Music for all: Teachers start nonprofit to help people of all ages afford music lessons

Brooke Schrager and Ella Bracero would like to teach the world to sing.

And they're looking to do that no matter people's financial resources thanks to their nonprofit Cadence Music NFP.

"In our world today, private music lessons are considered a luxury. They're available to those who have the privilege of paying for the best music education money can buy," said Bracero, co-founder and executive director of Cadence Music NFP, in an email.

"Brooke and I created Cadence specifically to break those barriers, and I hope that in the future we can view private music lessons as a necessary investment that are accessible to any and all students interested in pursuing music."

Schrager, who started her own business teaching music lessons in 2016, now called Lessons By Brooke & Company, was joined by Bracero in 2019. In 2021, the Elmhurst University grads decided to join forces to start the nonprofit to give people of all ages the opportunity to sing and play instruments.

They do this with their Music Lesson Scholarship Program through the parent company. According to Schrager, several students receive full-ride scholarships, some pay 50% tuition and others a flat fee that is comfortable for their family's needs.

Autumn S. performs at the Giving Tuesday Virtual Open Mic Night for Cadence Music NFP. The nonprofit offers a scholarship program for people of all ages to take private music lessons. Courtesy of Brooke Schrager

"The scholarship amounts are customized to each situation and are confirmed once a student and their family go through our scholarship application process," Schrager said.

"I didn't take private lessons sooner because it wasn't easily available to me and it was expensive. Without my scholarship, I don't think I would've started lessons, sadly," scholarship recipient and volunteer Jay G. F. said in an email.

Schrager and Bracero are working hard to get more support for their growing nonprofit with two upcoming fundraisers - Musical Movie Monday on July 24 and the first annual fundraising gala in September.

"It's such a joy to have everyone come together and share the gift of music knowing that we're breaking down any and all barriers so everyone can have access to top-notch music education," said Schrager in an email.

Schrager and Bracero discuss Cadence Music NFP and the upcoming fundraisers.

Q: What is Cadence Music NFP?

A: We believe that music education is for everyone. We provide opportunities for individuals of all backgrounds, ages, and ability levels to unlock their future in the world of music through education, inspiration, and exploration.

We do this primarily through our Music Lesson Scholarship Program by providing funding for students to receive private music lessons through our parent company, Lessons By Brooke & Company, both virtually and in person around the Chicago area.

Elijah P. performs at the Spring Virtual Open Mic Night for Cadence Music NFP. The nonprofit will finally be able to host in person fundraisers to help in its mission of providing scholarships for music lessons. Courtesy of Brooke Schrager

Q: How many people per year do you serve?

A: In our first year as an organization, we successfully provided about 350 music lessons to 7-10 students a month, depending on the month. Our goal for this coming year is to at least double that impact, and we're already seeing this happen.

Cadence Music NFP serves students in their homes throughout the Chicago area as well as several students at Joliet Central High School through their choral program.

Q: Where do the majority of your funds come from to support your work?

A: We've been fortunate to have very generous donors in our community of family, friends and Lessons By Brooke & Company parents/students. Because Lessons By Brooke & Company has been an established for-profit business for several years, we have the funds to sustain Cadence during its startup phase. We're looking forward to growing our fundraising reach and applying for (and receiving!) grant funding in the near future.

Q: What are some of your programs?

A: Currently, our Music Lesson Scholarship Program has all of our attention. We're looking forward to getting more programming off the ground as we continue to grow.

Since our inception, we have hosted two successful virtual open-mics with special guest appearances from Broadway actors, and we're about to have our first in-person events.

Q: Tell us about the upcoming Musical Movie Monday on July 24 and the first annual fundraising gala in September.

A: Musical Movie Monday on July 24 is being hosted by the generous folks at Our Saviour's Lutheran Church in Arlington Heights, 1234 N. Arlington Heights Road. There will be food, games, and a singalong viewing of "Beauty and the Beast."

There may even be a special surprise raffle gift having to do with the movie, as well as a guest appearance from one of the aforementioned characters. Registration is required and free on our website,

There will be opportunities to make a donation to Cadence at the event, as well as online through our website.

