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AUDITIONS for the 2024-2025 season now open!     May 28 & 29 and August 12-14, 2024 
If interested in joining, contact Sue Polutnik at or call 847.448.8311.

The Music Institute of Chicago Academy is nationally recognized as a top program for pre-college musicians and is dedicated to students with extraordinary talent. 

Program Overview
The program consists of approximately 30 students, ages 14-18, who meet each Saturday from September through May.  The curriculum, initially modeled after Juilliard pre-college, has been enhanced each year to meet the changing needs of our students.

Students attend classes from 9:30 am-6:00 pm every Saturday on the beautiful grounds of Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, IL.  Most students are dropped off by 9am to prepare for the rigors of the day.

On seven Saturday evenings, students perform in three orchestra concerts and four chamber music concerts at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, IL. This is the Music Institute of Chicago's beautiful performance space with ideal acoustics for any performance. Those are particularly long days that conclude around 9:30 p.m.

Besides the classroom curriculum, the Academy provides college and conservatory audition guidance, letters of recommendation, and summer camp and festival information.

Performance Opportunites
Throughout the year, students are provided performance opportunities at philanthropic, civic, and community events to fulfill community service engagement obligations with local senior residences, libraries, and schools. We also provide performances and master classes with collaborative organizations like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, WFMT Radio, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Chicago Philharmonic and the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.

A glimpse at the year:
Auditions take place from April through August; online Academy registration occurs in August; Merit Scholarship Awards are assigned at the end of August; chamber groups (string and piano duos, trios, and quartets) are formed at the beginning of September; orchestra seating auditions occur mid-September, and classes resume later in September.
Students are off for Thanksgiving, Winter Break, and Spring Break.  

And lastly, we take great pride in the camaraderie and bonds of friendship that are a natural outgrowth of the program. We love hearing that Saturday is often the favorite day of the week for our students, especially for so many who are home-schooled.  

At the end of their journey, students matriculate to Juilliard, Curtis, Shepherd School at Rice, Colburn, New England Conservatory, Eastman, Oberlin, Cleveland Institute of Music, University of Michigan, Northwestern University, USC, and many other fine conservatories and universities. 


All prospective students must submit a pre-screen video performance (via YouTube). The pre-screen ensures the playing level and skillset matches our current students and allows the faculty to review technical proficiency, musicality, and intonation. The pre-screen should be a polished piece that exhibits a student’s highest level of skill and proficiency. The performance should be current and must include two pieces of contrasting styles--something lyrical and something showing virtuosity.  Accompanists are not required for the pre-screen.

Academy Director Jim Setapen and MIC President Mark George review pre-screen submissions and provide evaluation commentary to students who do not advance to a live audition. If the prescreen is approved, a live audition is scheduled for spring or summer. Admission is rolling, but there are only a limited number of string and piano openings each year.

Please read through all of the Frequently Asked Questions to learn more about the program and contact Sue Polutnik today to begin your Academy journey!

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Academy Enrollment Policies

The Music Institute of Chicago admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school.  It does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admissions policies, scholarship and loan programs and other school-administered programs.

Agreement to Policies

Please be aware that by signing a Student Registration Form, you are indicating you have read and agree to the terms as stated below on behalf of your child(ren)/ward(s) and/or yourself.  Each Academy student and parent must also sign the policy agreement in the Academy Handbook.

Deportment & Drug Policy

While on the Music Institute of Chicago’s premises, students and those accompanying them are expected to treat our facilities respectfully. Skates, skateboards, pets, etc. are not allowed in the building.  Food and beverages are not permitted in the studios. The use, possession, sale, transfer, purchase or being under the influence of alcoholic beverages, illegal drugs or other intoxicants by students at any time on MIC premises is strictly prohibited and can result in immediate expulsion and recission of all scholarship monies.  The student’s family will be responsible for paying any remaining balance from the point of expulsion through the completion of the semester.

Publicity Consent

Photographs, audio and video of students engaged in Music Institute of Chicago activities including but not limited to instruction, rehearsal, workshop or performances may be used in MIC publications, newspapers, magazines, radio and other related publicity materials including the digital media. Your signature on this registration form constitutes consent and permission by the student and/or students’ parent(s) and legal guardians to use the student’s name and/or image/audio for any advertising, publicity, marketing or packaging. This release is irrevocable.

Waiver and Release of All Claims

Parents/guardians/caretakers are responsible for supervising the safety and deportment of their children at all times while they are on the Music Institute’s premises.  In addition, in registering yourself or your minor child(ren)/ward(s) for participation in programs of the Music Institute of Chicago, you acknowledge you will be waiving and releasing all claims for injuries you or your child(ren)/ward(s) might sustain arising out of these programs. To wit:  I recognize and acknowledge that there are certain risks of physical injury to participants in programs of the Music Institute of Chicago, and I agree to assume the full risk of any such injuries, damages or loss regardless of severity which I or my child(ren)/ward(s) may sustain as a result of participating in any activities connected or associated with any such programs. I waive and relinquish all claims I or my child(ren)/ward(s) may have against the Music Institute of Chicago and its officers, agents, servants, volunteers and employees from any and all claims from injuries, damage or loss which I or my child(ren)/ward(s) may have or which may accrue to me or my child(ren)/ward(s) on account of my participation or the participation of my child(ren)/ward(s) in any of these programs. I further agree to indemnify and hold harmless and defend the Music Institute of Chicago and its officers, agents, servants, volunteers and employees from any and all claims resulting from injuries, damages and losses sustained by me or by my child(ren)/ward(s), and arising out of, connected with, or in any way associated with the activities of any of the programs.  I have been provided with a copy of and have read the Music Institute’s “Enrollment Information and Policies” form and the claim waiver (above), and I agree to the terms as stated. Further, I have read and fully understand the program details and waiver and release all claims.