And the band plays on
In 1954, young Chicago musicians had a choice between four youth symphonies offered by the Chicago Park District. Described as “thriving” in the April 1954 issue of The American City, the symphonies featured young musicians from various parts of the city and were a part of the district’s increasing number of music activities in the community’s 107 parks. The district’s supervisor of music then, Dr. William Francis Bergmann, revealed plans to expand the music programs to include more instrumental and vocal groups featuring harmonicas, accordions and ukuleles.
More than 50 years later, Chicago’s youth still go to the parks for music lessons on a variety of instruments — including drums, piano, violin and guitar — and are exposed to musical genres, such as contemporary, folk, ethnic and jazz. Young musicians also participate in performance groups, including the South Shore Cultural Center Youth Jazz ensemble, band and a drum troupe for youths and adults with disabilities. The district also offers music and dance lessons through partnerships with organizations such as AfriCaribe, which promotes Caribbean and Puerto Rican culture through the arts; the Muntu Dance Theatre of Chicago, an African and African-American dance and music company; and the Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, which teaches students Puerto Rican drumming, dance and how to play a Caribbean guitar. In addition, the Chicago Park District, which oversees more than 500 parks, also partners with “Arts Partners in Residence,” an organization that promotes arts programs in Chicago neighborhoods.