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Auburn Gresham Merit Teen, is all the Pizzicato!

Music Opened Doors to Selective Enrollment Schools, Merit Teens Say

WEST LOOP — For eighth-grader Danielle Wilson-Moore, a violin and top-notch music instruction was her ticket to landing admission to one of the city's top selective enrollment high schools.

"I didn't think I was going to make it," she said this month at Merit School of Music.

Danielle, a student at CPS' Chopin Elementary School in Ukrainian Village, credits the West Loop music non-profit's Bridges: Partners in Music program, an initiative that brings Merit music teachers to provide instruction at Chicago Public Schools, with her success landing a spot at prestigious Whitney Young high school.

From 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Tuesday, hundreds of Bridges orchestra students from 30 CPS schools and community center sites — including Chopin, Nobel Elementary School in Humboldt Park, Burbank Elementary School in Belmont-Cragin, and El Valor in Pilsen — will showcase their skills at MeritFest, a free concert for the community at the Chicago Symphony Center, 220 N. Michigan Ave.

The chance to perform on stage at Orchestra Hall is an opportunity few musicians ever experience, said Kurtis Gildow, director of programs at Merit.

“Joining other Merit music students from across the city and performing together in such a beautiful concert setting builds a strong sense of accomplishment and community," he said.

The Bridges: Partners in Music program aligns with Merit's top goal — to ensure that children, regardless of income and background, have access to high-quality music education, Gildow said.

The opportunity to learn from the best in music is also changing lives.

Danielle, who recently moved to Auburn Gresham on the South Side, started playing violin last year under the Bridges program at Chopin.

"I wanted to get into a really great high school and they say that if you play an instrument, you have a better chance," she said during an orchestra practice.

Chopin student Danielle Wilson-Moore at Merit School of Music in the West Loop. [DNAinfo/Stephanie Lulay]

Earlier this year, Danielle was admitted to Whitney Young, the city's first public magnet high school and alma mater to first lady Michelle Obama. Of the 10,000 students who apply to the Near West Side high school annually, only 350 make the cut.

When she found out she would be walking the halls of one of the top schools in the nation next year, Danielle cried.

"I was excited, but I couldn't believe it," she said. "I really didn't think I was going to make it." 

While she can't know for sure, the Chopin student said she thinks her orchestra skills helped her land the coveted seat in Whitney Young's freshman class. And she's excited to continue playing violin, she said.

"I get this feeling when I play — I like the way it sounds," Danielle said. "It's peaceful to me."

Keywords: ART, Chicago Public Schools, Merit Scholar, Violinist, youth

Posted in Community Highlights, Education Initiatives