Chicago Woman Creates a Community of Kindness with Music Education

April 24, 2017

Mallory-Lennon Simmermon, 24, was born and raised in Chicago but currently splits her time between Los Angeles and Brooklyn. She is the front-woman of the Chicago-based folk fusion band, Mallory Lennon and the Sykadelix. Mallory graduated from Loyola University Chicago, where she attained her BA in English Literature and Jazz Studies. Her interests include artistic evolution, creative integrity, and educating students of all socioeconomic upbringings to use music and art as a means of communicating. When she isn’t traveling for music, Mallory enjoys volunteering with the Music Therapy program for victims of PTSD at the Lake County VA, reading any David Foster Wallace books she can get her hands on, and listening to the Grateful Dead.

Chicago is a place shaped by diversity. Our neighborhoods are filled with a colorful array of people, cultures, and ideas. However, one thing that is universal in this town is music. Tricia Wolf, owner of MadPlaid Music in Antioch, is using this awesome power of music to overcome a heartbreaking personal loss and build a community of kindness.

When I first met Trish, I had meandered into her storefront on a quest to replace the strings on my guitar. What started as an unanticipated bout of friendly conversation turned into a friendship met with the same perspective that she runs her business with: fierce passion, extraordinary grace, and unconditional kindness.

MadPlaid Music has undoubtedly faced trial and tribulation. In 2015, heartbreak ensued when Chester – Trish’s late fiancé and the store’s former owner – passed away without warning. Chester had opened the store under the name Musician Makers in 2013. Although she reopened the business under a new name following his death, the kindness and warmth of the store continued to flourish.

When I asked Trish what the inspiration was behind keeping the music store open following this loss, her response reflected the same love and kindness that she holds for Chester’s memory: “The students are why I keep the music store open. Our lesson program at the store was substantial and the thought of displacing those taking lessons would be heartbreaking.”

The lesson program at MadPlaid is what makes it such a special place. When Tricia first took over the store in July 2016, the store had about 120 students. In just sixth months, the store grew to nearly 170 students. This exponential growth can be attributed to Tricia’s dedication to creating a program that allowed students to come as they were and leave as kinder, more well-rounded individuals.

The lessons are taught by fourteen instructors, each of whom embody the culture of kindness that Tricia has created in her store. The program consists of weekly, private music instruction which allows students to grow at his or her own pace. Many of the teachers, including myself, not only acted as instructors, but as active listeners for our students. As a teacher in this special place, I not only had a responsibility to individually help each of my student’s on their musical journeys, but to advise them in their life’s pursuits. Teaching music is wonderful, but teaching kindness and compassion through music is euphoric.

MadPlaid Music is a space that accepts anyone and everyone, regardless of socioeconomic status, gender, or race, and a community where we take care of one another. For instance, one of my vocal student’s parents was unexpectedly diagnosed with cancer. When her father expressed to me that he just wanted the lives of his children to remain normal, my fellow teachers and I rallied together to raise the money needed to ensure they could continue their lessons.

Tricia is a passionate believer in music’s power to change lives for the better and its universal nature. “Music is a good creative outlet. It speaks to everyone, no matter what language we speak, what country we’re from, what race we are, our political affiliation, etc. Music is a universal language that everyone can relate to.”

Keeping the music store open in Antioch is an act of kindness in and of itself. It is a safe place for dozens of students and parents. It is a home away from home; a sanctuary of sorts. Katelynn Selman, a vocal student at MadPlaid, shares this sense of home when she is at MadPlaid. “The music store was my place to go when I was upset or not feeling well. [The Store] was my home away from home. Trish and everyone in it are like family.”

Many of MadPlaid’s students not only take lessons now, but have joined their fellow students to spread music throughout the community by performing in local coffee shops and schools. Tricia, MadPlaid Music, and its’ teachers have instilled a passion into the students that has not only expanded their musical knowledge, but the space in their hearts for giving and communicating with their peers and their communities.