 | May 18, 2019

The People’s Music School’s President and Artistic Director, Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa, talks with Judy Hsu about the power of music, the legacy of immigrant parents, and why Chicago is full of potential.

Watch the full installment of this Emmy-winning series!

La iniciativa que brinda educación musical gratuita a pequeños en Chicago (Free Music Education for Children Across Chicago)

Univision| May 7, 2019

Lilly Torres, Associate Director of Student, Family + Alumni Engagement, talks with Diana Perez of Primera Hora about The People’s Music School’s mission and combined South Side Spring Concert at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts.

Watch the full clip!

See more news below.


Four nonprofits, four financial turnarounds

Crain’s | May 18, 2018

TPMS President and Artistic Director Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa helped TPMS reach more students and brought the school out of a deficit in 2015 into an operating surplus on a $1.5 million budget in 2017.

Check out the article to learn about how she accomplished this and plans to serve 1,000 students by 2020!

26 N. Halsted: Joshua deVries

WCIU, The U | May 18, 2018

TPMS Program Manager Josh deVries joins George Blaise on 26 N. Halsted to discuss ways in which The People’s Music School serves 700 students throughout Chicago, and how we empower our students to raise their voices.

Watch the full interview to learn more about the diverse programming at TPMS.

Newsmakers Making a Difference: Rita Simo, The People’s Music School

WBBM News Radio | May 17, 2018

‘Transforming lives through music,’ is the motto of The People’s Music School. WBBM New Radio honors TPMS as one of 50 newsmakers making a difference in 2018, WBBM Newsradio’s 50th anniversary.

Read the article here to learn more about the school’s roots and how we are making a difference in our students’ lives.

What makes the mission of The People’s Music School unique?

WGN Radio | May 7, 2018

In this audio interview, Tracy Sefl and Carolyn Sybesma, Director of Community Programs and Strategic Initiatives for The People’s Music School join Justin Kaufman of WGN Radio to discuss our mission and annual gala.

Listen to the full interview to learn more about the four TPMS programs around the city of Chicago.

The People’s Music School Celebrates Over 40 Years of Social and Musical Impact

Make It Better | April 25, 2018

In The People’s Music School’s Annual Gala on May 11, TPMS honored innovators and community leaders who have helped propel us forward in recent years, and celebrated TPMS’s ability impact students’ lives.

Check out the full article to find out more about Let It Shine, the 2018 Gala!

Introducing The People’s Music School

Voyage Chicago | April 11, 2018

In this interview, Voyage Chicago discusses how TPMS has grown since its beginnings in 1976 with just $625 and a donated piano, to serving almost 700 students with tuition-free music education in 2018.

Read the full interview to learn about our story, mission, and how to support our work and students!


Michelle Obama Calls Chance the Rapper ‘My Baby Brother,’ Lin-Manuel Miranda Ignites Rap Battle & More From The Obama Foundation Summit

Billboard Magazine | November 3, 2017

TPMS students opened the first-ever Obama Foundation Summit, sharing the stage with Common, Lin Manuel Miranda, Barack and Michelle Obama, and Chance the Rapper.

Read on to find out more about our performance at the Obama Foundation Summit!

‘Music Gives Me A Voice:’ 12-Year-Old Cellist Julia Soto On Performing at Obama Foundation Summit

Billboard Magazine | November 10, 2017

Billboard Magazine speaks with TPMS student Julia Soto about her experience performing at the Obama Foundation Summit, and about her backstage encounter with Barack and Michelle!

Get the full scoop on the Obamas’ message to Julia before her performance.

Kids facing Racism, Trauma Find Safe Haven at People’s Music School

DNAinfo | March 31, 2017

Senite Barih, 14 year old TPMS student, opens up about her struggles facing racism at school and in the community – but how The People’s Music School provides a safe, comforting space where she finds comfort and positive mentors.

Read the full article, which includes testament from a long-time TPMS parent and TPMS President, Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa.

Can Yo-Yo Ma save Chicago? He’s certainly trying.

Crain’s Chicago Business | June 23, 2017

Why does the celebrated cellist devote his time and talent to making our city a better place? For Ma, it’s not just about the music.

Find out more about how Yo-Yo Ma makes an impact in Chicago through his involvement with The People’s Music School!

‘One Chicago’ Launches, Gives Refugees Easy Access To City Services

CBS Chicago

TPMS President and Artistic Director, Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa, talks about the One Chicago campaign, which aims to provide immigrants and refugees with easy access to legal help, medical assistance and other city services online.

See Jennifer’s interview and learn more about One Chicago


The Single Most Important Piece of Advice Yo-Yo Ma Has for Young Musicians Today

WFMT | December 1, 2016

The People’s Music School was proud to partner with the Civic Orchestra of Chicago and Yo-Yo Ma for the annual Bach Marathon. In this interview, TPMS sits down with Mr. Ma to discuss music as a service.

Read on, and learn more about the Bach Marathon through this great video.

