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Teachers at the Old Town School

Michael O’Toole


Acoustic Guitar - Strumming and Singing, Single Note Playing, Fingerpicking, Note Reading, Theory

When a student enters the classroom, they bring a fresh set of abilities, hopes, and
expectations. My job is to welcome people wherever they’re at that day. Most times,
folks are well prepared. But everyone struggles with their instrument sometimes, hasn’t
practiced that week, or has missed a class or two because of, well, life. I’m there to
foster a good musical moment no matter what kind of day you or your child is having.
I’m an acoustic player. I like teaching the “why” as well as the “how.” I think I’m good at
boiling things down in ways that can get through to each student.
I first came to the Old Town School of Folk Music in January of 1973 to take fiddle
lessons. I was a month shy of 16. I’d been playing guitar for a few years and had started
giving lessons to friends. I learned fiddle from Dave Prine and banjo from Fleming
Brown. Both were longtime teachers at the school and veteran performers on the
Chicago folk scene. I joined the faculty in March of 1974 when the school opened a
branch in Skokie.
Along the way, I’ve traveled, been a street musician, lived abroad, acted on stage,
picked up a foreign language or two, scored independent films, run a shoebox recording
studio, hosted kids’ shows and open mics, been a musical director in tiny black box
theaters, and won or shared in a few small awards. I’ve even worked Renaissance
Faires. Life’s been good.
These last 18 years are my third, and longest, tenure at the school. In 2019, I received
my B.A. from Northeastern Illinois University. During the pandemic, I completed Masters
Level Teaching Certificates in Online Teaching (UIS 2021), and TESOL (Teaching
English to Speakers of Other Languages, NEIU 2022)
Since March of 2020, I have been teaching exclusively online. At present, my wife and I
are living in SW France. Due to the time difference, I am only teaching on Tuesday and
Thursday mornings between 9:00am and 12:00pm, Chicago time. Hope to see you on Zoom!

ASCAP; Chicago Federation of Musicians, local 10-208; Illinois Federation of Teachers,
local 909

Contact Michael at motoole@oldtownschool.org.

Education: B.A., Northeastern Illinois University (2019)
Master Online Teacher Certificate, University of Illinois Springfield (2021)
Master’s Level TESOL Certificate, NEIU (2022) 
Second City Chicago
City Colleges of Chicago

Started at the Old Town School in November of 1974