Year of Chicago Music

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 Year of Chicago Music (performer playing the guitar)
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Chicago is the city that knows how to strike a chord. It’s the city that overflows with rhythm and warmth, even during the coldest winters. It’s a city that knows how to find its harmony in the hustle. It’s a city where everyone knows how to move to their own beat, yet everyone comes together to play in the same key – The Key of Chicago.

What does the Key of Chicago sound like? It sounds like performers belting their hearts out. It sounds like riffs filling bars, like beats interacting with the music of our 77 neighborhoods – sounding big, bold, and proud. It sounds like home. It sounds like Chicago.

Wherever you encounter it – whether it’s at a club, in a concert hall, or on the street – Music in the Key of Chicago speaks to your soul. It speaks to the breadth of knowledge, of rhythm, and history. Chicago continues to transform and elevate their sound into a new era of Chicago Music. You’ll always feel it, because our notes always ring true in the Key of Chicago.

In support of Chicago’s thriving music industry, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events have designated 2020 as the “Year of Chicago Music” with an investment of $3.5 million to highlight its legacy, expanding its audience and strengthen its creative and cultural landscape with a focus on the south and west sides of the City. The initiative has garnered significant funding of $1.4 million from outside partners including an unprecedented donation of $500,000 from lead donor the Walder Foundation, along with the Chicago Community Trust, the Illinois Arts Council, the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Allstate and the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, as well as sponsorship from the Chicago Transit Authority.


Initiative Highlights:

  • “Chicago In Tune - an 18-day, citywide celebration of music from May 21 to June 7, 2020, including the Chicago House Music Festival, the Chicago Gospel Music Festival, the Chicago Blues Festival and free and ticketed performances at venues;
  • Major sector-building grants of $1.7 million to the local music industry via the Chicago Cultural Grants;
  • Over $600,000 in direct support of INVEST South/West initiatives – including music legacy public art initiatives, the Neighborhood Access Program, pop-up performances in vacant and underutilized spaces and permanent venue space development programs;
  • Professional support for musicians – including career development opportunities and a Chicago Musicians Roster;
  • Youth programs – including a music-themed Teen Arts Leadership Summit, YAS! (Youth Arts Showcase) community performances featuring young and emerging musicians, and youth partnerships with the Chicago Park District, Chicago Public Library, Chicago Public Schools and other agencies;
  • In addition to Chicago In Tune, DCASE will also feature Chicago artists and music at the 40th Annual Taste of Chicago, the Millennium Park Summer Music Series co-programed for the first time with record labels, venues and media companies, the Millennium Park Film Series featuring various music nonprofits, the ten-day Chicago Jazz Festival and the 17-day World Music Festival Chicago;
  • Public and partner programming including free and ticketed performances across the city in our historic venues and clubs, festivals and special events placing a spotlight on Chicago music, Year of Chicago Music Night Out in the Parks programs, Art on theMART Year of Chicago Music commissions and much more.

Ways to Participate:

ChicagoMade Gospel Music A&R (Artist & Repertoire) Auditions

Applications Deadline is Wednesday, February 12, 5pm CST

As a special preview to the Chicago Gospel Music Festival, DCASE will present a special opportunity for emerging Chicago-based gospel music artists to perform live for a panel of major and independent music label and entertainment industry executives on Saturday, March 16, 6-9pm, at the West Point Missionary Baptist Church (3566 S. Cottage Grove). Applications are currently open for soloists and groups in gospel music and contemporary Christian music genres interested in an audition spot at the event. Selected artists will be considered for a set at this year's festival. For more information, visit The Chicago Gospel Music Festival is produced by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs of Special Events and is part of Chicago In Tune -- an 18-day, city-wide celebration of music from May 21 to June 7, 2020.


Chicago Band Roster Application

Application Deadline is Friday, February 14, at 5pm CST

As a part of the Year of Chicago Music, DCASE will launch the Chicago Band Roster, a searchable database of high-quality musical performers. The program aims to increase meaningful performance opportunities for Chicagoland musicians. Solo musicians and ensembles of all genres are encouraged to apply to be listed on the Chicago Band Roster. Following the competitive applications process, the Chicago Band Roster will be posted on the DCASE website as a resource for residents and organizations looking to present high-quality music programs. More information and application.


2020 CityArts Program Grants

Application Deadline is Friday, February 28, at 5pm CST

Applications are now open for the 2020 CityArts Program, offering grants to nonprofit arts and culture organizations of all sizes. This year’s program includes opportunities to apply for general operating grants across all artistic disciplines, as well as project grants in alignment with the Year of Chicago Music. Project grants will support initiatives that have the potential to impact the Chicago music sector at large. Complete eligibility criteria and applications are available at


Attend an Info Session

Friday, February 28 or Wednesday, March 4

Join DCASE Commissioner Mark Kelly and leaders of the Year of Chicago Music working groups to learn more about Chicago In Tune and ways to get involved with the Year's initiatives. Sessions will take place Friday, February 28, 3-5pm, at the Old Town School of Folk Music (4544 N. Lincoln Ave.), and Wednesday, March 4, 3-5pm, at The Promontory (5311 S. Lake Park Ave. W). Preregister online.


Chicago In Tune

A signature part of the Year of Chicago Music, “Chicago In Tune” will bring music organizations and venues across the city together to celebrate music of all genres and forms from May 21 and June 7. The event is anchored by three free-admission city music festivals – the Chicago House Music Festival, the Chicago Gospel Music Festival and the Chicago Blues Festival – that spotlight three genres of music born and innovated in Chicago. The 18 days of music will stretch to every corner of the city with free and ticketed events.

Participants include: Blues Heaven Foundation, Chicago Blues Revival, Chicago Sinfonietta, Delmark Records, Dorian's, EPIPHANY Center for the Arts, Grant Park Music Festival, Irish American Heritage Center, Little Kids Rock, Logan Center for the Arts, Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Old Town School of Folk Music the People's Music School, Rebuild Foundation and the Stony Island Arts Band, Refuge Live, The Auditorium Theatre, The Promontory and Uncommon Ground. If you’re part of a music organization or venue, please join the cross-city celebration and share your event or program with us. A submission form will be posted here soon. All participating events will be listed at


Share Your “Music In the Key of Chicago”

Download the Year of Chicago Music marketing toolkit. Whether you’re an artist, a music venue or an arts organization, tag and share your events as part of “Music In the Key of Chicago.” Download the toolkit.


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