Make Crosstown Tracks this June with IRON HEART CHICAGO Presented by Old Town School of Folk Music June 10-17

The Old Town School of Folk Music presents Iron Heart Chicago, a new festival celebrating the international range of Chicago’s local musical heroes, with a series of free concerts performed during the evening rush hour at 40 different Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) “L” stations across all eight lines, June 10-17, from 4-6pm. Chicago’s Old Town School of Folk Music, considered the largest community school of the arts in the United States, teaches and celebrates music and cultural expressions rooted in the traditions of diverse American and global communities.

“The beauty of Chicago is that each neighborhood in our city has its own groove and its own artistic roots and Chicago’s train system — what author Nelson Algren referred to as ‘Chicago’s rusty iron heart’ — is the force that connects them all,” said Bau Graves, Old Town School of Folk Music Executive Director. “From Pilsen to Chinatown to Pulaski Park, within each community are master traditional musicians, and the goal of Iron Heart is to literally elevate public awareness of these ‘living cultural treasures’ and dramatically highlight a facet of our city’s cultural heritage that often goes unrecognized.”

Iron Heart’s concept to use CTA elevated train stations as performance venues transforms the familiar daily commute into a serendipitous cultural experience,” added Allyson Esposito, Director of the Cultural Grants Program at the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. “Iron Heart Chicago was designed to instill pride in Chicagoans, awe among tourists, and perhaps even arts-envy in the rest of the country.”

The six talented artists representing the tapestry of Chicago neighborhoods and genres are Delta bluesman Jimmy Burns, All-Ireland champion fiddler Liz Carroll, Romanian cimbalom masterNicolae Feraru, Mariachi violinist Juan Rivera and his Huasteco Trio, fiery Greek clarinetist Jim Stoynoff and Chinese erhu virtuoso Betti Xiang. All are prolific performers within their own communities but likely lesser known among the general public.

Each artist will perform two sets for commuters and the neighboring community during the

4-6 pm timeframe. Performances will take place on specially-created stages located at the ground level entrances to elevated train stations encompassing all eight lines: Blue, Brown, Green, Orange, Pink, Purple, Red and Yellow. Performers will rotate between venues and dates so that any one late afternoon between 4-6pm, between 3-5 different “L” stations will be enlivened with song. For example, on the opening day, Wednesday, June 12, from 4-6pm, Burns will perform blues at the Halsted station (Orange line), as Carroll fiddles at Jefferson Park (Blue); Rivera performs mariachi at Southport (Brown) as Stoynoff provides Greek tunes at Cicero (Green) and Xiang enlightens with her erhu at Polk (Pink).

In addition to the weeklong concert series throughout the CTA elevated system, the six Iron Heart Chicago artists will perform at Chicago parks the weekends of June 19-21 and June 26-28; at the Old Town School of Folk Music’s Square Roots Festival, July 10-12; and at a Finale Concert as part of Old Town School’s World Music Wednesday Series, July 29. All concerts are free and open to the public.

The complete Iron Heart Chicago performance schedule can be found at Concerts are free and open to the public; a train ticket is not necessary to enjoy the concert.

“I’m honored to have this opportunity to showcase the homegrown music of my country to a broader audience,” said Rivera. “Along with my fellow musicians, we are often performing for a crowd of familiar faces from our own community. I’m sure I speak for all in saying we’re proud to have been chosen to represent the wealth of talent in this city.”

The Old Town School of Folk Music

Founded in 1957, the Old Town School offers classes for adults and children in music, dance, theater and visual arts that span a wide range of artistic genres, presents over 400 concerts in two intimate and acoustically superb concert halls, and supports artist-in-residence programs in underserved Chicago Public Schools. The Old Town School owns and operates three Chicago facilities – two in the Lincoln Square neighborhood on Lincoln Avenue and one in Lincoln Park on Armitage. Facilities include 425-seat and 150-seat concert halls, 51 classrooms, two music stores, a cafe and a resource center. The School also offers its popular Wiggleworms® program at four suburban satellite locations.

This project is partially supported by an IncentOvate Grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events with additional program funding from grants and support from The Chicago Community Trust, the Joyce Foundation and Magellan Corporation. On behalf of Iron Heart Chicago, Old Town School of Folk Music thanks its partners: Chicago Transit Authority, Chicago Park District, Spritz, Inc and Simple Truth.

A complete Iron Heart Chicago performance schedule can be found at or visit for more information on ongoing Old Town School of Folk Music programming.


About the artists

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. Following a hiatus from touring and recording throughout the 1960s, he returned to the stage in the ‘90s. 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.

Liz Carroll was born in Chicago of Irish parents. She’s a junior and senior All-Ireland Fiddle Champion, and 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. Carroll is a recipient of the National Heritage Fellowship Award (1994), is the first Irish-American musician nominated for a Grammy™ Award (2010), and in 2011, became the first American-born composer honored with the Cumadóir TG4, Ireland’s most significant traditional music prize.

Nicolae Feraru is a 2013 NEA National Heritage Fellow and virtuoso of the cimbalom, a large hammer dulcimer popular throughout Eastern Europe. Since immigrating to the United States in 1988, Feraru has perpetuated the traditional Romani (Gypsy) music he learned from his father, and other lautari, or minstrels, in his native Romania. 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, Feraru was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor that the U.S. government has for masters of traditional arts.

Jim Stoynoff has specialized in the research, preservation and performance of Balkan folk music since 1962. Stoynoff has placed a particular emphasis on the regional folk clarinet styles of early 20th Century Central Greece, Epiros, Macedonia and Turkey. He has performed for hundreds of events within the Greek, Turkish, Epiroti and Macedonian communities throughout the U.S., and 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.

Juan Rivera is a two-time Grammy™ nominated musician who specializes in several styles of Mexican folk violin, including the ornate Huasteco style. He was born in Michoacán, Mexico and after study in Mexico City, 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 2005 Rivera permanently relocated to Chicago to join the Sones de México Ensemble with whom he was twice nominated for a Grammy Award and has toured the U.S. coast-to-coast. Rivera also formed his own trio Los Condenados Huastecos.

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 was a guest artist at the inauguration of Chicago’s Millennium Park in 2005 and soon after 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, Symphony Center and the Smithsonian Institute. As Illinois’ World Ethnic Artist, Xiang has given erhu demonstrations at many local and regional universities.