Dorolyn Academy in Oak Park is musical home for many
Regina Martin practices in a recital room at the Dorolyn Academy of Music, whih has operated in Oak Park since 1982. | Jon Langham~for Sun-Times Media
For information about Dorolyn lessons or donating, call 708-383-7888 or go to email@example.com
Updated: April 1, 2013 6:34AM
OAK PARK — If music be the food of love, as William Shakespeare suggested, students are well nourished at Dorolyn Academy of Music, 411 South Blvd.
“I feel like I am actually part of the family,” said Dorolyn piano and voice-over student Samuel Campbell, 28, of Bellwood. After beginning at Dorolyn at age 13, Campbell, who aspires to be a professional musician, left for college. He returned to Dorolyn about two years ago.
“It was an easy decision,” he said. “They sincerely want you to succeed.”
Another Dorolyn student, Devin Shaw, 10, of Chicago, is taking piano and saxophone lessons. Shaw has come to Dorolyn since age 6.
“These people are like family,” he said. “They make it fun for me.”
Shaw’s father, Darris Shaw, added that Dorolyn is his son’s true musical home.
“It’s a struggle to get him to practice. But I can drop him off here for three hours and he’ll play with no problem,” he said. Shaw registered his son for Dorolyn classes after his daughter’s good experience.
“We never even looked at other schools,” he said. “While it’s a business, they really treat the child like family and get to the whole student, not just the music lesson.’
Dorolyn is the self-described life’s calling of Dorothy Bounds, the academy’s founder and president who opened in Oak Park at Austin Boulevard and Lake Street in 1982.
A composer, author, educator and choral conductor, Bounds is the kind of woman who hugs newcomers entering her 15,000-square-foot teaching and performance space.
“I remember we started with 13 students above what was then Unity Drug Store,” she said. Her landlord, William Maskowski, halved the rent on the 1,500-square-foot space because of her mission to teach children.
Once she had the space, Bounds walked into a Melrose Park music store and requested a piano, guitar and other instruments with no money down. The shocked store manager eventually conceded and even delivered the equipment.
“I was born to do this. This is my life’s work,” Bounds said. Now 76, she shares her vision with her son, Earl Bounds, who is the academy’s director.
Bounds teaches vocals at Dorolyn, and occasionally piano. Raised in Mississippi, she started piano lessons at age 10 and still studies, but today sees herself as a teacher.
“This is my gift from God — teaching,” she said.
The school, which moved to its current space in 1990, offers specialty vocal training in gospel music, and classes in instruments, conducting, music theory and interpretive dance, among other areas.
Dorolyn’s student population is split about equally between adults and children.
One professional gospel singer, Regina Martin, 50, of Forest Park, has studied music since she was 4 but says Bounds succeeds in a way her previous teachers haven’t.
“I’ve had numerous singing teachers in the past but they weren’t giving me what I needed,” Martin said. “Dr. Bounds is more experienced than other instructors. She can hear if something’s wrong and correct it.”
Dorolyn, a 501(c)(3) charity, has no full-time teaching staff and no advertising budget, relying on word-of-mouth.
“We have teachers who are on stipends and they just give,” Bounds said. Other teachers are volunteers.
Dorolyn has a board of directors and a Friends of Dorolyn foundation, which raises money for everything from new instruments to cleaning supplies.
Classes range from $75 to $85 per month; more for private instruction. Qualified students who can’t afford lessons participate free; others pay full freight and may sponsor another student. Churches sometimes sponsor students, Bounds said.
Dorolyn in January received the first of three $7,000 annual grants from the MacArthur Foundation via the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.
In addition to overseeing Dorolyn, Bounds manages security for her church. She has gone along on patrol with the Oak Park Police and believes her security training helps her connect with young people and offer alternatives to risky behavior.
“I kind of know how kids think and can speak to them on their level,” she said.
“Sometimes if kids are wrong you can tell them that, but you need to use the right terms,” she said. “You need to treat kids right. I don’t think there are any bad kids. They’re reaching out, saying ‘I need help,’ and we need to listen.”