June 10-17, 2015

1 week. 40 Concerts. All 8 train lines. All free.

Each neighborhood in Chicago has its own groove, its own artistic roots, and the train connects it all together. This June, Old Town School invites you to meet some of our city's local musical heroes with a full lineup of free concerts at dozens of train stations across Chicago. It's a new kind of tracklist.

...We shall leave, for remembrance, one rusty iron heart.
Nelson Algren

  • Tour the world, without leaving home

    Iron Heart Chicago aims to take you on a trip around the world without ever leaving Chicago’s extraordinary neighborhoods. Chicago’s neighborhoods have always been the incubator for great music. This is where Mahalia Jackson met Thomas A Dorsey and invented gospel music. It’s where Muddy Waters plugged in his guitar and changed popular music forever. This is where artists come to learn, to grow and to showcase their talents. Chicago is still a magnet for talent that makes it the capital of global music and it’s all waiting for you just around the corner.

  • Musical Riches

    Old Town School of Folk Music and Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events along with the Chicago Transit Authority join forces this summer to introduce Chicago to some of its extraordinary musical riches. Iron Heart Chicago, named after Nelson Algren’s description of our elevated railways, features over sixty free performances by masters of traditional music at train stations all over town.

  • Iron Heart Chicago is a production of Old Town School Of Folk Music in partnership with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Chicago Transit Authority, The Magellan Corporation, The Chicago Community Trust, and The Joyce Foundation. This project is partially supported by an IncentOvate Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

The Artists

Betti Xiang

Renowned erhu soloist Betti Xiang has performed in distinguished venues all over the United States, where she has lived since 1996.

Xiang was born in Shanghai, China, where her father, renowned erhu master Xiang Zuying, introduced her to the instrument. She debuted as an erhu soloist in 1981 with the Shanghai National Orchestra, with which she traveled worldwide and presented the premieres of numerous well-known Chinese composers. In 1986, she received the coveted Young Artists Award for outstanding solo artist in both Shanghai and Beijing. In 2005, Xiang was the guest artist at the inauguration of Chicago's Millennium Park, when she performed the erhu concerto, Crouching Tiger, by composer Tan Dun.She began performing with the Silk Road Ensemble in 2006.

During her career, Xiang's extraordinary performances have graced well-known venues worldwide, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Lincoln Center, and the Smithsonian Institute. Xiang's music has also been featured on National Public Radio and Chicago's WFMT. Among other honors, Xiang was invited to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as a special guest, when she performed the famous Chinese concerto, The Butterfly Lovers, with conductor David Alan Miller in 1996. As Illinois' World Ethnic Artist, Xiang has given erhu demonstrations at many local and regional universities.


Jimmy Burns

Jimmy Burns is an award winning American soul blues and electric blues slide guitarist, singer and songwriter.

Although he was born in the Mississippi Delta in 1943, Burns has spent nearly all his life in Chicago. Burns was raised on a cotton plantation in Mississippi where he learned to play the one-string and 12-string guitar. He was the youngest of eleven children. He sang in a church choir when he still lived in the Delta and he was influenced by the blues he heard on the streets. His favorite blues musician was Lightnin' Hopkins. Burns's father was a sharecropper who performed as a singer in medicine shows. At the age of 12, Jimmy Burns moved with his family to Chicago and four years later joined The Medallionaires who recorded a couple of doo-wop tracks.

Recording mostly solo in the 1960s, Burns issued singles for many labels. He toured the Midwest with his backing group, the Fantastic Epics, and with another outfit called Jimmy Burns and the Gas Company. Burns took a long break from the music industry after the early 1970s to raise his family and run a barbecue stand.

He performed infrequently until the early part of the 1990s, when he started a long residency at Chicago's Smokedaddy Club. It was there that Delmark Records boss Bob Koester first heard Burns perform, and agreed to record him after hearing only one set. His debut album for Delmark in 1996, Leaving Here Walking, was awarded the 'Best Blues Record of the Year' title by the National Association of Independent Record Distributors, and received two W.C. Handy Award nominations. Burns then began touring internationally, and has been performing and recording regularly since then. His most recent releases are Live at B.L.U.E.S and Stuck in the Middle.


