Neighborhood Music School (NMS) is one of the 10 largest community arts schools in the U.S, serving over 2,700 students annually from more than 100 cities and towns. Offerings span 30 instruments and seven genres of dance for students ages 2 to 90+.
NMS offers one-on-one lessons, early childhood music, an arts-based preschool, an after-school program, group classes in music, dance, and drama, plus over 100 weekly ensembles.
NMS is situated in one of the poorest cities in one of the richest states in the US. 32% of New Haven children live below the poverty level; 58% are eligible for free school lunch. Our need-based financial aid program, along with our tuition-free programming, helps bridge our community's economic divide, bringing together low-income students with those from more affluent communities around a shared love of the arts. Thanks to support from our donors, some $220,000 in need-based financial aid is distributed to nearly 500 students annually, and we hope to further increase this funding in years to come.
Neighborhood Music School was founded on a principle of inclusion and accessibility, which remains as core to its mission today as at its origin. NMS originated in 1911 as part of the settlement house movement to assist New Haven's new and growing immigrant population. The school began as a community-focused social services organization called Neighborhood House in association with St. Paul’s Church on Olive Street in Wooster Square. By 1915, however, the demand for Neighborhood House music programs was so extensive that a separate entity known as Neighborhood House Music School was formed. In 1945 Neighborhood House Music School officially became an independent entity known as Neighborhood Music School.
A change in admissions policies in the late 1950s allowing for the enrollment of private full-paying students and expanding the school’s reach catapulted the school into a period of aggressive growth. In 1964, NMS embarked on a building fund campaign for the present facility at 100 Audubon Street, which became the first building to anchor the newly designated Audubon Arts district. Today, Audubon Street is a thriving artistic community home to numerous arts organizations and business ventures. The 30,000-square-foot NMS facility a houses 33 studios, practice rooms, a recital hall and administrative offices.
·New Program Development: NMS launched several notable new tuition-free programs to more fully serve the needs of our community. These include the Dance Initiative, the Audubon Voices Youth Choruses, and the After-School Arts Academy (AASA).
· FFinancial Stabilization: To secure our financial future, we identified and implemented $300K in annual budget reductions for FY2016 through a community-based model of shared sacrifice.
· FFinancial Aid & Access: 475 students benefited from our tuition-free and financial aid programs, which help bridge our community's economic divide, bringing together low-income students with those from more affluent communities around a shared love of the arts.
Capital for the After-School Arts Academy (AASA): $75,000 per year is required to expand
this transformative program for New Haven youth from 30 to 50 students in
Seed Funding for Distance Learning: To expand the school’s reach, and to bring our faculty resources to individuals, school districts, and senior centers beyond New Haven, NMS is piloting a distance learning, which has been used successfully by other institutions. Approximately $40,000 is required to seed this program, a promising future revenue stream.
ATLAS Financial Aid: NMS is launching the Academic Theater Lab on Audubon Street (ATLAS), an arts-based day school for 7th and 8th grades based on a pioneering learning model. We would like our entering class to be accessible for students from all backgrounds. We seek seed funding of $70-$100,000 for ATLAS financial aid.
Program Staff Support: In addition to launching these new programs and building out the leadership component of DELTA Initiative, all focused on school age children, NMS is also rebuilding our early childhood program and solidifying programming to serve our growing aging demographic. Planning, development and launch of programs is a resource-intensive undertaking. A Program Assistant position is needed; with benefits, this would cost approximately $50,000.
Replacement of State of CT Funding: In FY2015, NMS received $150,000 in state line item funding. This funding was cut to $121,000 for FY2016, and to $80,000 in FY2017. In FY2018, the DECD plans to eliminate all line items for arts & culture organizations. The loss of this $150,000 in revenue presents a great challenge.
CEO Statement (Dan Gurvich)
Recall that special teacher from your past – the one who believed in you more than you believed in yourself. The one who inspired you to new discovery and accomplishment. Whose steady support helped you overcome the confusion and setbacks that are part of learning. At NMS, our studios are full of these special folks – the teachers you remember forever. The quality of our faculty stands out among even the very best community arts schools. They are caring, highly trained, and experienced. Our student families agree. In a February survey of nearly 500 students, on a scale of 0-10, our faculty received an average rating of 9.6.
