Year One: The Rise of the "YES" People

We start another school year, with the normal bustle of new and returning students, families, and teachers.  Figuring out room assignments, starting new repertoire, getting accustomed to different ensemble members.  The squeaks and scratches from the violins mingle in the air with high-five claps between bandmates and a parent vacuuming the treble clef rug in the pit.  Much is the same, and yet so much feels different, stronger.  In just one year, we’ve come so very far.

It’s been my great honor to oversee the turnaround of The People’s Music School, a national treasure based in my hometown Chicago.  We deliver over 100,000 hours of music instruction to more than 500 students from 35 zip codes across the city.  None of our students could otherwise afford music, and no other students work harder to deserve it.  Knowing there are hundreds of others still on our waiting list, no one forgets how fortunate we all are to be in this community.

Families camp out up to 3 days in advance of registration in 2009.

Families camp out up to 6 days in advance of registration in 2009.

In a year, we have overcome our significant financial deficit, remodeled how our students learn how to read and interpret music, and transformed our Board with renewed ambassadorship and new energy.  There is only more to come, more challenges and more wins, as we look to serve more of the immense need and demand for our services.  But this was a great year.

What made this a great year is also the foundation for even better years ahead.  Because while we are proud of what we accomplished, we are even prouder of how we accomplished those things.  We’ve pegged it “the rise of the ‘YES’ people”.   Our community is rich with ‘YES’ people.  It’s a tenet of improvisational comedy, and one that applies to music-making as well.  We teach this principle to our students through ensemble work – how do you build upon each other’s good works, adding your unique spin so that the whole is as cohesive as it is magnificent.

Time and time again this past year, we’ve relied on our ‘YES’ people.  An electrician dad who said ‘YES’ to installing buzzers and cameras after we experienced security breaches.  Teachers who said ‘YES’ to performing on our behalf across the city. Staff and board members who said ‘YES’ to pulling off some amazing new events, like Music Hack Day.  Long-time supporters who said ‘YES’ to providing transitional funding at a pivotal time.  New funders who said ‘YES’ to big bets on our dream.  Students who said ‘YES’ to advocating for our school, raising more than ever at our Performapaloozathon, our community fundraisers.  Partners who said ‘YES’ to bringing incredible masterclasses, performances, residencies to our community.

The rise of our ‘YES’ people makes our future seem limitless – which is good, since our dreams have no limit.  We make the vast benefits of music accessible to those who need it the most, and our model translates into skills that serve our students for the rest of their lifetimes.  To those who have been on this journey with us – thank you.  Truly.  To those who are just learning about us – say ‘YES’ and join our merry band of music warriors.  We need your support to sustain and grow, and there are so many ways to have impact.  Contact: info@peoplesmusicschool.org No prior musical experience required. 🙂

In service,

Jennifer Kim Matsuzawa

President & Artistic Director, The People’s Music School

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