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New Keys to Success

The single most surprising place inside The People’s Music School was always Room 201 – our keyboard lab.  Here, hundreds of our beginning piano students got their start on eight Wurlitzer Model 206A keyboards.  These vintage “Wurly’s” dated back to the 1950’s.  We wished we had installed cameras to capture the reactions of visitors who came into the keyboard lab.  Shock, laughter, incredulity, and usually all of the above!  #retro #vintage #sooldtheywerealmostcool 

But the most surprising thing was that despite the broken headphones, the limited number of keys, the lack of touch sensitivity, our beginners were passionate to learn – and learn they did.  Our founder Rita Simo gives great credit to Jaime McCool, group piano teacher at People’s for 20 years.  “[The Wurly’s were] the best we could have, and it was so important to have Jaime – she made it the best it could be with these keyboards.”  Our students graduated from group keyboard lab to private lessons through their diligence and persistence, proven in semester jury evaluations. 

While the Wurly’s had their charm (and a growing affinity with hipster culture!), they were woefully inadequate and particularly painful for any pianist who saw them.  Recently, keyboards and their technology have become much more affordable and accessible.  We waited years for an opportunity to stretch our limited funds to re-do our keyboard lab.  This past summer, that opportunity presented itself through the Lincoln Park Music Center Foundation.

Miss Whe Do Kim has been training some of the brightest piano talents in Chicago for 30 years.  The LPMC Foundation was created by an immensely caring community that surrounds her, to celebrate the values she has nurtured in every student.  These values – self-esteem, pride, resilience, artistic expression – are intimately shared with The People’s Music School.  The two organizations were connected when LPMC Foundation Board members read about our school through an article by Shia Kapos from Crain’s Chicago. We were thrilled to meet one another and learn how these shared values could form the foundation for a strong partnership. 

We are excited to announce our new Lincoln Park Music Center Foundation Keyboard Lab, equipped with excellent Yamaha P255s.  These keyboards create a near perfect replication of playing an actual piano, with a player-friendly design – finally allowing our students to learn and develop their skills on a keyboard that does not hinder their progress.  The instructor unit has been replaced with a teacher module that integrates modern software like Classroom Maestro and Finale, enabling students to interactively read, compose, and print music. 

Lead piano teacher, Jamie McCool, “Our students had no idea that this was happening while they were on summer break, and I was so excited to see the looks on their faces when they walked into the lab for the first time. This will completely change the way they learn piano.”  In addition, the students of the Lincoln Park Music Center have been donating their time, energy and talents to provide tutoring to our beginner students.  This enables our piano program to get an additional boost with some incredible momentum.  


We look forward to celebrating our partnership with the Lincoln Park Music Center Foundation with a concert and reception on Saturday, October 10th at 4pm.  Please contact info@peoplesmusicschool.org if you’d like more detail!  Thank you LPMC for your generosity of energy, investment and support in our community!

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