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Frequently Asked Questions

Is One City a 501c-3 non-profit organization?

Yes. All donations to One City are 100% tax deductible.

What does One City do?

     One City provides high quality musical instruments and jazz instruction to children in Kindergarten through grade 8 from underserved communities on Chicago’s South side. The vast majority of our students attend Chicago Public Schools without instrumental music programs, so One City is their only chance to learn to play an instrument and be part of an ensemble. One City offers a 4-year jazz band curriculum for students in grades 5 – 8 as well as a Suzuki violin curriculum for students as young as Kindergarten.

How do I know whether or not my donation is being used well?

     Because of our unique relationship with VanderCook College of Music, One City has almost no overhead. We use the college’s facilities at no cost, so every penny donated to One City goes towards instruments, supplies (such a reeds, sheet music, and valve oil), and instruction. Upon request, Dr. Schuman will share a detailed budget and/or records of revenue and expenses from past years to anyone who wants to see how the money is used.

Can I can see the program for myself before I make a donation?

Absolutely. Guests are welcome any Saturday between 10:30 and noon when we are in session.

One City takes place at VanderCook College of Music, 3140 S. Federal Street in Chicago.

Why jazz?

     Part of One City’s mission is to educate our students and our community about the incredible musical legacy of the Bronzeville neighborhood where we rehearse, and where many of our students live. The list of musicians who lived and worked in Bronzeville includes Louis Armstrong, Earl Hines, Nat King Cole, Dorothy Donegan, Dizzie Gillespie, Charlie Parker, Sarah Vaughan, Billy Eckstein, and many more. Gospel legend Mahalia Jackson lived right around the corner from where we rehearse, and sang weekly at her nearby Pilgrim Baptist Church, her home congregation. Big Bill Broonzy and Muddy Waters top the list of blues musicians from Bronzeville.

Why strings?

     The One City Strings program was added to our original jazz curriculum because we recognized that

     A) there was a need for accessible string instruction at the very earliest stages of development, beginning in early childhood

    B) Suzuki instruction provides a unique opportunity for young children to share their musical development with a parent or caregiver. The One City moms, dads, grandparents and caregivers have expressed over and over what a joy it is to be a part of their child’s violin lessons.

What is the quality of instruction like at One City?

     One City’s lead teachers are among the top music educators in the country. The jazz program is led by Professor Anthony Kidonakis and Dr. Roosevelt Griffin. Professor Kidonakis also serves as Director of Jazz Studies at VanderCook College of Music and has performed alongside legendary jazz musicians including Benny Golson, Curtis Fuller, Jimmy Heath, Ed Thigpen, Frank Foster and Wynton Marsalis. Dr. Griffin’s numerous awards and accolades include the 2022 Jazz Educator of the Year award from Berkley College of Music and the Jazz Education Network, Chicago Defender/Real Times Media’s 2019 Men of Excellence Award, the Illinois Education Association’s 2018 Award for Human and Civil Rights, the Jazz Institute of Chicago’s 2017 Jazz Educator of the Year, 2017 Grammy Award for Best Music Educator: Semi Finalist, and Northern Illinois University’s 2015 Most Outstanding Alumni Award. But even more important than their impressive biographies and musical skills, the tone of One City is set by the warm, patient, encouraging way they help every child to discover and reach his or her musical potential.


     The Strings program is led by Dr. Yvonne Davila-Cortes and Ms. Lucinda Ali-Landing. Dr. Davila Cortes holds a Doctorate in Music and Human Learning from the University of Texas at Austin with an emphasis on parental involvement and on incorporating multicultural repertoire into the Suzuki curriculum, a Masters in Music in violin performance from UW-Madison, where she studied violin with Vartan Manoogian, and a Bachelor of Music from DePaul University, where she studied under Joseph Genualdi. She is currently the Director of String Activities in the collegiate division at VanderCook College of Music. In addition to directing the Hyde Park Suzuki Institude, Ms. Ali-Landing is in the first violin section of the Illinois Philharmonic Orchestra and the Chicago Sinfonietta. As part of the Chicago Sinfonietta, she is in the Joffrey Ballet Orchestra and has performed Cinderella, Romeo and Juliet, Midsummer Night's Dream and more. She is a freelance artist who has performed with artists such as Ray Charles, Barry White, The Winans, Brian McKnight, Oprah Winfrey, Three Mo Tenors, Ben Vereen, and others.

Do families pay to participate in One City?

     No. Because we believe music education should be available to all children, One City is offered at no charge.

How does One City impact the lives of the children who participate?

     We hear time and time again from the students themselves, from their parents, and from their schools that One City not only helps students develop musically, but it also teaches them to be confident leaders in their schools. Through studying an instrument. Our students develop self-discipline, perseverance, creativity and teamwork.

Does One City assess student development?

     Yes. Our students receive progress reports twice per year. There are specific milestones to be met each semester on each instrument, beginning with tone production and progressing through scales, rhythmic exercises, sight reading, and improvisation. Our progress reports also give students feedback on their progress in “Skills for Success” including teamwork, focus, punctuality, practice habits, and initiative. 

     In addition, One City also brings in an outside assessment team each spring to provide feedback in the form of a detailed rubric and open-ended comments on our curriculum, instruction, administration, fiscal management, and parental engagement.

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