Executive Blog
The Music Academy

Testimonial from Pat Michelsen, former parent and long time donor

I have 3 children who studied violin and piano at The Music Academy for varying amounts of time over 12 years, from about 1988 to 2000.

We moved to Rockford in the early 80s when it was hit pretty hard by unemployment. I left 8 siblings in the Chicago suburbs where most were raising families at the same time that I was raising mine. We kept in touch visiting back and forth and had lots of opportunity to share experiences. I thought then and I still think now that Rockford was a great place to raise a family because it offered so many high quality resources to children and parents.

Rockford had beautiful parks and forest preserves, fine museums, a fabulous public library, a state of the art YMCA, the Coronado and Midway Theatres, and I could go on and on. Pretty much anything you wanted to do was available and affordable for a young family.  In terms of formal education, our kids were lucky to be able attend a public Montessori program, a public gifted program and a private high school.  All were good, solid educational experiences, but I think the highest quality of adult attention and instruction that they received was through the Suzuki music program, now The Music Academy in Rockford.

Having students in the Rockford public schools in the 90s meant having a ring side seat to one of the nation’s most dramatic and divisive school desegregation law suits. And having 3 kids in Suzuki meant 3 private and 3 group lessons a week. So I attended lots and lots of lessons, concerts, lectures and meetings with lots of children and adults.

Through it all, I could not help but notice how, on the one hand, parents were fighting bitterly for equality and integration in the schools, and on the other, the music students came from every economic class and were already racially and ethnically diverse. The most accomplished student by far at that time was an African American girl. My experience of that disparity between music school and public school was so profound that it’s something I still think about today.

So why do I support the Music Academy of Rockford?  There are so many reasons that it’s hard to mention just a few.

The focus of the school has endured and continues to be one of the region’s highest quality educational institutions.  It’s extremely well run and attended.  It’s an incredibly valuable resource to parents raising children whose development benefits all of the other institutions in the community.  I could talk about how music helps with memory, concentration, discipline, self-esteem and poise; how it increases our experience of joy in life, so many things…but in the end I think that it is the ability to learn, play and teach music that is closest to defining the very essence of our humanity, transcending the limitations of age, gender, race and class.  Music school is where children learn so much more than to just play notes, they learn how to be human together.