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Here's Why The Musicians on 'L' Platforms Are About to Sound MUCH Better

LINCOLN SQUARE — CTA stations are fertile ground for some of Chicago's more enterprising musicians, from bucket boys to dudes armed with nothing more than a guitar, an amp and an unwavering commitment to "Stand by Me."

This week, the busker tradition gets a major upgrade as Old Town School kicks off its "Iron Heart" tour of the CTA's subway and elevated lines, bringing folk music to the commuting masses.

Six celebrated folk musicians — whose specialties range from Balkan clarinet to the two-stringed Chinese violin known as erhu — will perform for free at stations across the city, 4-6 p.m., Wednesday through June 17.

Folk musicians will play nearly 40 CTA stations June 10-17 during the "Iron Heart" tour. [Old Town School of Folk Music]

Iron Heart debuts Wednesday at five stations:

  • Blue Line Jefferson Park
  • Brown Line Southport
  • Green Line Cicero
  • Orange Line Halsted
  • Pink Line Polk

On Thursday, the Red Line gets in on the action:

  • Blue Line Division
  • Green Line Garfield
  • Orange Line Midway
  • Pink Line 18th Street
  • Red Line Argyle

Scheduled stops Friday through Wednesday, June 17, by line

Blue Line: Belmont, Friday; Logan Square, Saturday; Western, Monday; Logan Square, Tuesday.

Brown Line: Damen, Friday; Western, Saturday; Armitage, Monday; Kimball, Tuesday; Western, Wednesday.

Green Line: 35th/Bronzeville, Friday; Garfield, Sunday; Indiana, Tuesday; Ashland/63rd, Wednesday.

Orange Line: Kedzie, Monday and Wednesday.

Pink Line: Pulaski, Friday; California, Monday.

Red Line: Sox/35th, Saturday; Granville, Saturday; Chinatown/Cermak, Sunday; 95th/Dan Ryan, Monday; Loyola, Tuesday; Sox/35th, Tuesday; North/Clybourn, Wednesday.

Red/Brown/Purple: Belmont, Sunday.

Red/Purple/Yellow: Howard, Wednesday.

Meet the Musicians

Betti Xiang plays traditional Chinese and folk music on the erhu. Born in Shanghai, she traveled worldwide with the Shanghai National Orchestra before moving to the U.S. in 1996. In 2005, Xiang was the guest artist at the inauguration of Chicago's Millennium Park.

See her at: Pink/Polk, Red/Argyle, Brown/Western, Red/Chinatown, Blue/Logan Square and Orange/Kedzie.

[Betti Xiang from Old Town School of Folk Music on Vimeo]

Jimmy Burns is an American blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. Born in the Mississippi delta in 1943, he moved to Chicago at the age of 12. He records for Delmark and performs internationally.

See him at: Orange/Halsted, Brown/Damen, Green/Garfield, Blue/Western, Red/Sox 35th and Red/North and Clybourn.

[Jimmy Burns from Old Town School of Folk Music on Vimeo]

Jim Stoynoff performs Balkan clarinet music and has played with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Residency and the Chicago Immigrant Orchestra.

See him at: Green/Cicero; Blue/Division; Green/35th Bronzeville; Red, Brown, Purple/Belmont; Brown/Armitage; and Red/Loyola.

[Jim Stoynoff from Old Town School of Folk Music on Vimeo]

Juan Rivera specializes in several styles of Mexican folk violin, including Huasteco, which is characterized by violin improvisation and high falsetto singing.

Born in Aguililla, Michoacán, Rivera is now based in Chicago. He earned two Grammy nominations as a member of Sones de México Ensemble.

See him at: Brown/Southport, Pink/18th, Blue/Logan Square, Orange/Kedzie, Green/Indiana and Red, Purple, Yellow/Howard.

[Juan Rivera from Old Town School of Folk Music on Vimeo]

Chicagoan Liz Carroll is the daughter of Irish immigrants. In 1975, at the age of 18, she won the senior division championship title in Irish fiddling, establishing a reputation as one of the best in the world.

A composer as well, Carroll was honored in 2011 with the Cumadóir TG4, Ireland's traditional music prize.

See her at: Blue/Jefferson Park, Orange/Midway, Pink/Pulaski, Red/Sox 35th, Red/95th Dan Ryan and Brown/Western.

[Liz Carroll from Old Town School of Folk Music on Vimeo]

Nicolae Feraru fell in love with Gypsy traditional music growing up in his native Romania. Born in Bucharest in 1950, Feraru applied for political asylum in the U.S. in 1988 while on tour in Detroit.

In 2013, he was awarded the National Heritage Fellowship, the highest honor given in the U.S. to masters of traditional arts.

See him at: Green/Garfield, Blue/Belmont, Red/Granville, Pink/California, Brown/Kimball and Green/Ashland 63rd.

[Nicolae Feraru from Old Town School of Folk Music on Vimeo]

In addition to the whistle stop tour of train stations, Old Town's Iron Heart programming includes a string of concerts at neighborhood parks (June 19-28), performances by the various Iron Heart musicians at Lincoln Square's Square Roots Festival (July 10-12) and a grand finale July 29 at Old Town School.

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