Jim Stoynoff

Since 1962 Jim Stoynoff has specialized in the research, preservation and performance of Balkan folk music with a particular emphasis on the regional folk clarinet styles of early 20th Century Central Greece, Epiros, Macedonia and Turkey.

He has studied with several master clarinetists in each of these traditions. Jim has performed for hundreds of events within the Greek, Turkish, Epiroti and Macedonian communities throughout the US. He has collaborated with musicians from over 15 countries performing music from these various traditions. Of additional note are his performances with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Residency and the Chicago Immigrant Orchestra.

In addition to performing, Jim has also presented on Greek Music, designed exhibits, and curated content at a number of institutions and conferences including several universities, the International Clarinet Association, and the Hellenic National Museum in Chicago. His writings have been published in The Clarinet, Macedonian Tribune, Laografia Magazine, and Greek Circle Magazine.


Juan Rivera

Juan Rivera is a Chicago-based, two-time Grammy nominated musician who specializes in several styles of Mexican folk violin, including the ornate Huasteco style.

Juan Rivera was born in Aguililla, Michoacán. Both he and his brother developed an interest in music early on and went to Mexico City to pursue professional music studies at Casa de la Música Mexicana, where Juan later became an instructor. Rivera studied the Huasteco style of violin with Rolando “Quecho” Hernández and soon began recording with the group Son del Pueblo with whom he participated in two European tours accompanying the dance troupe Compañia Nacional de Danza Folclórica de México.

In 2001, Juan relocated to Chicago where he played with mariachi and other groups for several years. After a year of further musical study in California, Juan returned to Chicago in the spring of 2005 to join Sones de México Ensemble with whom he was twice nominated for a Grammy Award and has toured the U.S. coast-to-coast. Juan also formed his own trio Los Condenados Huastecos to focus exclusively on the huasteco style touring in Indiana, Illinois, and Texas. He has also continued to teach Mexican music at the Chicago Public Schools, and has been a member of the faculty at the annual Swannanoa Gathering Fiddle Week in North Carolina since 2013. He is proud to join the Old Town School of Folk Music’s “Iron Heart” program in 2015.


Liz Carroll

Liz Carroll was born in Chicago, the daughter of Irish immigrants from County Offaly and County Limerick. Her mother, Eileen, loved Irish music, and her father, Kevin, a button accordion player, began teaching Liz traditional tunes when she was five years old. Although she wanted piano lessons, the piano would not fit up the narrow staircase of the family’s two-flat, so Liz took up the violin. She began taking lessons when she was nine from Sister Francine, a nun at her parochial school. But informal Irish musical gatherings, called sessions, proved far more influential to her development. Liz honed her skills through years of playing at meetings of the Irish Musicians Association, and anywhere Irish music was played, including at bars, churches and for dancing competitions.

Her repertory includes hornpipes, reels, marches, and three kinds of jigs - all associated with dancing, as well as slow airs. While still a child, Liz began composing tunes, and they now number more than 200, many of which are played in sessions around the world and recorded by many of Celtic music’s most famed musicians.

In 1975, Liz, then 18, astounded the Irish music world in both the United States and Ireland by winning the senior division championship title. In accomplishing this feat, she was immediately recognized as one of the most outstanding Irish fiddlers of all time. She has toured as a solo artist and with the Greenfields of America, Trian, String Sisters, and as part of the duo Liz Carroll & John Doyle. She’s featured on ten albums and has appeared on many more. Liz is a recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship Award (1994). In 2010, she became the first Irish-American musician nominated for a Grammy. In 2011, she became the first American-born composer honored with the Cumadóir TG4, Ireland's most significant traditional music prize.


Nicolae Feraru

Since immigrating to the United States, Nicolae Feraru has perpetuated the Gypsy traditional music he learned from his father, and other lautari, or minstrels, in his native Romania.

The second youngest of seven children, Feraru was born in 1950 in Bucharest, Romania, into a musical family. Despite the warning from his father against becoming a musician because of the long, sleepless, weekend-long weddings, Feraru took up the cimbalom anyway, becoming a student of Mitica Ciuciu-Marinescu, one of the leading Romanian performers on the large cimbalom. After achieving the status of muzician, the highest rank awarded to a musician in the Communist system, Feraru was able to work and tour as a musician. For many years, he played in Bucharest restaurants, in well-known ensembles. When a rare opportunity to tour in the Romanian communities in the United States arose in 1988, Feraru travelled to Detroit. He then applied for and was awarded political asylum (he became a U.S. citizen in 2001).

