The internationally recognized Old Town School of Folk Music was the brainchild of the late folk musician Win Stracke, who had a hunch in the late '50s that the burgeoning folk music scene needed a home to meet the increasing demand for good teachers. In 1957, the Old Town School was born. Stracke organized the school around the talents of his friend and colleague, Frank Hamilton, a gifted and innovative teacher. The school remains true to the vision of its founder, offering a broad range of classes in guitar, banjo, fiddle, percussion, songwriting, multi-track recording, voice, quilt making and more. There are specialty schools within the Old Town School, including one for planetary dance that offers classes in tango, salsa, tap, Mexican folkloric dance, capoeira and African dance. The Blues School focuses on blues guitar, jug band blues and the saxophone.
In September 1998, the Old Town School moved its adult programs to The Chicago Folk Center, a converted library at 4544 N. Lincoln Ave. The new site has a 420-seat auditorium, 18 classrooms, 10 private studio areas and much more street parking than the old facility at 909 W. Armitage. In addition to student performances at venues around town, there are in-house concerts featuring national and international acts, including Vance Gilbert, Preston Reed, Bonnie Koloc, the Osborne Brothers, Tom Rush, Dar Williams, Musikas and Squeezebox Extravaganza.