Bella Notte, our first fundraising gala, will take place Thursday, Sept. 28, at Makray Memorial Golf Club, 1010 S. Northwest Hwy., Barrington. Tickets are now on sale and early bird pricing for individual tickets and tables are available through Sept. 1.

We'll have a meal, special entertainment and a silent/e-auction for our donors to participate in. Visit our website to purchase your tickets.

We have several sponsorship opportunities available. If any businesses or individuals would like to become a sponsor, visit our website and fill out the Google form.

A group photo of students at the Joliet Central High School Pops Concert. Top, from left, Micah G., Jay G.F., Aiden G.; bottom, from left, Zoey D. Lexi B. Lauren B., Paul O. Courtesy of Ella Bracero

Q: How can readers help Cadence Music NFP?

A: We are so grateful for any and all support and help spreading the word about our mission.

First and foremost, please like/follow us on social media and sign up for our newsletter on our website. Sharing about Cadence with your community is how we will successfully continue to grow and serve music students in need.

If you are so inclined to donate, monthly, recurring donations help us to plan for the future. Throughout the start of Cadence Music NFP, we've learned that it takes approximately 3-6 months of weekly lessons for a student to begin noticing the improvements in their instrument.

Recurring donations will continue to make private music lessons accessible to a student in need of a scholarship. One time donations are always welcome too, of course! Donations can be made through our website.

Q: What else would you like readers to know?

A: We would like to give a shout out to the entire Cadence Music NFP board and advisory boards. They've come together as a dream team to make all of this possible and they are some of the most generous, caring and smart humans I have the privilege of knowing.

Cadence Music is just getting started, and we are so excited to continue breaking down barriers in music education so students can learn and thrive through music as they become the next generation of performers and teachers.

Meet the teachers

Brooke Schrager of Lincoln Park

• Grew up in Wheeling, where she was involved in a variety of musical activities, including piano lessons, played oboe in the school band and joined choir, musicals, show choir, etc.

• Attended Elmhurst University and graduated with a degree in K-12 Music Education, a vocal performance certificate and a Spanish minor in 2014.

Brooke Schrager

• Taught for two years at a middle school before opening Lessons By Brooke in 2016, where she teaches voice and piano lessons.

• In fall of 2016, she changed the name to Lessons By Brooke & Company to accommodate her growing client list. The business has grown to about 30 teachers serving more than 300 students virtually and in person in the Chicago area.

• In December 2021 Schrager and Ella Bracero hatched the idea for Cadence Music NFP to help students who could not afford music lessons.

• In August 2022 they officially announced Cadence to our community.

"I have always known that music lessons were a luxury that not everyone had access to, but when the pandemic hit, I saw that need grow and we immediately started to provide sliding scale and scholarship opportunities for our community.

"In this first year we've grown so much and received more support than we could have hoped for as a new nonprofit."

Ella Bracero of Vernon Hills

• Grew up in Long Valley, New Jersey, where she gravitated toward music at a young age, taking piano lessons until she was a teenager and joining choir her sophomore year of high school.

Ella Bracero

• Graduated from Elmhurst University in February 2016 with a bachelor's of music in Music Business and found her first music business job in 2017.

• In spring of 2018, she volunteered as a vocal coach for a musical production and it was during those rehearsals where she realized her love for teaching. A few weeks before the show, she quit her job and started at Lessons By Brooke & Company in 2019 as a voice and piano instructor.

"In 2021 I started teaching private voice lessons at Joliet Central High School through Lessons By Brooke & Company. As we got into the beginning of the school year, I wanted to find a way to support the next generation of musicians by making music lessons accessible to all.

"This last year and a half has been a whirlwind creating, launching, and promoting Cadence Music NFP. The support has been amazing from our community."

Cadence Music NFP

Musical Movie MondayWhen: 5-8 p.m. Monday, July 24Where: Our Saviour’s Lutheran Church in Arlington Heights, 1234 N. Arlington Heights RoadCost: Free; registration required at

Bella NotteWhat: First fundraising galaWhen: 6-9 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28Where: Makray Memorial Golf Club, 1010 S. Northwest Hwy., BarringtonTickets: Early bird pricing is $100 per person through Sept. 1; $125 per person after thatDetails: For information about either event, visit

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