Local music school expects $2.5M grant

Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced Friday that she expects the State Bond Commission to approve $2.5 million for renovations at the Neighborhood Music School later this week.

The commission is expected to approve the funding on March 31. The Neighborhood Music School, which completed a $6 million renovation and expansion of their facilities on 100 Audubon St. in January, had originally expected to receive $1 million toward the renovation from the state government. The school will make up the rest of the costs from private donations and a grant from the city.

Renovations to the school included an expansion of its recital hall, expanded facilities for early childhood classes, disability access, and refurbished lighting and air-conditioning systems.

Ward 7 Alderwoman Bitsy Clark, a former president of the New Haven Arts Council, said that although Neighborhood Music School officials have felt the need to do renovations for many years, they have found raising funds to be difficult work.

“They had been deferring maintenance for a long time, and they were having difficulties [with the facilities],” she said. “Five years ago, they decided that they had to do it.”

At the opening ceremony for the newly renovated facilities in January, government and Neighborhood Music School officials were still unsure whether the state bonding would come through, forcing Neighborhood Music School to complete their renovations without having yet secured the expected $1 million in state funding, Clark said.

“[Neighborhood Music School] had this big opening around in January, and they had a lot of people talking about hoping that we’re going to get this bonding,” she said. “It means they’re able to now finish their big capital improvement.”

Tiffany Chen ’08, who has taken classes at Neighborhood Music School since she was 3, said the school used to have limited space but that the renovations have greatly increased the quality and size of the facilities.

“It’s just one of the best places to go to learn music and to grow up enjoying music,” Chen said. “The building used to be way too small for our orchestra, but it’s much better now.”

Rell said in a statement released Friday that Neighborhood Music School is a valuable organization for both New Haven and Connecticut.

“I am pleased to support continued funding for upgrading the facilities of this venerable community institution,” Rell said. “Neighborhood Music School serves people of all ages, income levels and musical ability. It offers wonderful programs for people who may not otherwise have the opportunity to become involved in the arts. This, in turn, enriches the cultural landscape of our entire state.”

Neighborhood Music School officials could not be reached for comment Sunday.

Neighborhood Music School, which serves 3,000 students from Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island every year, was established in 1911 and is one of the 10 largest community arts schools in the nation.

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