The more I study community arts education nationally, the more I realize how fortunate we are to have a school of this caliber here in New Haven. Comparable schools are located in major metropolitan areas, which offer vast funding resources. Most of our sister schools derive over 35% of their revenues from contributions; for us, this figure stands at less than 20%. Yet, NMS still provides over $220,000 in financial aid to nearly 500 students each year to keep our life-changing programs accessible to all.
NMS could not employ the faculty that makes us who we are, could not extend the financial aid that so many students count on, without the financial commitment of our steadfast supporters. This year, individual giving was up an impressive 25%! I cannot thank them enough for their role in sustaining our beloved school.
But this is not our full story. The real story unfolds every day in our studios and classrooms. In a world of increased digital connection, but growing emotional isolation, NMS touches hearts and provides a “second home” to so many. My favorite part of any week is hearing from a parent, student or alum about the profound positive impact that NMS has made in their lives. Just last week, I heard from the family of a child who had been struggling with self-esteem and behavior issues, but whose outlook on life changed dramatically after he discovered his passion at NMS. That transformative power of the arts is our real story – and the reason that NMS will continue to thrive for another century and beyond!
Board Chair Statement (Eric Glover)
I am honored to be Board Chair of Neighborhood Music School.
We are fortunate to have an outstanding Board of Directors which is dedicated
to guiding and supporting NMS with commitment, passion and insight. We continue
to move forward with new initiatives to expand and diversify our Board, our
student body, our programming, our funding sources and our partnerships.
NMS is particularly focused on building and improving programs and launching an arts-integrated middle school. We have been enthusiastically undertaking this important project even as the staff, faculty and board are actively engaged in expanding program offerings, creating a clearly-articulated brand, increasing contributed and endowment income and improving customer service.
NMS offers individual and group class instruction in over 30 instruments and 7 genres of dance. Its 131 faculty members are both professional educators and active performing artists. More than 2,700 students participate each year. These students range in age from toddlers to over 90 years of age, and include beginners to advanced and professional level artists, and many adult students who are returning to instrumental instruction after a long hiatus. NMS boasts one of the largest ensemble programs in the country, with over 100 ensembles performing together weekly - including the renowned Greater New Haven Youth Orchestra, Concert Band, Concert Orchestra and Symphonic Wind Ensemble. Instruction is on a full year academic cycle running approximately 34 weeks, plus a separate summer season, though rolling admissions are accepted.
Participation in NMS music, dance and drama programs creates an appreciation for the arts as well as building valuable life skills like confidence and discipline, focus and experimentation. With some commitment to practice outside of the lesson or class time, students can expect to continuous progress their skills and proficiency. Due to the growth of our most rapidly expanding programs, our summer Audubon Arts and Rock and Contemporary Music Program, we have been bringing in new participants and expanding our reach to broader audiences. For example, the Rock Program has grown by more than 25 percent the past two years. Our Preschool continues to offer positive alternatives to traditional early childhood education and immerses students in a play-based and artistic learning environment from the beginning stages of their development.
Research has shown that involvement in the arts can improve cognitive ability, critical thinking, social and psychological development, creativity and concentration. Studies such as the one reported on in the September 2014 article in The Wall Street Journal show that not only does music education help advance high-level academic performance but it also is an important platform to help point students with learning disabilities toward early intervention. NMS is striving to be at the forefront of initiatives serving special and underserved populations as well as people of all ages who share common interests and activities. NMS helps build community engagement, provide mentoring opportunities and facilitate dialogue among community members of all backgrounds. We believe that providing access to high quality instruction to people of all ages, means and backgrounds will benefit the individuals and the well being of the community.
Parent and student feedback as collected via surveys at the end of the semester, qualitative focus group research, classroom and lesson observations by senior administrative staff (program heads and department chairs)
Established over 20 years ago, the Preschool at Neighborhood Music School offers children ages two through five a state-licensed, arts-based preschool and toddler program. Both full-day and half-day options provide a warm and loving environment that promotes creativity, individual expression, cognitive development, and community spirit. This supportive mixed-age approach is suited physically and developmentally to the needs of young children and offers social experiences with other children. Staff are trained and experienced in early childhood education and the curriculum includes a mix of free play and teacher-supported activities, both indoors and out. The school is uniquely situated within the main facility of the Neighborhood Music School and uses that proximity to its advantage. Students are exposed to all of the resources of the school and its community, including dance and music performances and events.
