Perhaps it is the sound of the Greater New Haven Youth Orchestra rehearsing their latest piece or the tinkle of a piano mid-lesson that is drawing increased attention to the Neighborhood Music School at 100 Audubon St.
On Saturday, NMS announced the completion of what has been a five-year-long, $4.7 million improvement and expansion project to the building’s facilities. Executive Director Larry Zukof said that due to the recent renovations, this may be the grandest year in the school’s history thus far.
“It’s a very exciting time for us,” he said.
With $1 million coming from the state of Connecticut through bond grant funds, and another $24,375 from the city, fundraising for this independent, non-profit organization came largely from donations from foundations and individual patron support, according to an NMS press release.
Funding went directly toward expanding and refurbishing the school’s recital hall by increasing its seating capacity, improving the lighting and enhancing the acoustics of the space, Zukof said. The money also went towards aesthetic improvements for the entry ways and offices, as well as upgrading the necessary heating and ventilating systems to bring the 38-year-old building up to code.
“We finally have a public space,” Zukof said, “There’s no mistaking that you’re in an art school.”
During renovations, Yale housed the administrative offices of NMS in Whitney Grove Place, a gesture that Zukof said has brought the two schools closer together.
New improvements to the school, which each year serves over 2,700 students ranging in age from six months to 80, will help maintain its enrollment base while generating visibility and reputation among students within the surrounding areas.
“I think that the [renovations] will make the school even stronger than it already was,” said Daniel Hand High School senior Kaitlin Stern, who plays the harp for the Greater New Haven Youth Orchestra.
As a harpist, Stern said she can take full advantage of the newly installed ramps to transport her instrument.
Currently, Zukof said, the school enrolls students from Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island. The increased economic benefits that New Haven receives from the higher traffic make NMS a valuable community resource.
“[NMS] has an arts and culture draw that has made it a vital part of the city,” Zukof said.
Working closely with New Haven public schools, as well as other non-profit organizations, the mission of the school is to provide an accessible, high-quality arts program to those who would otherwise not be able to take advantage, Zukof said.
“If you want to play piano, nobody should be able to stop you,” he said.
Zukof said that after the renovations are completed, NMS will continue to evaluate its progress in hopes of continuing to increase its value to the community.