March 23, 2006

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Manchester Publisher's Note: Beyond city government
By Jody Reese

Watching Manchester’s city leaders bicker over budgets and tax rates and plans to “clamp down” on night clubs, it’s easy to get down on this community’s future. Where’s the vision?

The good news is that Manchester has a wealth of institutions that function outside the overheated cauldron of city government. And these organizations quietly make a huge difference in the area’s quality of life, in most cases not costing taxpayers one nickel in the bargain.

One example is the Manchester Community Music School. It’s a low-profile institution that has slowly grown over the years to become the state’s largest private nonprofit music school. And it’s right here in our city.

Founded in 1983 by philanthropists May and Sam Gruber, the school was originally run out of their home in the city’s North End. Today, it occupies a large portion of the former Notre Dame College facility at 2291 Elm St.

The school currently offers lessons and programs to an astounding 1,100 students every week, from infants to senior citizens. It’s open to all, providing financial aid to more than 200 families who otherwise couldn’t afford music lessons. It attracts the best faculty in the state, which draws students to Manchester from all over the state’s southern tier.

Besides offering music lessons to all (regardless of ability to pay), how does the existence of the music school help Manchester?

On a basic level, it adds to the city’s quality of life. The school’s Greater Manchester Youth Symphony Orchestra offers a regular schedule of performances, and faculty members have begun offering free lunchtime “Music’s on the Menu” concerts at Grace Episcopal Church in downtown Manchester.

That’s nice, but there’s more. The music school also provides a hugely valuable resource for long-term economic development. Companies looking for a location consider very seriously the cultural offerings of possible sites. A thriving music school, which Manchester is fortunate enough to have, should be an absolutely key draw.

Want to see for yourself? It’s a good time, as the school’s annual open house is Saturday, April 1 from 9:30 a.m. to noon. It features an “instrument fair,” student performances, and info on such programs as the school’s innovative and popular summer camp.

The school is supported not by city taxpayers but by fees for lessons, donations, grants, and a grab bag of other sources. One of the school’s biggest annual fundraising events is coming up in a few weeks: a jazz concert at C.R. Sparks to raise money for the scholarship program.

This year’s concert, “Hot Jazz and Cool Tunes,” is set for Wednesday, April 5. It includes dinner and features headliner Brian O’Neal, the noted West Coast jazz artist in town to help the Manchester Wolves.

Tickets are $75 each; all funds will go to the Manchester Community Music School’s scholarship fund, which helps students afford music lessons. (To attend, call the music school at 644-4548 or visit www.mcmusicschool.org.)

Hippo is a media sponsor for this worthy cause, in part because it’s a fun event and also because it helps an institution that enhances our community’s quality of life, and all at no cost to taxpayers.

I hope you’ll consider attending.


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