The School of Folk Music in Chicago

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Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


The School of Folk Music in Chicago is a great place to learn about the music and culture of the city.


The School of Folk Music in Chicago is a world-renowned institution that offers a wide range of courses and programs for both beginners and experts. Founded in 1909, the school has been at the forefront of American folk music for more than a century. Today, it continues to be one of the leading centers for folk music education in the country.

The school offers a wide variety of courses and programs, including classes on musical instruments, singing, songwriting, and dance. It also hosts a number of public events throughout the year, such as concerts, workshops, and lectures. In addition, the school is home to a world-class museum and library that houses a wealth of resources on American folk music.

The History of the School

The School of Folk Music in Chicago was originally founded in 1963 by Win Stracke. Stracke was a musician and musicologist who believed that traditional folk music was an important part of American culture. The school was designed to be a place where people could come to learn about and experience different types of folk music from all over the world.

The Early Years

In 1957, a group of music enthusiasts in Chicago came together with the common goal of bringing folk music to the Windy City. Through their efforts, The Old Town School of Folk Music was born. The school was located in the heart of Chicago’s Old Town neighborhood, and it quickly became a cornerstone of the city’s vibrant folk music scene.

In its early years, the school offered classes in a wide variety of musical styles, including bluegrass, country, blues, and gospel. The school also put on regular concerts featuring both local and national folk acts. These concerts helped to raise funds for the school and also introduced Chicagoans to a wide variety of folk music.

As the years went by, the school continued to grow and evolve. In the 1970s, the school added classes in world music and dance, as well as workshops on songwriting and instrument making. In the 1980s, the school began offering classes for children and teenagers. Today, the Old Town School of Folk Music is one of the largest and most respected folk music schools in the world.

The Modern Era

In the modern era, the school has continued to evolve and grow. In the early 2000s, the school began to offer online courses, which has made the school more accessible to students from all over the world. The school has also continued to add new programs and expand its reach. Today, the school is a thriving community of musicians from all over the world who come together to learn, teach, and perform folk music.

The Music

The school’s music is based on the premise that all music is folk music. All music, whether classical, jazz, rock, or country, has its roots in the folk music of the common people. The school’s founder, Frank Lloyd Wright, believed that folk music was the true American music and that it should be nurtured and preserved.

The Styles

The Classes
The school offers group and private instruction in fiddle, old-time banjo, bluegrass banjo, guitar, harmonica, mandolin, songwriting, singing and more. Bring your instrument or borrow one of ours.
Most of the music learned at the school is American vernacular music – blues, bluegrass, country, gospel, old-time string band music and traditional folk songs. We also offer many different workshops taught byMasters in their field throughout the year.

The Instruments

The school of folk music in Chicago is one of the finest in the world. It offers a wide variety of courses on various instruments, such as the guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, Dobro, and bass. In addition, there are classes on music theory, history, and composition.

The Students

The school was started in 1963 by two musicians, Win Stracke and Frank Leonardo, who wanted to create a space where folk music could be taught and preserved. They were soon joined by Steve Goodman, who would become one of the most important figures in the school’s history. The school has since become a cornerstone of the Chicago music scene, and has produced some of the most talented musicians in the country.

The Teachers

Among the most celebrated instructors at the School of Folk Music in Chicago were Winifred Martin and Maude Kerns. Both women were Hoover Dam refugees who had lost their husbands in the tragedy. They found their way to Chicago where they each took a job teaching music at the School. They became fast friends and soon began teaching together.

Martin and Kerns were both highly respected for their knowledge of music and their ability to teach it to others. They quickly gained a reputation as two of the best instructors at the school. Many of their students went on to become successful musicians in their own right.

Martin and Kerns taught at the School of Folk Music for over 20 years, until they both retired in the early 1960s. They continued to stay in touch and remained close friends until Martin’s death in 1972.


The School of Folk Music in Chicago is a great place to learn about the music and culture of the city. With a wide range of classes, performances, and events, there is something for everyone at the school. If you are looking for a place to learn about folk music, or just want to experience the music and culture of the city, the School of Folk Music in Chicago is a great choice.

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