About CSM

About Chicago Street Musicians (CSM), the inspiration and the people behind the organization.

Chicago Street Musicians

Chicago Street Musicians (CSM) is a not-for-profit organization that celebrates street musicians by educating the public at large about their lives and music and by providing additional performance opportunities. Originally focused on Chicago, we seek to highlight the work of street musicians everywhere.

Founded in the summer of 2009 by two musicians, Gabriel Chapman and Sarah Barnes, CSM was created in response to the perceived lack of understanding and general appreciation for an integral voice of the city. The organization works to recognize and support the lives and work of street musicians.

We have been inspired by street musicians, having listened to and enjoyed their work for years. CSM was founded to give something back to these talented musicians and to provide additional platforms for their unique work.

Chicago Street Musicians’ vision is to showcase the playing and life stories of the very talented musicians that perform in the subway and on the streets across the world. The organization is run completely by volunteers.

Our Mission

To celebrate and recognize street musicians by educating the public at large and by providing additional performance opportunities for street musicians.

About The Team

Gabriel Chapman
Director and Co-Founder

Gabriel Chapman is a soccer intermediary who represents female professional players through his agency, Inspired XI. He is also a musician that previously lived and performed for many years in Chicago. He has long been a fan of street performers. His first inspiration to create CSM was hearing musicians perform in the Washington Street Blue Line subway station.

George Banks
In Memoriam, Associate Director and Street Musician

Despite having moved frequently as a child, George considers himself a true Chicagoan. He was trained in theater until he decided to pursue music in the early 1980s and began playing percussion and drum set for his church. In 1999, George took up the acoustic guitar. George has performed for many corporate parties and other events, including a three-week stint on “Celebrity Cruises.”

When playing acoustic guitar in the subway, George mainly plays covers. However, he often writes his own lyrics to the melodies of the songs he plays. He loves knowing that his music helps make someone’s day more enjoyable. For George, the most rewarding thing about playing music on the street is the smile on a child’s face that never fails to appear when hearing his music. George says that “adults will occasionally glance or watch; children always look back and watch.” This acts as a “sign of God’s approval” of George’s work.

George sadly passed away in March 2023. You can read our tribute to his life here

Sweet Home Chicago Video Crew

Mark Schimmel
Co-Producer and Film Director

Mark Schimmel is a talented and distinguished filmmaker who currently directs commercials and new media. He has won many awards from notable organizations including: Chicago International Film Festival, New York Festivals, Worldfest Houston, Telly Awards, Global Awards, EMMY award nomination, Create Award, AAAA recognition, The Global Awards, The Create Magazine Awards, and the recipient of multiple film grants. Current and past clients include: Nintendo Wii, Chamberlain/LiftMaster Garage Door Openers, Schering Plough, Discover Card, Animal Planet/Discovery Network and Health Care Networks.

Mark is a native Chicagoan and studied at The Art Institute of Chicago and Columbia College. He completed his BFA at Pratt Institute, New York City. Prior to graduation, he was recruited by Walt Disney Productions. Following his work at Walt Disney, he returned to New York City to work as an Art Director with Lintas:Worldwide. Later, he was a designer for Miramax Film.

Mark currently serves as an Adjunct Professor at Columbia College in the Film and Video Department.

Gary Fry

Composer, conductor, and music educator Gary Fry is the Choral Program Director and Voices Rising Director at Midwest Young Artists (MYA). As music director of the acclaimed children’s vocal ensemble EagleSong from the Sunset Ridge School in Northfield, Gary has developed a high-quality program that has taken his young singers to some of the most prestigious venues in America, including the White House (three invitations), the United Nations, and choral festivals across the country. In addition, he is in demand as a clinician and adjudicator for high school and college choral festivals and competitions.

Gary has composed for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (over 35 commissions) and for television advertisements for companies such as McDonald’s and Kellogg’s. His compositions have been performed by the Boston Pops, the Dallas Symphony, and the Colorado Symphony. One can also hear his compositions on the Cartoon Network program “Baby Looney Tunes” or in the pedestrian passageway at the O’Hare Airport United Airlines terminal.