Graduates of the Preschool at NMS continue to thrive both within our school through participating in various lessons and classes and winning spots in ensembles, but within their school systems, many of them getting accepted into some of the region’s finest schools.
NMS is working to adhere to new state initiatives for early childhood education and will continue to monitor our efforts.
NMS partners with a number of organizations to offer additional programming for community members both on campus at NMS and on site at the community facilities. Programs include the City Initiative, which provides free tuition for New Haven public school students to take individual instruction and ensembles in collaboration with New Haven Public Schools. the Yale School of Music "Music In Schools Initiative" and New Haven Promise; and the Dance Initiative, a partnership with Achievement First charter schools. Community engagement and outreach is an area of continuous growth and evolution at NMS and a critical part of our mission to ensure accessibility to the highest quality instruction for students of all ages, skill levels, backgrounds and financial means.
This year, for the first time since its inception seven years ago, the City Initiative has brought more students than ever before into our auditions for the Greater New Haven Youth Ensemble. Eight students graduated from the program last year and were admitted to colleges to continue their music studies.
With public school funding for the arts under severe threat, access and exposure to the arts is particularly at risk for youth in underprivileged communities. NMS's community programs are designed to provide easy access to music, dance and theater experiences and training for students of all backgrounds and means. It also creates opportunities and outlets for those who may be struggling with the broader challenges that are rampant in disadvantaged neighborhoods. NMS has many success stories of students who came from very challenged situations, found inspiration and focus in their artistic studies at NMS and gone on to notable professional accomplishment in all manner of careers.
NMS’s director of programs along with faculty and staff working with these programs regularly review and evaluate student performance through public school teacher evaluations, NMS teacher evaluation forms and monitoring students’ self-made goals and progress.
NMS hosts more than 150 public events and
performances each year. Most of these events are free and many are participatory. NMS has a wide selection of popular events and activities that have become community traditions, including favorites like the Twilight Tuesdays summertime outdoor concert series, participatory performance events like Spooky Suzuki and the annual Fall Free For All event which features an "instrument discovery zone," sample classes and free mini-lessons for community members. Faculty and student ensembles participate in many more local community events off NMS premises including such popular happenings as the New Haven Jazz Festival. A new free Spotlight event series debuted in 2015 featuring talks, performances and film screenings with local artists.
These events attract new audiences and potential students into the school who have traditionally not participated in tuition-based music, art and drama programs.
Our public offerings create an appreciation for the arts and an exposure to a wide range of genres, instruments, techniques and capabilities. For young people it may provoke an emergent interest that becomes a lifelong passion. For adults it may provide an opportunity to connect with others who share similar interests. For many it may open their eyes to new areas of interest and inspiration. For the community it is positive forum for building connections and strengthening the neighborhood.
NMS tracks the success of these “inreach” efforts through number of participants, ticket sales and enrollment growth, particularly new students.
This year, our popular summer music series, Twilight Tuesdays, attracted an audience of more than 500, a 25 percent increase over the prior year. The program also introduced the NMS community to new musical genres to “test market” for future programming.
NMS regularly collaborates with a number of organizations in designing and implementing new programming targeted at students with specific special physical and/or learning needs. Programs have included Dancing with Parkinson's, a program developed from the Mark Morris Dance for PD concept in partnership with the American Parkinson's Disease Association of Connecticut and the Connecticut Parkinson's Working Group. Other collaborations take place with Chapel Haven and the Yale Child Study Center for children with autism and other behavioral challenges. Music and movement have been show to promote healing, improve mental and physical well being and enhance the quality of life for those dealing with ailments or disabilities. Here at NMS, we are continuing to expand our programming to include new music and dance applications and are grateful to the support and collaboration of so many of our partners and affiliates.
The best short-term metrics are the individual reports of participants in the programs and their repeated re-enrollment in the courses. A dramatic example is the group of students from our Vintage Voices program, a singing and modern dance program for seniors established under a grant from the Creative Aging Initiative, who when threatened with the discontinuation of the program at the end of the funding cycle collectively came together to independently write a letter and petition for additional funding from a corporate sponsor that ultimately saved the program.
