Street Smart Chicago

Chronicles of Continuing Education: Other Music Lessons

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By Keidra Chaney

So you got a new Stratocaster over the holidays and this year, you are determined to actually learn how to play it. Good for you! Or maybe you got the Strat last year and it’s been sitting in your spare room collecting dust for the past year, whatever, no judgments here. Perhaps you’ve longed to learn the piano (or banjo, or drums) and year after year you’ve been putting lessons on the back-burner, but not this year, by golly. Either way, congratulations! Taking music lessons as an adult is both an enjoyable hobby and convenient conversation starter for cocktail parties and awkward office ice-breakers.

But where do you start? If you’re a Chicagoan, the first option that may come to mind is the Old Town School of Folk Music. It’s a great resource and music community for aspiring and experienced musicians. But (not to take anything away from that venerable institution) it’s certainly not the only option in town. If, for whatever reason, Old Town School of Folk Music isn’t an option for you, there are a number of places where you can get started in your personal journey toward musical virtuosity. Or be able to decently play “Happy Birthday To You” which is also quite commendable. 

Wicker Park’s Avenue N Guitars offers private lessons in guitar, bass, keys and ukulele by the hour and half-hour. Even better, the store offers flexible scheduling for individual lessons via their website, so you don’t have to worry about spending money for two weeks of classes you can’t attend. It’s also a store and repair shop, so if you’re in need of a new instrument or want to have yours fixed, tuned or set-up, you won’t have to go far. 1823 West North, (773) 252-5580,

New Music School, located in The Loop, focuses on classical and jazz piano, strings and wind instruments. This sounds intimidating but don’t be shy, this school of formally trained music educators (many of whom are connected to Chicago Symphony Orchestra) teach beginning adult students as well as experienced and professional musicians. After choosing a teacher and a class structure, students even get an opportunity to show off their skills in a “salon” performance, so now maybe you can finally pay back those friends who always beg you to come and see their band play. 310 South Michigan, (312)612-1969,

If experimental music and sound piques your curiosity in any way, then Ravenswood’s Experimental Sound Studio is one of the best venues in the city to learn more, whether through a formal class or just hanging out at a jam session or live recording. The non-profit studio occasionally teaches workshops in circuit bending, audio mixing and mastering, and more. It’s also a cool place to check out performances from new and established experimental musicians and sound artists. 5925 North Ravenswood, (773)769-1069,

Chicago Center School of Music offers the usual mix of piano, guitar/bass and drum lessons in addition to violin, flute and voice. The school also offers a four-week class in home studio recording, focused on the production software Cubase, in addition to offering an unusual option to take a semi-private class with a friend. That way, you have the benefits of a practice buddy with no risk of the public humiliation of a group class. 900 North Franklin. (312)416-0622,

While not technically a school that offers formal lessons, I’d be remiss to ignore Girls Rock! Chicago’s weekend-long fundraising camp for women over eighteen years old, called Ladies Rock Camp. In the space of three days, a student can choose to learn the basics of guitar, bass, drums, keys or voice, form a band with other strangers, write and learn an original song, and perform that song for an audience in a live showcase. It’s a supportive and fun opportunity to dive into music lessons feet first, while also supporting one of Chicago’s most rocking non-profits.

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