Sarah Barnes

Sarah Barnes is currently the Director of Marketing and Communications at Campbell & Company, where she is responsible for developing and executing marketing and PR strategies. Additionally, she is an adjunct faculty member for Loyola University Chicago Graduate School of Business.

In her spare time, Sarah is an active percussionist and percussion teacher in the Chicago area. She has performed with Music of the Baroque, Northshore Choral Society, ARC Chamber Ensemble, Evansville Philharmonic, Kentucky Symphony and Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO). She can be heard performing Prokofiev’s Scythian Suite with the CSO on Traditions and Transformations: Sounds of Silk Road Chicago, a CSO Resound recording featuring Yo-Yo Ma.

Randy Riesen

Randy Riesen is a director of photography specializing in many areas of production. Based out of the Chicago area, Randy has shot for network television programs, documentaries, reality shows, commercial spots and corporate image pieces.

His passion for music video production can be seen in his work for Paul McCartney, Motorhead and the Smashing Pumpkins, as well as indie rockers Perfect Red.

John Mathie
Audio Engineer

A native of Chicago, John Mathie is a fulltime recording and location audio engineer. Location sound recording credits include: Harpo Studios, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, HBO, NBC, BBC, PBS, Vh3, MTV, and A&E. John has produced corporate audio for companies including: Google, United Airlines, Microsoft, Yahoo, LaSalle Bank, Bank of America, and many others. Additionally, John joined Peter Gabriel as a Pro Tools Engineer for the “Growing Up” and “Still Growing Up” U.S. and European tours. John received his Bachelor of Arts in English, Concentration for Film, from the University of Wisconsin.

AJ Kane

AJ Kane is a professional photographer who has been shooting in the Chicago area since 2006. In 2008, AJ created AJRJ Photography with his partner, Robin Carlson. Their wedding, event, portrait and headshot photography can be viewed on their website: www.ajrjphotography.com.

In September 2009 AJ also opened The AJ Kane Gallery, an art in Chicago’s West Loop Arts District at 119 N. Peoria St. More information on the gallery can be found at: www.ajkanegallery.com.

AJ is currently looking to become more deeply involved in Chicago’s humanitarian and activist communities. He offers discounted or pro bono services to causes he believes in. Contact him through one his websites if you would like AJ’s help on a particular project.

Steve Nelms

Steve Nelms is an 18 year old musician from Lake Forest, IL. He recently graduated from Lake Forest High School and is now attending the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

He started playing music at the age of seven, when he began piano lessons. Four years later, he began to take drum set lessons. He now plays several instruments including drum set, marimba, banjo, ukulele, and piano. In seventh grade, he joined the Midwest Young Artists (MYA) Percussion Ensemble where he met Sarah Barnes, his percussion coach.

He first became involved with Chicago Street Musicians after Sarah told him of the idea in June 2009. He now helps with CSM’s projects and website. He hopes that this will be an enjoyable, educational, and eye-opening experience.

Cody Fry
Music Consultant

Cody Fry is a 18-year-old singer-songwriter from Chicago, IL. In addition to piano, Cody performs as a tenor vocalist and on guitar, bass, drums, saxophone, trumpet, mandolin, ukulele, and percussion.

Cody has had the privilege of performing with the legendary Earth Wind & Fire, and has shared the stage with greats such as John Legend, Herbie Hancock, Kanye West, and David Foster as a part of the “Starry Night” tribute to Quincy Jones in Los Angeles. Cody has claimed numerous awards for his musical abilities including two Downbeat Awards, one for “Best High School Vocalist”, and one for “Best Original Song.”

As a singer-songwriter, Cody has been recording and releasing CD projects of his original songs for 4 years, on which he sings and plays all instruments. He recently organized and produced two concerts to benefit a charity for African children, which featured his original music with arrangements for a 40-piece orchestra, and generated over $4,000.