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The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian

The news site of Evanston Township High School's student newspaper

The Evanstonian


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The Musical Offering: instrumental to the community

The local establishment provides Evanston youth with supportive musical instruction
Rowan Kelly
The Musical Offering, situated at 743 Custer Avenue

Think about your favorite space. For some people it may be school, a bookstore, their home, a coffee shop, or a corner store. No matter what location people select, it is usually a place that brings them comfort and joy. One place that has been beloved by ETHS students and has become a great outlet for their musical passions is The Musical Offering.

The Musical Offering sits at 743 Custer Avenue and officially opened its doors in January of 2000. The establishment has been taking in students for the past twenty-three years.

The idea of  The Musical Offering came to founders Rick Ferguson and Kirsten Hedegaard when they noticed that Evanston did not have an accessible place that provided high-quality music instruction for students of all ages. Rather than waiting around for someone else to make their dream a reality, Ferguson and Hedegaard got to work creating their new business.

“Our current landlords, the Rebbe Church across the street, purchased this building, and I saw they put big signs on the windows that said, ‘seeking a community minded tenant.’ So I called a friend of mine, [because] we’d been thinking about maybe starting a communal teaching place. So we actually did, and they gave us a lease.  It was just four of us teachers to begin with, for quite a while. Then we just kept adding teachers, and then we started to do more things. It seemed like we should be a nonprofit, sowe got nonprofit status, andhere we are,” stated Ferguson, who proudly works at the musical school to this day.

At the same time that Ferguson and Hedegaard were creating plans for the location of their business, Oakton Elementary School was having a hard time providing its students with adequate music instruction. The two business owners saw it as a good sign that their new store would be in close proximity to Oakton to support the school’s musical needs.

In the years following their opening, The Musical Offering has partnered with three Evanston elementary schools—Washington, Oakton and Dawes—to provide workshops to foster the students’ love for music and give them opportunities they might not have had otherwise.

The music school is very selective in choosing their teachers to ensure that students will get the utmost support they need to be successful in improving their musical abilities. Every teacher hired by The Musical Offering has extensive training and is an active performer. A teacher could be bringing out the best in a viola student during the day, and performing chamber music for a vast audience in the evening.

Walking through the doors of The Musical Offering, a person is not only greeted by their multi-talented staff members, but also by a range of musical opportunities as well. Some of these include private lessons, group lessons and camps.

At private lessons, students work one-on-one with a teacher in an array of categories. These include lessons for piano, guitar, vocals, string instruments, woodwind and brass instruments, and composition and music theory. Lesson lengths span anywhere from 30 to 60 minutes, depending on student preference. Teachers can be chosen based on your skill level and subject of interest.

In terms of cost, it depends on what class a student is taking, what teacher they choose, the length of their class, and how many individual sessions there are. There is also a $20 registration fee per term.

Committing to lessons might seem scary at first, especially for beginners who might not even know if they are going to enjoy playing a particular instrument. The Musical Offering takes this into consideration when planning their lesson structures, and gifts a free thirty minute introductory lesson before signing up for classes, to those who feel unsure.

At group lessons, people can join a cello ensemble, a group guitar class, a blues band, a rock band, a jazz combo/theory group, or a MOchestra group. MOrchestra stands for The Musical Offering Orchestra, which opens a door for students wanting to be part of an ensemble. When joining, the staff evaluates your experience level so they can place people in a group that’s right for them.

In terms of group lessons, some—like the group guitar class—are only for adults. Others, like the cello ensemble, have high school specific groups in addition to the exclusively adult groups. However this should not discourage kids looking to be a part of a group. Plugged In & Live, which contains the blues, rock, and jazz groups are open to kids and adults.

“As a community music school, the idea is that we want to support students in developing the kinds of musical skill sets that will allow them to be able to explore whatever they’re interested in,”  Ferguson states.

The Musical Offering has altered their programs throughout the years to reflect the desires of their students. For example, the teachers noticed a lot of their students wanted to do musical theater. Not only performing it, but creating their own shows. This led to the school deciding to implement musical theater in their teaching—including school year and summer shows.

One of the unique opportunities a student can have at The Musical Offering is to be a part of their annual MO Show, a musical theater production that allows high school students to take leadership positions in creating an original musical. The show contains student writers, directors, choreographers, orchestra directors and composers, as well as a full cast of talented teens.

Lisel Duggan, a senior at ETHS, is a MO Show alumni and the director of this year’s production. After participating in the MO Show as a cast member, Duggan wanted to try her hand at directing, and the Musical Offering provided her a safe space to learn as she went.

“I don’t have experience previously directing any shows, so it’s a new thing for me. I tried to make that clear that it was something I’m willing to try,” stated Duggan.

It was Liesel’s MO show experience, hard work ethic, and passion for trying something new that helped her secure the role as the 2023 MO show director. When she started her journey as director, she thought back to the student directors she had when she was a performer in the show in years past.

“I think just looking up to the people who’ve done it in the past and trying to step up to what they did before has really helped to nurture that kind of creativity and passion,” Duggan stated.

Taking on a leadership position in a production is very beneficial for high school students who are interested in the arts, and The Musical Offering is the perfect place to do that.

“[Directing has]  helped me understand that students and people my age can also be creators and do their own thing without, not necessarily the guidance of adults, but just without being told what to do from them.”

It is evident that The Musical Offering is a welcoming environment that provides many opportunities for students of all ages. For high schoolers specifically, many programs have been designed to benefit them as a learner, and also as a leader.

“I admire everything that’s going on at ETHS, and I’m happy that The Musical Offering is now serving as a support system, but also sort of a feeder school for what’s going on at ETHS,” stated Ferguson.

“If you’re interested in lessons or MO  Show or anything like that,obviously, do your research, but just go for it.” stated Duggan, “ If there’s any worries about feeling like you belong there or anything, throw it out the window.”

In terms of the future of The Musical Offerings, it is at a very stable place right now. Ferguson just hired his 18th teacher at the school, so it is now at max capacity for instructors.  Since Ferguson no longer has to think about hiring more staff, he has more time to reflect on the quality of experience students at Musical Offering has, and how he can improve it.

“It’s just rolling,” Ferguson states when talking about the music school. “[The current stability]allows me to think much more about the quality. What kind of experience is everybody having, and is there anything I can do to help with that?”

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About the Contributors
Rory Lehman, Digital Staff Member, Staff Writer
Hi, my name is Rory Lehman (she/her/hers) and I am a writer for Arts and Entertainment and a videographer for the Social section. I am a freshman and I am really looking forward to my first year working on The Evanstonian. I have loved to write since a very young age, and after writing for my middle school’s newspaper I knew I wanted to continue to strengthen my journalism skills in high school. Beyond The Evanstonian, I play on the ETHS Girls Frosh Tennis Team, and am a member of Student Council. In my free time I love to channel my inner Rory Gilmore and read, write, and go to coffee shops with friends!
Rowan Kelly, Photographer
My name is Rowan Kelly (he/him), I am a junior, and new to The Evanstonian. I have always been interested in photography, and The Evanstonian inspired me to act on my interest! Outside of the paper, I love to read high fantasy, rock climb, and bike. At ETHS, I am a part of the Science Olympiad club, and Israeli club.
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