The Dushkins

Dorothy and David Dushkin“Music is not a calling to be pursued in solitude by the talented. 

  It is basic to life, like bread and fresh air.”  – David Dushkin

Before founding the Music Institute of Chicago in 1931, David and Dorothy Dushkin (who met in Paris as students of Nadia Boulanger) had each taught school for two years in the Chicago area.  David taught instrumental music at Francis Parker, the Latin School and in the Glencoe Public School, while Dorothy was a vocal teacher at the Latin School.

The Dushkins were passionate in their love of music, and wanted to make that love a part of the everyday life of as many children as they could reach.  They were devoted, not to the training of the professional musician (although many who began their studies with the Dushkins went on to professional careers), but to developing musical ability and appreciation in the life-long amateur.

David was a strong advocate for the creation of musical instruments.  He believed that instrument making worked as a powerful stimulus to musical education, teaching the student pitch and tone and a love for the instrument itself.  The Dushkin home on Willow and Rosewood in Winnetka served as a complete instrument workshop.  Before their lessons began, students would spend an hour or two in the shop working under David’s tutelage. 

Due to the growing popularity and enrollment in the school after two years, a new school was built at 555 Glendale and renamed the Winnetka Music School.  It housed a concert hall on the main floor, a workshop and studios below and living quarters on the upper level. 

For 22 years the Dushkins remained very much a part of the community.  Their many contributions live on. The Dushkin Award, established 26 years ago and named for the Music Institute’s founders, Dorothy and David Dushkin, honors individuals who exemplify the spirit of the award as exceptional artists, music educators, and role models for Music Institute of Chicago students.

A Brief Account of the Emergence of the Music Institute of Chicago

"In 1928 I came to the Chicago area to teach after two years in Paris studying composition with Nadia Boulanger, among whose students I met my future wife. In 1931 we settled in Winnetka and I started a music school in our rented home. In 1934 we constructed our own school-cum-residence chiefly with a loan of $20,000 from the father of one of our students. The building, on a sizeable corner lot across from the Skokie Junior High School, housed our family of four children, and oftentimes a teacher boarder, and contained a concert room on the main floor with workshop, studios, and office below. In 1939 the school, which had first been called The School of Musical Arts and Crafts and later The Dushkin School of Music finally became the Winnetka School of Music and was incorporated as a non-profit institution.


By 1949 we decided that the frustrations of suburban living were outweighing our satisfactions and achievements; that the situation was getting more smug than interesting. Our freedom in teaching was becoming stifled by the stereotyped methods coming into the local schools, and our gifted students were hampered by innumerable distractions. We felt the need of a change. Our inclination was to settle in Vermont, where we had a summer home, but there was a delay of two years accomplishing this. A group of parents asked me not to leave until I had found a new director and had helped reorganize the school into a parent-owned institution. And this I did- I believe the first one-of-its-kind music schools! The Winnetka property was still ours but the parents promised to sell it for us, and did so. Their organization built on another location in Winnetka, and now is successfully operating under the name of The Music Center of the North Shore [and later the Music Institute of Chicago]."

- Written circa 1971 by David Dushkin