Back to top

Academy Auditions take place annually.

How would you like to spend your Saturdays immersed in music with friends who love playing in an orchestra as much as you do? To rehearse chamber music with national award-winning coaches? To perform in master classes with distinguished pedagogues and guest artists from across the country?

The Academy at the Music Institute of Chicago promises all this and more…. while you make friendships that will last a lifetime.

The Music Institute of Chicago Academy, is a nationally recognized as a top programs for pre-college musicians and dedicated to students with extraordinary talent. The rigors of the comprehensive curriculum are suited to musicians who plan to pursue conservatory training and a professional career in music. Our goal is to introduce students to a broad musical community, like-minded peers, and conservatory faculty members who may well be in their future.

Since 2006,  the Academy’s comprehensive training program for gifted pre-college students, provides piano and string musicians the best music education in preparation of conservatory admission. Students have attended the Academy from all corners of the country and from across the globe, including students from Costa Rica, Argentina, China, and Korea. The all-inclusive program meets for 30 weeks on Saturdays, September through May, 9:30am to 6:00pm, on the beautiful grounds of Lake Forest College in Lake Forest, Illinois (just 40 minutes north of downtown Chicago).

The curriculum includes one 60-minute private lesson (taken off-site during the week) with your teacher or an Academy faculty member, two hours of keyboard classes for piano students (keyboard literature, history, duo piano, and improvisation), a robust two-hour chamber music program, two hours of chamber orchestra, 90-minutes of music theory which includes solfeggio, ear training, and music history, and a weekly 90-minute enrichment class that offers master classes with esteemed pedagogues, as well as lectures and workshops. Students are required to take a music theory placement exam at orientation to determine which level of theory --beginner level to intermediate, accelerated, or advanced composition levels, is most suited to their experience.

The Academy staff and faculty also provide insightful college and conservatory audition guidance and college letters of recommendation.

Throughout the year, students are provided performance opportunities at philanthropic, civic, and community events. In addition, students are engaged in collaborative partnerships with organizations like the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, WFMT Radio, From the Top, Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Botanic Garden, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.

IT'S EASY TO APPLY! All prospective students are required to submit a pre-screen video performance (via YouTube). The pre-screen ensures the playing level and skillset matches our current students and reviews 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 prescreen

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.

COVID-19 Policy

Academy students, parents, faculty and staff have successfully navigated the pandemic over the past two years. Our Covid policies are designed to continue to protect the health and safety of everyone in our community. To promote a safe environment, the Academy will continue to be a fully vaccinated program.  Proof of vaccination is required for new students and parents at the start of the school year. All members must be "up to date" by the time of the first class. Questions regarding positive testing, isolation, and health or religious accomodations, should be addressed to Sue Polutnik. Masks are encouraged in classrooms, but are not required.

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.  Academy student and parents 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.