More than 10,000 students. That’s how many aspiring guitarists instructor Eric Mantel—an artist on three-time Grammy winner Steve Vai's Digital Nations record label—has reached since he began teaching in 1979. His guitar lessons cover a broad range of strumming techniques, from picking and finger rolling to trilling and vibrato. And to inspire his students, Eric pulls from the repertoire of guitar greats such as Eddie Van Halen and Eric Clapton.
In 1976, busy California mother Joan Barnes wanted nothing more than to find a play place where she and her kids could enjoy age-appropriate, educational activities. Finding none, she developed her own innovative play environment within a developmental-based program structure now known as Gymboree Play & Music. Today, kids tumble and learn in more than 650 locations in 33 countries around the world, engaging in open play and classes designed to build cognitive and motor skills. As parents participate in their children's development, their kids learn to paint, play music, and interact socially outside of their preschool knitting circles.
Originally founded in 1957, Old Town School of Folk Music teaches and facilitates performances of arts rooted in the traditions of diverse American and global communities. More than 700 accredited music, dance, theater, and visual-arts courses expand the cultural horizons of students of all ages and abilities, and more than 300 concerts and events reach more than 200,000 audience members every year.
Founder Frank Hamilton hoped that through his nonprofit academy "teacher and student would be partners in learning." Today, the school continues that tradition, fostering supportive learning environments that draw from an accessible education model. The school also presents performances by internationally known touring artists and Chicago's local artists—as well as its own staff and students—nearly every weekend, with free world-music concerts on Wednesday nights. Old Town School operates three facilities in Lincoln Park and Lincoln Square, including one 425-seat and two 150-seat concert halls, 64 classrooms, two music stores, a café, and a resource center.
Richard Stromberg is so dedicated to teaching the art of photography that he's held class during a freezing blizzard, a blistering heat wave, and while he was confined to a wheelchair after surgery. Richard brings his fierce dedication and 45 years of photography and teaching experience to his school, where he leads a variety of photography classes alongside a dedicated staff of volunteers. Within spacious classrooms, the seasoned instructors guide students through the techniques of DSLR photography, from basic camera operation to tips on starting up a studio. In addition to mechanics and fundamentals, they also encourage their students to see the world in new aesthetic ways, helping them recognize the beauty of a sunset or the fogged-up monocle of a sensitive millionaire. The dedicated staff can often be spotted at the school before and after class hours helping students work on assignments in the lighting studio, the darkroom, and the expansive computer lab. Twice a year, they showcase pupils’ work in their onsite WithInSight Gallery.
Val Westover and Stephanie Adriana, both authors and photographers, draw from diverse artistic backgrounds. Val once trained hundreds of photographers as the manager of a nationwide portrait studio, and Stephanie has seen her work featured in an array of photography and fashion magazines. Applying fine-tuned artistic styles, they snap candid photojournalistic compositions and posed portraits of new couples, newborns, mothers-to-be, families, and secret families.
They also pass on their skills through step-by-step workshops, during which they use a blend of professional tips and practice exercises to teach the basics of ISO, shutter, and aperture alongside applied artistic principles. They then give protégés free rein to practice what they’ve learned in hands-on, on-location photo safaris, during which students capture shots of wildlife and people.
Like all baby photographers, Steven Kowalski's career began with a heavy dose of rock ‘n’ roll. For three years, he used his camera to capture the up-tempo antics of bands such as Mötley Crüe, Weezer, and Public Enemy. But after more than 300 concerts, Steve decided to settle down and open a Chicago-based photography studio. Steve translated his experience shooting convivial crowds at concerts into expertly photographing family-focused shoots, giving him a unique talent for capturing memorable group shots.
And just as he did with rock stars, Steve uses his camera to capture a baby’s or parent's unique personality. Depending on the client, he can shoot in-studio, at their home, or at locations such as Millennium Park. In addition to babies, Steve also specializes in wedding and fashion photography.