Old Town School of Folk Music

Chicago, Illinois / United States of America

The Old Town School of Folk Music is the largest folk music school in the US and the largest dance school in Chicago. Its concerts attract thousands of visitors each year. This new LEED Gold building provides a flexible 150-seat performance space, three dance studios, music practice rooms and administrative support space.

Art makes music paramount in the visitor experience. The facade features architectural precast panels depicting the word "MUSIC" in many languages. The two-story lobby includes a monumental steel and glass staircase featuring blues legends by artist R. Crumb. The rear "Feature Wall" of the entrance hall is inspired by the Schroeder Diffuser, which maintains the acoustic energy in a performance space while removing strong echoes. This acoustically-engineered surface has windows that admit light, but not sound, into interior spaces. The sculptural characteristics of this wall are also seen in ceilings and display cases.

Zoning restrictions, construction staging space limitations and significant building performance criteria stand out among the project's challenges. The solution delivered the program within an efficient, acoustically-engineered building that respects its commercial neighbors. This new building, the first for the institution, will help the OTSoFM substantially increase the numbers of people it employs, teaches and entertains.

Architect of record

William Ketcham
VOA Associates Incorporated
224 S. Michigan Avenue, Suite 1400
Chicago, IL 60604, USA
Phone: 312-554-1400

General contractor

William Kroger
Bulley & Andrews, LLC
1755 W. Armitage Ave
Chicago, IL 60622, USA
Phone: 312-235-2433


Tom Rossiter
Tom Rossiter Photography
2615 North Wilton
Chicago, IL 60604, USA
Phone: 312-543-8233