Smashing Pumpkins Drummer Helps Keep Much-Needed Music School Tuition-Free

NBC Making a Difference | November 15, 2016

NBC Making a Difference speaks with Jimmy Chamberlin about the influence music has had on his life and what makes him feel compelled to give back.

See the full story!

TPMS 40th Anniversary honoring Smashing Pumpkins’ Jimmy Chamberlin

Make It Better | October 6, 2016

Jimmy Chamberlin, Smashing Pumpkins drummer turned local business leader and father, has a message for our kids: “If you’re brave enough to visualize something, it can be attainable.”

Check out the full article, which includes details about our 40th anniversary!

Kapos: Matsuzawa leads turnaround at People’s Music School

Chicago Sun-Times | July 3, 2016

The People’s Music School has made vast strides in the past two years since our President and Artistic Director Jennifer Matsuzwa re-joined our community after over 10 years with Bain & Company.

Read the full article to learn more about how we’ve opened two new locations and closed a six figure deficit.

Yo-Yo Ma at the Forefront of Social Impact

Make It Better | June 10, 2016

Asked to perform for the Forefront Luncheon, The People’s Music School made lasting impressions on a crowd of more than 800 people and Yo-Yo Ma! The famous cellist surprised our students through asking if he could join in the performance.

Read this Make It Better article to learn more, and check out this video of our talented students performing with Yo-Yo Ma!

The People’s Music School is Back

DNAinfo | May 12, 2016

TPMS has always has a strong track record of student achievements. We’ve been hard at work these past two years to make sure our organizational operations are as strong as the community that’s sustained us for the past 40 years.

Read the full article to get the full scoop on our improved financial position and expansion to reach more students.

This Hackathon brings Chicago’s Best Technologists and Musicians Together

Built In Chicago | March 9, 2016

The People’s Music School unites techies and musicians alike in our 2nd annual Hackathon event. Technologists work with TPMS students and staff to develop apps as tools for music education. Check out which apps won this year!

Want to see Hackathon first hand? Check it out our video recap to see a quick summary of the day.

What Can Music Education Learn From Tech Startups?

Chicago Inno | February 19, 2016

TPMS is always working hard to make sure our students learn the most they can and the best they can. This year, our faculty are using tech tools to test improvements in music instruction for our students. Read Chicago Inno’s article to learn more.

Hungry for more details? Head over to our “Tech + Innovation = Music Magic” blog for even more info.


How Music Helped this Finance Exec Cope with Loss

Crain’s | March 13, 2015

Our President and Artistic Director found change and healing through music at The People’s School, where she had previously taught. She now offers guidance from her experiences to our students.

Read this Crain’s Article to learn more.


The People’s Music School Passes on Baton – Renewing the Treasure Rita Simó Gave Chicago

Chicago Splash Magazine | October 20, 2014

Chicago Splash Magazine discusses TPMS founder Rita Simó’s legacy, and the appointment of TPMS President & Artistic Director Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa.

Read More

The People’s Music School Names Matsuzawa “President and Artistic Director”

The People’s Music School | September 22, 2014

The People’s Music School, the only tuition-free music school serving Chicago metropolitan area children, has appointed Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa as President and Artistic Director.

Read More

TPMS Selected for Study of El Sistema-Inspired Orchestra Education Programs

Longy School of Music | May 27, 2014

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Awards the Longy School of Music of Bard College a $100,000 Grant to Partner with WolfBrown to Study El Sistema-Inspired Orchestra Education Programs.

Read More

WCIU-TV | May 19, 2014

As a teacher who has found her passion in teaching, Stephane Collopy shares the story of why she loves her job at The People’s Music School.


Courtesy of WCIU’s You & Me This Morning

TPMS Students Travel to LA to Participate in The Leadership Forum for Young Musicians

Los Angeles Philharmonic | April 24, 2014

TPMS Youth Orchestras students Adilene, Karina, Alejandro, Luis, and Frank were 5 of only 26 students nation-wide chosen to participate in the first-ever Leadership Forum for Young Musicians in LA in February 2014.


Courtesy of the Los Angeles Philharmonic


Welcome to Our Partner, Berklee City Music Network

Berklee City Music Network | February 27th, 2013

TPMS becomes a part of the Berklee City Music Network, a consortium of community organizations supported by Berklee City Music.


Free Music School’s Cost: A Week on the Sidewalk

New York Times | August 26, 2011

“Rebecca Tirado arrived six days early to enroll her 7-year-old twins at the People’s Music School. With a tent, an air mattress and a cooler stocked with Gatorade and yogurt, she and her husband were ready for an extended sidewalk stakeout.”

Why? Read to find out!

Teaching Music is a Team Sport

Chicago Sun-Times | May 23, 2011

The Chicago Sun Times spends an afternoon at Hibbard Elementary, our Albany Park program site.

Read more


The People’s Music School – Today Show 2005

The Today Show | June 9, 2005

The Today Show’s Bob Dotson interviews TPMS founder Rita Simo and talks about the history and mission of The People’s Music School in his “Today’s American Story” segment.

Watch the whole interview!