A Little Word About Us

The illinois music association

The Illinois Music Association (IMA) was incorporated in 1960 as a non-profit organization dedicated to elevating music education standards and providing a platform for students to perform a piece of music, competitively, before a judge with musical education/background.

The IMA was instituted out of a need to provide a suitable competition for the music students of private music teachers and studios in north-eastern Illinois.  In our first 3 years, our contests were held for students performing piano and accordion, and attracted over 100 students during our beginning years.
Over the past few decades, as musical interests developed and changed, our contest evolved to accommodate a variety of instruments and vocalists.  Strings (violin, viola, cello, guitar), winds, percussion, as well as vocalists were included in the contest, and the competition has grown to approx. 2,000 students, each year! As the size and scope of the contest grew, the area from which we attracted students spread to include the Chicago area, north-eastern and central Illinois, north-eastern Indiana, and south-eastern Wisconsin.

The contest is open to students of all ages – children and adults.

The contest is divided into many different levels and classes.  Contestants are categorized in these ways:

  • Instrument (piano, strings, wind, percussion and vocals)
  • Experience based in the music performed (cadet, elementary, junior, intermediate, senior).
  • Age

In addition, the IMA offers a performance category for students who cannot compete in a group situation due to a physical or mental impairment, such as Autism, Attention Deficit Disorder, Cerebral Palsy, etc.  This category pairs the student with the adjudicator in a one-on-one format, giving the student, who otherwise would not have the opportunity to compete, a chance to participate.

A typical class for a student between the ages of 6 and 12, is limited to about 10 contestants or less.  The age variation in each class is plus/minus one year.  The philosophy of keeping each class size small, is to allow the contestants a greater chance of winning a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place trophy.

In 1976, the IMA established a scholarship foundation.  The IMA does not solicit or receive any government grants.  Our scholarship foundation is solely dependent on private donations.  The scholarship foundation is a separate activity, independent from the annual contest and has awarded over 100 scholarships since its inception, to students seeking to pursue their musical education in college.


We believe that the IMA competition satisfies a need for performers of all ages and levels. Our structure is designed to offer success to each person who participated. Teachers are given a wide variety of music at the many different levels making it easy to select the right piece of music for the appropriate level and age of the student.