SIDE BY SIDE – A Beginning Strings Program
Collaborative Partnership between Apollo’s Fire and Matteson School District 162 (Chicago Southside suburb)

“Teach the children music, for the arts are the key to learning.”
– Plato, Ancient Greece, 5th century

Apollo’s Fire and Matteson School District 162 are thrilled to introduce students to baroque and classical music and inspire a love of the arts.


Launched in November 2021, the SIDE BY SIDE strings program is designed by Apollo’s Fire Artistic Director Jeannette Sorrell. The program is modeled on the famous youth orchestra of orphan girls led by composer Antonio Vivaldi in the 18th century. Musical training provided these young people with a path to successful careers. Apollo’s Fire teaching artists play side-by-side with the students, which provides a superior and also very collegial form of training. The teachers and students become a kind of musical family.

We also take inspiration from the El Sistema method – the music-education program founded in 1975 in Venezuela. El Sistema has lifted many underprivileged children out of poverty through immersion in classical music. The motto is “Music for Social Change.” Gustavo Dudamel, the renowned conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, got his start in El Sistema. He has said, “music saved my life and has saved the lives of thousands of at-risk children in Venezuela…like food, like health care, like education, music must be a right for every citizen.”

The Apollo’s Fire team of teaching artists is in Matteson 4 days per week, teaching at 4 elementary schools. On Saturdays, the children from all 4 schools join together with the high school string players to form the SIDE BY SIDE Orchestra.

In Year 1 (2021-22), about 50 children participated in the program. Half of them also participated in an intensive Summer Strings Camp in July 2021, led by the same Apollo’s Fire teaching artists. In 2022-23, the program expands from the elementary schools to the middle school so that last year’s beginners can continue.


Watch the video from the SIDE BY SIDE Launch Concert in October 2021!

Watch the NBC-TV news clip about our partnership

Side-by-Side Orchestra Plays Vivaldi & Bach – 2022

“Noel Nouvelet” – Side-by-Side Orchestra with Southland Choir

Side-by-Side Orchestra with Apollo’s Fire
Christmas Concert in Evanston (Greater Chicago), 2022

Beginners’ Ensemble, May 2023
Beethoven’s Ode to Joy

The Matteson 162-Apollo’s Fire partnership has won lots of attention in Chicago!

Apollo’s Fire concert at Southland College Prep to launch elementary school strings program
October 2021

WEEKLY CITIZEN (Chicago Southside)
Matteson School District 162 Launches Strings Program
October 2021

CHICAGO TRIBUNE/Daily Southtown: Guest Editorial by Dr. Carl Cogar
Strings program may bring sense of “belonging” to District 162 schools
December 2021

“The U.S.A.’s hottest baroque band.” –CLASSICAL MUSIC MAGAZINE (UK)

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