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The Academy is a core program of the Music Institute of Chicago, a national leader in music education for more than 90 years.  The Academy program, for highly gifted string and piano students, is designed to be the primary musical experience in a student’s life.

Components Include

  • Private Instruction
    The heart of an Academy education. Students study with their own teacher or MIC’s renowned artist faculty. Accepted students participate in all aspects of the curriculum, including private lessons, chamber music, chamber orchestra, and accelerated theory classes.  Pianists also study keyboard history, literature and skills, and keyboard improvisation in an intimate group setting.
  • Chamber Music
    Weekly coachings with artist faculty, scheduled rehearsal time,  performance classes, and regular ensemble concerts make up the robust program. Students are carefully prepared for local, regional, and national competitions. The Academy's robust chamber music program has resulted in numerous national competitions, gold, silver, and bronze medals since its inception in 2006. Chamber ensembles are coached by Academy Artist faculty.
  • Enrichment
    The only program of its kind to offer regular master classes, discussion panels, lectures, and workshops with professional experts and masterful pedagogues who provide the Academy student with a broad view of the world of music.
  • Chamber Orchestra
    Performance opportunities, and a challenging repertoire, in an intimate ensemble, is offered to violinists, violists, cellists and bass students.
  • Performances
    Philanthropic, civic, educational, and outreach opportunities, as well as paid engagements, are provided to Academy students in settings throughout the Chicagoland area.
  • Music Theory & History
    Academy students all study music theory and history at a level appropriate to their level of advancement.
    • music theory/history
    • solfeggio
    • ear training, rhythmic and melodic dictation

Career Development & Counseling

Academy students have the opportunity to receive advice and guidance from President Mark George, Academy Director Jim Setapen and artist faculty on competitions, college auditions, conservatory programs, instruments, and much more. 


The Academy offers students opportunities to connect with peers, alums, teachers, conservatory professors, conductors, and managers.

The Academy Program

Daily Curriculum - Strings and piano

Ages 14* – 19 (gap years are considered)

  • Classes begin mid-September and run through May
  • Saturdays 9:30 AM to 6:00 PM
  • Students arrive as early as 8:15AM to practice.
  • All components of the comprehensive curriculum are mandatory.
  • Students are expected to be available for the entire day on Saturday; three dress rehearsals will occur on Friday evenings in Evanston from 6:00PM-9:30PM and seven concerts will occur on Saturday evenings in Evanston from 7:30PM-9:30PM.
  • One-hour private lesson off-site during the week
  • One-hour chamber music coaching
  • One-hour chamber music rehearsal
  • Two-hour chamber orchestra rehearsal
  • Theory classes, multiple levels
  • Piano literature/improvisation/keyboard skills class (pianists only)
  • Enrichment/Masterclasses

Other Program Components

  • Audition and competition preparation
  • Introduce your piece to an audience - students introduce their piece (insight about the composer) on chamber concerts and compete for the best audience presenter.
  • Performance opportunities
  • College and conservatory recommendations, summer programs, and career counseling

A Typical Saturday

9:30 – Music theory and history classes
10:50 – Break
11:00 – Chamber music (one- hour with coach, one-hour students work 
                without coach)
1:00 – Lunch in the student commons or Reid Hall
2:00 to 4:00 – Orchestra for string students
2:00 to 2:55 – Piano literature for piano students
3:05 to 4:00 – Improvisation for piano students
4:00 Break
4:30 to 6:00 – Enrichment (master classes, talks on music, workshops, lectures)

Program Attendance

The Academy absence policy was updated in 2023 in an effort to reduce late arrivals, mid-day absences, and early departures, thereby strengthening chamber music and orchestra attendance. 

A. Up to six absences (eight for seniors) from music theory, piano group
classes and chamber music are allowed as long as the student makes up
the theory or piano work (and does not get behind in the class), and as
long as the chamber music sessions are made up with and without the
coach in the same way they would have taken place if the student were

B. Students may miss up to six Enrichments (eight for seniors) that do not
involve their personal participation.

C. Students must attend any part of the Academy they can on a day
when they are absent for part of the day.

D. Students may miss up to five orchestra rehearsals in a year, except for the
dress rehearsals (three Friday evenings on the day before the concerts). 
If they are absent for more than five, they will sit in the last chair of their section 
for the concert. If they miss the dress rehearsal, their parents must pay for a 
professional substitute for the dress rehearsal and the concert. It is at the 
discretion of the conductor if they will be allowed to play the concert if they miss 
the dress rehearsal. Similarly, if a student must miss an orchestra concert, their 
parents must pay for a professional substitute for the dress rehearsal and the concert. 
Students must let the administration know at least two weeks before such an

E. Students will consult with the conductor the week after an absence on
points they missed from that rehearsal. 

F. Students who miss more than two weeks in a row of orchestra will lose the
opportunity to play on the first desk in that series concert. 

G. Every orchestral absence beyond five will result in a fee of $200 that will
be billed to the family. It is hoped that this will encourage families to
look more closely at the non-Academy Saturday events they participate in.
H. The Saturday of the Fischoff chamber music competition is not included
in the list of absences since many Academy students are often at that