NIU Community School of the Arts offers music lessons and classes for children and adults of all ages.  The CSA offers year-round programming for more than 500 students who come to Northern Illinois University in DeKalb from cities, towns, and suburbs across northern Illinois to participate in classes, lessons, and music ensembles.


Financial assistance is available for students age 18 or younger who want to pursue their study of music or art.  Funding for scholarships is provided through private donations, fundraising activities, and support from the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund.  The deadline for submitting a need-based scholarship application for the fall semester is Friday, August 23.   Scholarship applications are available at the CSA website and by calling the NIU Community School of the Arts.

Music Lessons – Traditional and Suzuki

Learn to play a musical instrument!  The CSA offers traditional private music lessons on nearly all instruments – violin, guitar, piano, percussion, brass, woodwinds and many more.  Music lessons using the Suzuki approach (combining private and group lessons) are taught on violin, cello, piano, and guitar.

Music teachers meet with students weekly for private lessons in the NIU Music Building, and students are invited to prepare for and participate in a recital at the end of each semester.  Music lessons begin the week of August 26.

Music Lessons for Young Children

NEW FOR 2019 – Ukulele for Kids The ukulele’s small size and easy accessibility make it a great first instrument for kids developing their musical abilities.  Participants will learn basic ukulele skills by practicing children’s songs, Disney melodies and some pop tunes.  Teacher Tzu Tsen Wu has designed this class for children ages 6 – 12 to explore the musical world together as an ensemble.  Students should bring a ukulele to class and all types of ukuleles are welcome!  Class meets on Wednesdays from 5:30 – 6:30 p.m. starting September 11.

Children’s Early Music Education

Prelude is a group music class for toddlers ages 1 – 3 with singing, dancing, rhythm and music games.  Prelude class meets Saturdays from 10 – 10:30 a.m.

Development is a group music class for children ages 3 – 5 that builds upon the activities of the Prelude class, with more music activities and fun demonstrations of musical instruments.  Development class meets on Saturdays from 10:35 – 11:05 a.m.

Music educator and musician Laurie Rodriguez teaches these classes, starting on September 21 and meeting for 12 weeks.  Early registration is recommended for these popular music education classes for kids.

Piano Starter for Children This small group class is limited to four children ages 5 – 7 and is ideal as a beginning class for children to prepare for private music lessons.  Taught by piano teacher Soo-Yon Choi, this class meets for 12 weeks.  Once the fall class has filled, registration for the spring section will be open.  The fall class starts on September 10 and meets on Tuesdays from 4:00 – 4:40 p.m.

Guitar for Kids Teacher Quentin Dover introduces children ages 8 – 12 to guitar playing through a fun, song-oriented approach to learning.  Exposure to music fundamentals such as scales, chords, rhythm, melody, harmony, and playing technique allows students to begin building their own toolbox of musical skills, promoting confident and comfortable playing.  No previous guitar experience is required, and students should bring a guitar to class.  Class meets on Thursdays from 5:00 – 5:55 p.m. starting September 5.

Music Classes for Older Children and Adults

Guitar Basics and Intermediate Guitar are taught by guitarist and long-time CSA teacher Quentin Dover on Thursday evenings.  Students bring their own guitar to class and learn to play songs, scales and chords along with beginning music theory and guitar techniques.  Guitar Basics meets from 6:00 – 6:55 p.m. and Intermediate Guitar meets from 7 – 7:55 p.m.  Both classes welcome students ages 13 – adult, begin on September 5, and meet for 12 weeks.

Square One Piano: Group Basics Class meets from 6:15 – 7:00 p.m. and is for beginners.  Piano Forte: Building Piano Skills meets from 7:00 – 7:45 p.m. and is for intermediate players. Adults learn to play piano in a fun, group atmosphere, when Soo-Yon Choi teaches group piano classes for ages 13 – adult on Monday evenings starting September 9.

Qi Gong (or Chi-Kung) practice renews energy, releases tension, and enables relaxation and concentration.  A known precursor to Tai Chi, these exercises can be done at one time during the day, or interspersed amid music practice sessions, rehearsals, or other tasks.  Students ages 12 – adult learn 24 postures divided into three sets during six class meetings on Mondays from 5 – 6 p.m. starting September 9.

Music Ensembles

Musicians share a love of music and learn to play with others through the ensemble experience.  The NIU Community School offers several music ensembles, some for young musicians and others for older children and adults.  Every ensemble performs a concert in the NIU Music Building at the end of each semester.

CSA Symphonette is a string orchestra for ages 8 – 16 that rehearses on Tuesdays from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.  Directed by Linc Smelser, this group plays lively and challenging music and performs in concert twice during the year.  The first Symphonette rehearsal is on September 17.

CSA Sinfonia is directed by Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra conductor Linc Smelser.  This full youth orchestra meets on Wednesdays beginning August 28 from 7:30 – 9:45 p.m. and admits musicians ages 14 – 20 by audition.  CSA Sinfonia plays a wide variety of music and performs two concerts during the year.  First-time members should call the NIU Community School for more information about scheduling an audition.

NIUkulele Ensemble promises fun for beginning and intermediate ukulele players ages 9 – adult.  This ensemble is directed by CSA teacher Eric Schroeder.  Beginners receive instruction and intermediate players can play the more complicated parts.  All types of ukuleles are welcome, and participants must bring an instrument and a love for playing music with a group.  NIUkulele Ensemble rehearses on Mondays from 7:30 – 8:25 p.m. beginning September 9.

CSA Guitar Ensemble meets on Thursdays from 8:00 – 8:55 p.m.  Directed by CSA teacher and musician Quentin Dover, guitar players ages 14 – adult work on ensemble skills, build confidence and skill on the guitar, and perform two concerts during the year.  The first rehearsal is on September 12.

CSA Steelband encourages people to experience the unique sound of the steel pan.  Directed by Yuko Asada, CSA Steelband welcomes members ages 12 – adult.  No previous experience on the instrument is needed, but it is recommended that students can read music.  The steel pan family ranges from soprano to bass, and each student chooses an instrument.  The ensemble plays many types of music arranged for steel pan, including calypso, classical, rock, and rhythm and blues, and performs in concert several times during the year.  CSA Steelband rehearses on Mondays from 6:30 – 7:25 p.m. beginning on September 9.

Art Classes

Art Express is for ages 4 – 12 and meets on six Saturdays from 1 – 3 p.m. beginning September 21.  Students learn about art and the world as they create original arts and crafts.  Taught by NIU art education students supervised by an NIU School of Art instructor, the curriculum is new every semester, and the classes are organized by age and limited in size.

The NIU Community School of the Arts is sponsored by the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Northern Illinois University.  More information, including the scholarship application form, registration form, and online registration can be found at, or call (815) 753-1450.  The NIU Community School of the Arts office is in Room 132 in the NIU Music Building.