Kicking Off the School Year at CYSO@CPS Sites

Music education is inequitably distributed and not all young people have access to resources, such as instruments or music lessons, in their schools or neighborhoods. Across the city of Chicago, 1 in 3 Chicago Public School students don’t have consistent access to high-quality arts education. The vast majority of students don’t have daily instrumental music instruction, and these disparities especially affect Black and Latinx communities.

As part of CYSO’s commitment to making quality music education more accessible for young people in Chicago, we created our CYSO@CPS partnerships. This program works to meet the needs of existing music programs within the Chicago Public Schools system. We collaborate with music teachers at CPS schools to help strengthen and support their programs so that they are responsive to their community and the individual needs of their students.

CYSO@CPS is currently at three school sites: Moos Elementary in Humboldt Park, Gallistel Language Academy in the East Side, and Nixon Elementary in Hermosa. CYSO coaches work with students in 4th through 8th grade and provide supplemental lessons, sectionals, and coachings throughout the year. 

At Moos Elementary—a CYSO partnership going on five years!—CYSO offers a band sectional program. Working with their full-time music teacher, we provide six additional coaches who work with students in 6th to 8th grade. These students receive 30 minute sectionals each week in addition to their regular band rehearsals which happens three days a week. These extra sectionals give the students the opportunity to have an in-depth exploration of what they learned during their regular band rehearsals.

CYSO@CPS is now in our second year of offering string sectionals at Gallistel Language Academy. Our string coach visits Gallistel every week, leading sectionals for 6th grade high and low strings players. The program gives students an additional 30 minutes of sectional time each week that usually isn’t possible for the music teacher to offer by themselves. This string intensive program aims to help students quickly develop mastery of early string techniques. 

Gallistel students work on string technique

CYSO has worked with Nixon Elementary school since 2017, offering a popular after-school steelpan program led by Scott McConnell, our director of Steel Orchestras. Students are split into beginner and intermediate groups, each rehearsing one hour per day, two days a week. The small class size offers individualized instruction for 20 students in total. Since steelpan can be learned by rote (i.e. by repetition), students pick it up quickly without needing any previous experience, learning to read music and developing musicianship skills as they go.

Photo from Nixon steel students’ December 2019 performance

To gauge whether a school might be interested in joining our CYSO@CPS program, CYSO recently developed a new Preludes Program. Preludes offers schools a sampling of what they would receive as a full-time CYSO@CPS partner school and is offered free of charge. Preludes services include sectionals, seminars with guest clinicians, and field trips to CYSO educational concerts. The program provides multiple points of contact for the students and allows CYSO to develop deeper and more sustainable partnerships with schools. Current schools involved in our Preludes Program include Graham Elementary in Canaryville and Burke Elementary in Bronzeville. 

Are you a school staff member interested in finding out more about partnering with CYSO? Reach out Karen Mari at or learn more!

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