In 1994, he moved to Chicago and was joined two years later by his wife and three sons; his two daughters had to remain behind. Until recently, Feraru worked in a dental equipment factory, while also regularly performing at weddings, community events, and restaurants throughout the Chicago region, including the Chicago World Music Festival. He has performed at various public events and for public officials, including former President Bill Clinton at the 2009 dedication of the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center. In 2013, Nicolae Feraru was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor that the US government has for masters of traditional arts.


Schedule (subject to change)

WED 6/10 4 – 6 PM

Liz Carroll Blue Jefferson Park
Juan Rivera Brown Southport
Jim Stoynoff Green Cicero
Jimmy Burns Orange Halsted
Betti Xiang Pink Polk

THU 6/11 4 – 6 PM

Jim Stoynoff Blue Division
Nicolae Feraru Green Garfield
Liz Carroll Orange Midway
Juan Rivera Pink 18th
Betti Xiang Red Argyle

FRI 6/12 4 – 6 PM

Nicolae Feraru Blue Belmont
Jimmy Burns Brown Damen
Jim Stoynoff Green 35th/Bronzeville
Liz Carroll Pink Pulaski

SAT 6/13 4 – 6 PM

Juan Rivera Blue Logan Square
Betti Xiang Brown Western
Liz Carroll Red Sox/35th
Nicolae Feraru Red Granville

SUN 6/14 4 – 6 PM

Jimmy Burns Green Garfield
Jim Stoynoff Red, Brown, Purple Belmont
Betti Xiang Red Chinatown/Cermak

MON 6/15 4 – 6 PM

Jimmy Burns Blue Western
Jim Stoynoff Brown Armitage
Juan Rivera Orange Kedzie
Nicolae Feraru Pink California
Liz Carroll Red 95th/Dan Ryan

TUE 6/16 4 – 6 PM

Betti Xiang Blue Logan Square
Nicolae Feraru Brown Kimball
Juan Rivera Green Indiana
Jim Stoynoff Red Loyola
Jimmy Burns Red Sox/35th

WED 6/17 4 – 6 PM

Liz Carroll Brown Western
Nicolae Feraru Green Ashland/63rd
Betti Xiang Orange Kedzie
Jimmy Burns Red North/Clybourn
Juan Rivera Red, Purple, Yellow Howard

Night Out in the Parks (All Performances 6 - 8 PM, except noted*)

FRI 6/19

Liz Carroll Kosciuszko Park View event info >>

SAT 6/20

Betti Xiang Ping Tom Memorial Park View event info >>

*SUN 6/21 2 - 4 PM

Jim Stoynoff Willye White Park View event info >>

FRI 6/26

Juan Rivera Harrison Park View event info >>

SAT 6/27

Nicolae Feraru Jefferson Park View event info >>

SUN 6/28

Jimmy Burns Garfield Park Conservatory View event info >>

Iron Heart Chicago Finale
Maurer Hall · Old Town School of Folk Music

WED 7/29 8:30 PM

Featuring performances by all six Iron Heart living cultural treasures:
Jimmy Burns, Liz Carroll, Nicolae Feraru, Juan Rivera, Jim Stoynoff, and Betti Xiang

Reserve Tickets

About Old Town School

Since 1957, the Old Town School of Folk Music has been a community center where people from all walks of life, from all over Chicago and the world, can come alive through music, art, and dance. You can hone your guitar chops, wiggle and worm with your toddler and by coming here you might just forge forever friendships.

Find your folk at the Old Town School, the largest community school of the arts in the US and a non-profit organization committed to celebrating American music and global cultures. Join over 7,000 students each session in our music and dance classes for all ages at our campuses in Lincoln Square or Lincoln Park. Check out one of our 450 different concerts we put on a year. Connect with other new parents in our Wiggleworms early childhood programs. Get together with people who love music as much as you do.

At Old Town School, It's not what you come for, it's what you take away.