Empowering Communities

Transforming lives through music

December 19, 2017

As a little girl, Jennifer Montague had the opportunity to see Ella Jenkins, a local singer,  sing folk songs at her nursery school. It was this moment that she fell in love with music. As a child, Jennifer sang in the church choir, and when she entered high school, she enrolled in the Merit School of Music to study singing.

“I’ve always adored singing,” she says. “Music brings joy to my life.”

Jennifer has served on Merit’s Board of Trustees since 2011, and currently serves on its executive committee.

“The skills that you learn while you are engaged in music excellence are important in both life and business. It builds your confidence, discipline and teaches a great level of consistency, which is important for children,” says Jennifer, who serves as the director of business strategy and technology for ComEd.

The Merit School of Music is a non-profit organization and nationally accredited music school that was founded in 1979 in Chicago’s West Loop area as a response to the elimination of music education from Chicago’s public elementary schools. One of the school’s primary goals is to help young people transform their lives and experience personal growth through music by removing barriers to participation. Successful Merit alums include brothers DeMarre McGill, principal flute of the Seattle Symphony Orchestra, and Anthony McGill, principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic.

The Merit School of Music is home to nearly 5,000 students on-site and off. It hosts an Artist-in-Residence Program that includes the Lincoln Trio, a chamber music ensemble, and the Chicago Jazz Orchestra, one of the oldest jazz repertory orchestras in the country.

Nearly 70 percent of Merit’s students receive need-based financial aid. The school’s biggest fundraiser is its annual gala. While serving as the chair of the gala in 2016, Jennifer helped raise more than $1 Million for the school.

Earlier this year, Exelon recognized Jennifer’s volunteerism with the Exelon Energy for the Community Employee Volunteer Award. The awards program recognizes a select group of employees from Exelon and its family of companies Atlantic City Electric, BGE, ComEd, Delmarva Power, PECO and Pepco subsidiaries, who have shown exceptional efforts towards their community.

Jennifer won a Merit Award, which includes a $10,000 grant for the Merit School of Music. The money will support Merit’s initiatives focused on executing the strategic plan and expanding access to those most in need.

Even with her busy work schedule, Jennifer always makes time to give back to the organization that she feels provides an important education to those who would not normally have had access to such. With that in mind, she regularly drives students from the Englewood community to Merit’s West Loop campus.