Research has demonstrated the power of music and dance to promote healing, improve mental and physical wellbeing and enhance the quality of life for those dealing with physical ailments or disabilities. Here at NMS we do not offer certified therapeutic programs but we do offer targeted programs that are designed around the needs of communities with specific physical or developmental challenges. These programs have been created in partnership with leading research institutions like the Yale Child Study Center and innovative programs like the Mark Morris Dance Group. The programs are primarily about artistic and creative expression and the social and emotional benefits of interacting with others experiencing similar challenges though many report improvements in their physical competencies as well. Over time, we hope to develop a more robust assessment of the impact of these programs (as a complement to other therapeutic or medical treatments the students may be receiving simultaneously).
These programs are closely monitored by program coordinators, Laura Richling (Dancing with Parkinson’s), David Mills (NoteAble Men/Women), and Tracey Albert and Ingeborg Schimmer (Vintage Voices), with oversight by Noah Bloom, director of programs.
In 2016, NMS launched the After-School Arts Academy (ASAA). Through a rigorous and engaging arts curriculum, this new after-school program offers New Haven area youth from diverse backgrounds a platform to develop their creativity, intellectual skills and physical health and help prepare them for success in school and beyond.
The goal of ASAA is to help students use the platform of the arts to
develop important life skills in a safe, supportive environment so that they
can achieve success in school and be better prepared for college and career. We accomplish this goal by focusing on the following objectives:
Initially, ASAA is serving 25-30 students in grades 3 – 5 with programming five days a week from 3:30-6:00 p.m, with the addition of one grade per year over the next 4 years to reach at least 50 students. Curriculum is designed to develop the intellectual growth and curiosity of the evolving middle school student. At least half of them come from lower income households. The program offers flexibility to accommodate students who participate every day alongside those who participate only on selected days. In order to service families who need daily after-school child care, NMS is partnering with other youth organizations, including LEAP, Music Haven and Achievement First which currently provide five days a week after-school programming so that we can supplement our offerings.
One of the main outcomes of ASAA is the development and presentation of original works by participating students in collaboration with each other and NMS faculty and mentors. These works will include music videos, live performances and dance recitals packaged within a major showcase event twice a year. During this process, they will explore social awareness and diversity issues, team building and problem solving, and develop a platform for enhancing their self-confidence, leadership and public speaking skills.
ASAA has developed a formal evaluation program with the help of a professional evaluator (also a Neighborhood Music School parent), who has devised a program logic model to help define and measure outcomes. We will also incorporate student journals and self-evaluations, teacher, parent and audience surveys, video interviews, attendance and retention statistics.
Founded in the Settlement House tradition of
inclusivity and access, NMS continues to serve an important role as a vibrant
community center offering high quality music, dance and drama programs to
people of all ages and backgrounds. As we’ve evolved to serve our community’s
needs, we’ve added other offerings such as our arts-based Preschool, After-School
Arts Academy and Audubon Arts summer program, and also expanded programming
across the life cycle – for older adults, mid-career professionals, toddlers,
etc. The breadth of our programs and the richness of our community are great
and growing. But, to many area residents, NMS is still regarded as a
traditional school where affluent school-age kids go for private instrumental
instruction. We need to address that perception and broaden our brand.
NMS’s current challenges include increasing public awareness and recruitment through creative marketing and promotion, and expanding community engagement and outreach activities. We also need to re-double our efforts to secure grants and contributions, particularly for our tuition-free programs and students receiving financial aid; this is all the more necessary as we have had a significant decline in state support which has directly impacted our financial aid budget. In 2016, NMS launched a new three-year fundraising drive, “Bridge to the Future,” focused on building our base of individual donors and encouraging their longer-term investment to enable longer-range planning. We need to focus on fundraising for existing programs and create new fundable programs.
NMS is actively reaching out in ways that engage the community with hands-on experiences of the quality programs offered through our organization. From free mini-lessons at youth-focused festivals in the region's challenged neighborhoods, to our open house and active outreach to schools and community groups, NMS investigates the needs within our community that our programming will fill. Partners and collaborators include: Shoreline Arts Alliance; Arts Council of Greater New Haven; New Haven Symphony Orchestra; New Haven Public Schools; New Haven Promise; Yale School of Music Community Programs, with whom we work closely in the New Haven Public Schools; Jewish Community Center; and the Connecticut Parkinson's Working Group.
