Old Town School of Folk Music in Armitage Chicago

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The Old Town School of Folk Music in Armitage Chicago is one of the most iconic music venues in the city. Founded in 1957, the school has been teaching folk music to students of all ages for over 60 years.


The Old Town School of Folk Music is located in the Armitage neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago. It was founded in 1957 by Frank Hamilton, who was inspired by the folk music scene in New York City’s Greenwich Village. The school offers classes and workshops in a variety of musical styles, as well as concerts and other events.

Founded in 1957 by Frank Hamilton, Win Stracke, and Mary Voss

The Old Town School of Folk Music is a music school in Chicago, Illinois, USA, that offers instruction in various folk music genres, including folk rock, blues, Native American music, flamenco guitar, European classical music, East Indian music and many others. The School also offers education in instrumental performance, both voice and dance.

The school was founded in 1957 by Frank Hamilton, Win Stracke, and Mary Voss with the goal of making folk music accessible to everyone. The first location was a rundown church on Armitage Avenue on the city’s North Side. Within a few years the school outgrew its original location and moved to Lincoln Park; it has continued to grow and now has over 6 locations throughout the city.

Oldest continually operating folk music school in US

In 1957, Bob Gibson and Win Stracke founded the Old Town School of Folk Music in Chicago. With a few rented rooms and a handful of students, they launched a school that would grow to become the largest and oldest continually operating independent folk music school in the United States.

Over the years, the Old Town School has become an international destination for folk, Americana, world music, and beyond. Students come from all over the world to learn from our exceptional faculty, many of whom are renowned performers in their own right. Our founding values of inclusion, social justice, and creative self-expression continue to shape everything we do.


The Old Town School of Folk Music is located in Armitage Chicago. It is situated near the intersection of Armitage and Racine. The location is perfect for anyone looking for a campus near public transportation and the lake.

Armitage Ave, Lincoln Park, Chicago

The Old Town School of Folk Music is located on Armitage Avenue in the Lincoln Park neighborhood on the north side of Chicago. The street address is 909 W. Armitage Ave. The Armitage stop on the CTA Brown Line is just a few steps from our front door, and there are also a number of bus routes that serve the area. If you’re driving, we have a small parking lot behind the school (entrance on Weston), and street parking is usually available on Armitage, Belden, or Orchard. Please note that there are a limited number of free 2-hour parking spots on Armitage between Wolcott and Sheffield (3PM-7PM Monday-Saturday, all day Sunday).

Close to public transportation

The Old Town School of Folk Music is located in Armitage Chicago, just a few minutes’ walk from the Armitage stop on the CTA Red Line. The school is also served by a number of CTA buses, including the 8, 22, 36, 73 and 146 routes.


Old Town School of Folk Music believes that music has the power to bring people together regardless of age, race, or culture. They offer a wide range of programs and classes that cater to people of all ages and levels of experience. Their programs include everything from music lessons and classes, to concerts and events.

Private music lessons

At Old Town School, we believe that music is for everyone. Students of all ages and abilities are welcome in our classes, which are instructed by experienced teaching artists. Choose from a variety of genres, instruments, and levels—or try something new!

We offer 30-minute, 45-minute, and 1-hour private music lessons for students age 4 and up. In addition to meeting once a week with your instructor, you’ll also have access to practice rooms, recital halls, and other performance opportunities.

Group classes

The Old Town School of Folk Music in Armitage Chicago offers group classes for all levels of students in a variety of instruments as well as vocal classes. If you are interested in learning an instrument or taking your playing to the next level, group classes are a great way to do it! You will get to interact with other students and learn from our experienced instructors.


Concerts are a key part of what we do at the Old Town School. Our two main concert venues-Maurer Concert Hall and stage 773-present music from around the world nearly every night of the week. The city’s most iconic musicians regularly play our stages, and rising stars grace our halls nightly. Our calendar includes everything from drop-in Indiana fiddle jams to sold-out shows by internationally touring ensembles.

Notable alumni

The Old Town School of Folk Music is a renowned music school in Armitage Chicago. Some of the notable alumni of the school include Steve Goodman, John Prine, Bonnie Raitt, and Natalie Merchant.

Steve Goodman

Steve Goodman (July 25, 1948 – September 20, 1984) was an American folk music singer-songwriter from Chicago. He wrote the city anthem “Chicago”, was a member of the group Jamaica Farell and wrote many songs covered by other artists, such as “City of New Orleans”, originally performed by Arlo Guthrie and more recently by Willie Nelson. Goodman attended but did not graduate from the Old Town School of Folk Music.

Bonnie Koloc

Bonnie Koloc (born November 26, 1947) is an American singer, songwriter, and actress. She was a central figure in the Chicago folk music scene during the late 1960s and early 1970s. Her best-known recordings are her self-titled debut album Bonnie Koloc (1971), which peaked at number 14 on Billboard’s Folk Albums chart, and After All This Time (1973), which reached number 39 on the same chart. She has also appeared in numerous stage and film productions, including the Robert Altman film A Wedding (1978).

John Prine

John Prine (born October 10, 1946) is an American country folk singer-songwriter. He has been active as a composer, recording artist and live performer since 1971, and is known for an often humorous style of country music that often Third

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