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Lt. Gov. Simon strums banjo at Old Town School grand opening 

State supported expansion of renowned music school

CHICAGO – January 5, 2011. Lt. Governor Sheila Simon will strum her banjo this weekend on a Chicago stage built, in part, through state grants. Simon will join the Hoyle Brothers on Saturday night during the grand-opening preview of a $16.5 million education and performance venue at the Old Town School of Folk Music in Lincoln Square.

The Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity granted Old Town School a total of $2.35 million for the new building, slated to be LEED gold-certified, which will house 17 classrooms, three dance studios and a performance hall. The state funds were applied to planning, design, equipment, and construction costs. A ribbon cutting is scheduled for Monday.

Simon has played banjo for more than 10 years with her Carbondale-based band, Loose Gravel. She started picking in law school, choosing the banjo over guitar because it had fewer strings. This fall, she published an article in the Journal of the Legal Writing Institute that recommended professors teach legal writing the same way that music instructors teach the banjo.

“There is a joy in live music – whether you are part of the audience or part of the band. The Old Town School helps to share that joy,” Simon said.

During the grand-opening preview, Simon will thank Old Town School donors for contributing to the project and voice her support for music education, before sitting in with country band the Hoyle Brothers. The band’s lead guitarist, Steve Doyle, teaches at the Old Town School, and its lead singer, Trevor McSpadden, works in the school’s music store.

"This new facility celebrates the hand-made, home-made music that Old Town School champions. We're thrilled to have the Lt. Governor with us to exemplify that essential part of our heritage,” said Old Town Executive Director Bau Graves.