Reliance on Earned Revenue: NMS is the largest community arts organization in the US that is not located in a top-20 metropolitan area. New Haven is a smaller city that lacks a strong corporate donor base. As a consequence, NMS relies on earned revenue for over 80% of its annual budget. For our similarly sized peer institutions, this figure stands at 70% or lower.
Public Awareness & Recruitment: Per formal market research that was conducted this year, public awareness of NMS is not where it could be. The school’s marketing budget had been cut by 65% since 2008 by the previous administration. This precipitated a notable decline in earned revenue. Retention has remained very strong, but recruitment is just now starting to rebound.
Capitalization: Insufficient capitalization and reserves limit the ability of current management to invest in developing and launching new programs and to strengthen organizational infrastructure.
State Funding: Two years ago, NMS received $150K from the State of CT. Funding for arts & culture related line items in the State of CT budget has now been reduced by nearly 50%. These line items are expected to be eliminated entirely in the coming year.
Wage Cuts: In order to stabilize the school’s budget, NMS implemented across-the-board wage cuts of 8% for all employees (10% for management) for FY2017. Preventing attrition and managing morale in the wake of the cuts is a high priority.
Enrollment in Core Programs: NMS continues to build community awareness and recruit new students for core programs. We have increased person-to-person outreach to civic groups and schools. A new website and new registration software will be implemented in spring, 2017. We are fostering a culture of recruitment and cross-selling among faculty, and we plan to utilize annual student assessment and programmatic pathway recommendations as tools to maximize retention.
Creative Youth Development & Social Impact: NMS is expanding its work with community partners to develop fundable programs that fully leverage the power of New Haven’s arts sector to lift up the city’s youth. NMS is working to build out the leadership development components of its After-School Arts Academy and DELTA Initiative (Developing & Empowering Leadership Through the Arts). We are creating new, ambitious, broadly impactful programs that promise to attract large-scale funding.
ATLAS: NMS is working with two Harvard-trained educators to launch a small, arts-based independent day school for 7th and 8th grades called ATLAS (Academic Theatre Lab on Audubon Street). In fall 2016, ATLAS informational sessions, film screenings, community conversations, and experiential half-day workshops attracted several dozen prospective families. Scheduled to launch in Fall, 2018, ATLAS will pioneer a new educational model, address a local need and utilize existing NMS infrastructure. Seed funding is required to make financial aid available to families in the entering class.
Distance Learning: NMS is hoping to launch a new distance learning program in 2017. One of our sister schools, MacPhail Music Center in Minneapolis-St. Paul , serves 1,500+ students outside their geographic market weekly by providing online private lessons, sectional coaching, and class instruction to individuals, schools, and senior centers. The technology to accomplish this is simple and relatively affordable; however, additional staff resources are required to develop and launch this new delivery channel.
As it approaches its eleventh decade, Neighborhood Music School is facing both significant challenges and exciting opportunities:
Distance Learning: NMS is hoping to launch a new distance learning program in 2017. One of our sister schools, MacPhail Music Center in Minneapolis-St. Paul , serves 1,500+ students outside their geographic market weekly by providing online private lessons, sectional coaching, and class instruction to individuals, schools, and senior centers. The technology to accomplish this is simple and relatively affordable; however, additional staff resources are required to develop and launch this delivery channel.
Bridge to the Future: NMS has initiated a fundraising drive that asks donors to make a three-year pledge to NMS. A longer-term investment by donors will secure year-to-year operating revenue and enable longer range planning.
Indirect Public Support HelpIndirect public support represents revenue received through solicitation campaigns. This includes funding United Way and other federated fundraising organizations, but does not include donor designated contributions.
Earned Revenue HelpEarned revenue represents income generated in direct exchange for a product or service.Earned income includes income from government contracts.
Greater New Haven is home to a thriving arts community that includes theatre, music, dance and the visual arts. It is invested in its museums, historic preservation and the celebration of its members’ ethnic and cultural diversity.
Greater New Haven’s vibrancy is linked to its communities’ support of its neighborhoods, public gardens and sports, as well as its commitment to the protection of its people and pets.
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