Gifted young musicians from around the world converge in the Chicago area each fall for the same reason: to study at one of the widely revered music schools.

They bring their violins and trumpets, saxophones and cellos for the chance to learn from the masters who teach there, many of whom play in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera and the city’s many other musical institutions. The students — from as near as Hyde Park and as far as Shanghai — get to perform in superb university ensembles, participate in master classes with visiting virtuosos and otherwise revel in the cultural life of an intensely musical city.

All of this has been subverted by the pandemic. Which means the Chicago region’s top music schools have had to reinvent how they’ve been teaching the art form for generations.

“We all are trying to figure this out,” says Toni-Marie Montgomery, dean of Northwestern University’s Bienen School of Music in Evanston. “No one has been through training for this: How do you build for a pandemic? Kudos to our faculty and to our students — we had to quickly change.”

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  • Toni-Marie Montgomery