Old Town School Student Advisory Council

The Old Town School Student Advisory Council was founded in September 2019 by Old Town School's Board of Directors and Administrators to support and extend the School's mission.

Inaugural Members

Our Vision

We envision a future in which there is a clear, effective, accessible two-way line of communication between the Old Town School student population and the Old Town School leadership. Students are empowered to be active participants in support of the mission and growth of Old Town School.

Our Mission

We will accomplish this by:

  • Acting as ambassadors for the organization internally and externally;
  • Promoting the organization, its offerings, and its goals;
  • Striving to improve the student experience by developing, planning, executing activities that strengthen the student connection to the Old Town School community at large;
  • Maintaining an open line of communication with the administration, board, and other stakeholders.

About Us

Rebekah Abel

Rebekah has been a student at the Old Town School of Folk Music since 2012, starting with Guitar 1 and continuing through the core guitar curriculum, while also dabbling in a variety of classes, from Brass Class to Songwriting to Reggae Ensemble. Classically trained on French horn, Rebekah has played with a number of community groups in the Chicago area, such as the Ravenswood Community Orchestra, the North Suburban Wind Ensemble, the Lakeside Pride Symphonic Band, and the Corridor Brass Quintet. With degrees from University of Iowa and Northwestern University, Rebekah works as a manager in the health-tech industry.

What is your day job?
Business Analyst Manager

Do you play any instruments? If so what?
French horn, trumpet, guitar, voice

How did you first become a part of the Old Town School community?
I signed up for Guitar 1, wanting to learn a new instrument, and found so much more

What is your favorite aspect of Old Town School?
Meeting people I would never have otherwise met

What is the best concert you saw at Old Town School? Other Music Venue?
Chick Corea/Bela Fleck

Why did you join the Student Advisory Committee?
To ensure that the student voice is heard throughout the organization, and to work to preserve the unique, vibrant, welcoming culture of the Old Town School

Are there any instruments you have been wanting to learn how to play?
Mandolin

What is the best piece of advice you have received at Old Town School?
Always be ready to get on stage

What is your favorite thing to do in Chicago?
Walk, through new or old neighborhoods, by the lake or along the river, through parks or downtown. There's nothing like getting to know a place on foot

If you had your own late night show, who would you invite as a guest?
Yo Yo Ma


Pamela Butler

Starting in the 90's, Pam has been a member "off and on" of Old Town School of Folk Music, attending numerous concerts over the years. Pam has been a student at the Old Town School of Folk Music since 2014. Coming off her 35 year career as a Sales Executive in the IT industry, she saw the opportunity for the first time in her life to learn to play an instrument. A life long lover of music, literally all kinds of music, she never had the time to take any lessons at all. Having a love of Hawaii, Pam picked Ukulele as a place to start. Having had a wonderful time with the Ukulele, Pam moved on to harmonica classes. After introductory classes, Pam has been part of Skip Landt's Thursday noon intermediate group for a couple years. Pam volunteered last year to participate on the ad hoc Communication committee put together to assist the Old Town School Board of Directors. Participating on the Student Advisory Council is a continuation of interest in the future preservation, evolution and growth of Old Town School. Pam is also busy with photography, film, and golf groups in Chicago and Wisconsin

What is your day job?
Retired

Do you play any instruments? If so what?
Harmonica and ukelele

How did you first become a part of the Old Town School community?
Attending concerts

What is your favorite aspect of Old Town School?
Variety, diversity, fun, and energy

What is the best concert you saw at Old Town School? Other Music Venue?
Cowboy Junkies here and Bruce Springsteen several times

Why did you join the Student Advisory Committee?
I am committed to helping the preservation, evolution, and growth of Old Town School of Folk Music

Are there any instruments you have been wanting to learn how to play?
Vocals/choral

What is the best piece of advice you have received at Old Town School?
Keep trying

What is your favorite thing to do in Chicago?
Nice dinner and a concert

If you had your own late night show, who would you invite as a guest?
Michele Obama


Sarah Hunko

Sarah has been a student at the Old Town School since 2015. She is a dedicated Old Town School Community Choir singer and learned to play guitar at the school. She loves taking workshops, attending concerts, and is taking her first ensemble class this session. Professionally, Sarah works with principals and instructional leaders across Chicago. She previously served as a teacher in NYC and Chicago, a teacher-coach, and in 2014, co-founded a middle-high school on Chicago's Far South Side where she served as its principal for four years. She combines her loves for music, education, and building communities as a co-chair of the Old Town School Student Advisory Council.

What is your day job?
Senior Director of School Support

Do you play any instruments? If so what?
Guitar and voice

What is your favorite aspect of Old Town School?
The tight-knit community and it is a place where everyone is welcome

What is the best concert you saw at Old Town School? Other Music Venue?
Recently, Rachael & Viray

Who is your favorite musical artist?
Indigo Girls

What was your first concert?
Paul McCartney

What is something on your bucket list?
Sing on stage for real

If you had your own late night show, who would you invite as a guest?
President Obama and Prince

What is the best trip you have ever taken?
South Africa

What is your go to Karaoke song?
Piece of My Heart by Janis Joplin


Maha Mahdavinia

Maha is an avid music lover and mother of two little musicians who have learned to play the piano, dance, paint, draw and sing at Old Town School. The School has been an important part of her family's life in past 8 years and has created a second artistic home for them where they visit 2-3 times per week. Maha, her husband and children have socialized, played music, laughed and learned art through Wiggleworms classes, painting studio classes, ballet classes, piano lessons and Saturday jams. Professionally Maha is a physician and researcher in the field of allergies. She teaches young physicians, and takes care of adults and children with allergic diseases and immune problems. Maha enjoys working with other members of the Student Advisory Council of Old Town School who have the common goal of helping the School grow and evolve. She loves to celebrate with the School as it continues providing a strong community for music lovers in Chicago and a beautiful nest for new musicians.

