The NIU Community School of the Arts has provided high-quality arts education opportunities for community members of all ages for more than 30 years.  CSA programs and activities currently offered for personal enrichment include music and art classes, music ensembles, and music lessons for in person or online participants.

Registration is open now for the 2021-2022 school year.  Enroll in classes and ensembles one week prior to the start date and sign up for music lessons to begin as soon as August 23.  Early registration is encouraged, and an installment payment plan is available.

For the safety of all participants, in-person activities in the NIU Music Building will require safety measures outlined by Northern Illinois University and the Community School of the Arts.  Safety information is available at the CSA website


The CSA is committed to making arts education accessible in our community regardless of income level.  Funding for scholarships is provided through private donations and fundraising activities, and with support from the Farny R. Wurlitzer Foundation Fund.

Financial assistance is available for students ages 18 or younger who want to pursue their study of music and art.  Families with an adjusted gross income less than 75K annually are encouraged to apply.   Scholarship applications are available at the CSA website and by calling 815-753-1450.  Need-based scholarship applications for the fall semester will be accepted through October 1, 2021.

Music Lessons – Traditional and Suzuki

Anyone can learn to play a musical instrument!  The CSA offers traditional private music lessons on nearly all instruments – violin, guitar, piano, voice, cello, percussion, brass, woodwinds, ukulele and many more.  Music lessons using the Suzuki approach and combining private and group lessons are taught on violin, cello, and guitar by certified Suzuki instructors.  Music teachers meet with students for weekly lessons in person or online, and students are invited to prepare for and participate in a showcase recital at the end of each semester.  Fall music lessons begin as soon as the week of August 23 and fall recitals are scheduled in early December.

Music Classes for Young Children

Piano Starter for Children Limited to four children ages 5 – 7, this small group class provides an excellent way for parents to prepare children for private music lessons.  This fun introductory class is now offered online or in person.  Piano Starter Online meets Mondays from 4 – 4:40 p.m. online beginning September 13 with teacher Soo-Yon Choi.  Piano Starter In-Person meets in the NIU Music Building Tuesdays from 5 – 5:40 p.m. starting September 14 with teacher Jodeen Coulter.  Early registration is recommended for these popular classes.

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, and harmony helps students begin to build their own toolbox of musical skills, promoting confident and comfortable playing.  No previous guitar experience is required, and each student will use their own guitar during class.  Guitar for Kids class meets online on Wednesdays from 5 – 5:50 p.m. starting September 8.

Music Classes For Older Children and Adults

Guitar Basics and Intermediate Guitar These classes are taught by guitarist and long-time CSA teacher Quentin Dover on Wednesday evenings.  Students bring their own guitar to this online class and learn to play songs, scales, and chords along with beginning music theory and guitar techniques.  A lesson book is provided.  Guitar Basics meets online from 6 – 6:50 p.m. and Intermediate Guitar meets online from 7 – 7:50 p.m.  Both classes welcome students ages 13 – adult and begins on September 8.

Piano Basics Designed for beginners, this fun introductory class is now offered online or in person.  Adults and teens learn to play piano tunes in a group learning atmosphere.   Piano Basics Online with teacher Soo-Yon Choi meets Mondays from 6:15 – 7 p.m. online beginning on September 13.  Piano Basics In-Person meets in the NIU Music Building on Mondays from 6:15 – 7 p.m. beginning on September 13 with teacher Jodeen Coulter.

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 at the end of each semester for friends and family to enjoy.

CSA Symphonette A string orchestra for ages 8 – 16, Symphonette musicians rehearse in person in the NIU Music Building on Tuesdays from 4:30 – 6:00 p.m.  Linc Smelser directs the ensemble which plays lively and challenging music.  The first Symphonette rehearsal is on August 31.

CSA Sinfonia Directed by Kishwaukee Symphony Orchestra conductor Linc Smelser, Sinfonia is a full youth orchestra, meeting in person for rehearsals on Wednesdays from 7 – 9:30 p.m. beginning September 1.  Sinfonia musicians play a wide variety of music and perform on the NIU Concert Hall stage twice each year.  Musicians ages 14 – 20 are admitted by audition and first-time members should call the NIU Community School to schedule an audition.

CSA Steelband Everyone is encouraged 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 member chooses an instrument.  Ensemble members rehearse many types of music arranged for steel pan, including calypso, classical, rock, and rhythm and blues, and perform in concert several times during the year.  CSA Steelband meets for in-person rehearsals on Mondays from 6:30 – 7:25 p.m. in the NIU Music Building beginning on September 13.

Art Classes

Art Express Students ages 4 – 12 learn about art and the world as they create original arts and crafts.  Art Express meets in person at the NIU Art Building on Saturdays from 1 – 3 p.m. beginning September 18.  Taught by NIU art education students supervised by an NIU School of Art instructor, the curriculum is new every semester.  Classes are organized by age and limited in size – early registration is recommended for this popular activity.

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, class and ensemble descriptions, teacher biographies, safety protocols, and online registration can be found at or by calling (815) 753-1450 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.