What is your day job?
Physician and researcher

Do you play any instruments? If so what?
Setar

How did you first become a part of the Old Town School community?
Wiggleworms classes and piano private lessons for my kids

What is your favorite aspect of Old Town School?
The community

Why did you join the Student Advisory Committee?
I wanted to help to preserve the school

Are there any instruments you have been wanting to learn how to play?
Ood

What is the best trip you have ever taken?
Alhambra palace in Andalusia, Spain

If there is one food you had to eat for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Persian stews

What is your favorite thing to do in Chicago?
Go for a walk in Lincoln Park in the spring and buy fruits at the farmers market

If you had a superpower, what would it be?
Make people happy


Cristina Mercader

Cristina Mercader has been an active student, volunteer, concert goer, and member of the Old Town School of Folk Music for over 10 years. She has taken classes, both group and private, from the guitar, dance, ensemble, piano, theater, theory and voice programs at both the Armitage and Lincoln Square campuses. She often collaborates with other Old Town School students and friends in music shows throughout the city lending vocal, guitar, or keyboard back up. Currently you can find her in Jacob Sweet's Guitar 4Ever class, one of Andrea Bunch's ensembles, and singing with the Blues Band Live! Class. She is a head volunteer at the Old Town School of Folk Music as well as a playroom volunteer at Lurie's Children's Hospital of Chicago. Originally from Farmington Hills, MI, Cristina graduated from the University of Michigan (go blue!) with a mathematical economics degree and is now a consulting actuary with Willis Towers Watson. In Cristina's humble opinion, the Old Town School of Folk Music is one of the best places to spend your time and money at as evidenced by her constant presence at the school. Cristina is very excited to be a member of the Student Advisory Council and is looking forward to working with the broader student population as well as the Board and staff to improve the student experience at the Old Town School of Folk Music.

What is your day job?
Actuary

Do you play any instruments? If so what?
Guitar, keyboards, voice

How did you first become a part of the Old Town School community?
I grew up playing piano and when I moved to Chicago I missed playing music. Since I couldn't fit a piano in my Lincoln Park studio apartment, I decided to start taking private guitar lessons with Bob Goins at the Armitage location

What is your favorite aspect of Old Town School?
I love being part of such a supportive and talented community. Most of my closest friends are due to this school and I am constantly amazed by the depth of the talent I witness from everyone at the school

What is the best concert you saw at Old Town School? Other Music Venue?
At Old Town School, I loved the Nancy and Beth show featuring Megan Mullally. Added bonus was that I got a Nick Offerman sighting!

Why did you join the Student Advisory Committee?
To be an advocate for the broader student community and to be a positive agent of change to help keep Old Town School sustainable for the longterm

Are there any instruments you have been wanting to learn how to play?
Drums. It seems to be the instrument most in demand.

What is your go to Karaoke song?
Whitney Houston's I Wanna Dance With Somebody

What is the best piece of advice you have received at OTS?
Jim Dewan substituted for one of my guitar classes and he recommended recording each class. There is so much to learn during any one class session that recording classes helps me go back and remember certain things. Plus it's so hard to hear what you really sound like while you're playing so listening to my recordings helps me determine what I need to work on

What is something on your bucket list?
I want to travel to Italy and basically eat and drink my way through the country


Amy Rasmussen

Amy is an experienced arts administrator, strategic planner, marketer and fundraiser. She holds degrees from DePaul University and Columbia College Chicago. President Obama named her a Champion of Change for Arts Education in her role as Executive Director of Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education. CAPE is a Chicago-based non-profit organization providing in-school and after-school arts programs for academically struggling schools. In addition, she currently serves as a member of the Student Advisory Council at the Old Town School of Folk Music, the nation's largest community music school and co-founded the Ravenswood Community Orchestra. She plays oboe, flute, alto sax and guitar and has a passion for Bernstein, Copland, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and The Avett Brothers.

What is your day job?
Executive Director, Chicago Arts Partnerships in Education

Do you play any instruments? If so what?
Guitar, oboe, flute, saxophone

How did you first become a part of the Old Town School community?
I started taking Guitar 1 lessons in 1995

What is your favorite aspect of Old Town School?
The people

What is the best concert you saw at Old Town School? Other Music Venue?
Best concert at Old Town School was Patty Smith and the Mother Truckers at Folk n Roots, long time ago

Why did you join the Student Advisory Committee?
Because I was asked, and if I have something positive to contribute to the school I want to do it!

Are there any instruments you have been wanting to learn how to play?
Bass, I'd probably be good at it but I've never taken lessons

Who is your favorite musical artist or band?
Too numerous to pick a true favorite

What was your first concert?
Neil Diamond, Poplar Creek about 1982

What is your favorite thing to do in Chicago?
See concerts and play concerts