Third Street Music School celebrates 125 years in Lower Manhattan

With Lower Manhattan seemingly ever-changing, Third Street Music School Settlement has managed to be a staple dating back to the late 19and century and continues to develop its programming and influence in music education.

The music school was founded in 1894 by Emilie Wagner in the basement of a church in Rivington Street, providing people with a quick bath and ten-minute music lessons.

It would move to Third Street in 1901 and move to other locations before settling in its current building, a former nursing hospital at 235 East 11 St. in 1972. The school celebrates its 125and anniversary this year, notably with a grand gala on May 6.

The school’s home on East Third Street, before eventually settling on East 11th Street.

“Third Street’s history really speaks to who we are today,” said general manager Valerie Lewis, who emphasized the goal of creating a kind of oasis and a sense of community, while expanding its reach. . “Today we welcome people from all communities,” she said, which also includes the five boroughs and areas outside the city.

The institution’s early decades included social services as well as music programs, such as medical services and marriage counseling, but moved away from social services during the New Deal, Lewis noted, to focus on access to students so that no one is turned away. because of the money. This year, more than $1.5 million will be disbursed in financial aid and tuition grants, Lewis said.

“Third Street has grown and evolved over the years in a variety of ways,” Lewis said, including dance, jazz, early education programs and students ages 9 months to 96 years old.

The school welcomes pupils of all ages, from the age of 9 months.

The school has three main programs, one being the music and dance school, including after school and weekend programs, and ensembles. There is also the Nursery School, with around 125 pupils, which dates back decades and had composer Philip Glass in its first class. And Third Street Partners sends teachers to schools and communities, reaching more than 3,000 students in more than 25 public schools. The Third Street Music School itself has around 2,000 students.

Since Lewis arrived at the school six years ago, there have been building renovations to update performance spaces such as a concert hall and recital hall on the lower level. And the school’s growth has led to the school operating seven days a week, although it’s still difficult to keep up with demand, Lewis said.

“We have amazing staff,” Lewis said. “Everyone here works so hard.” Lewis added: “I think everyone here feels like they are making a difference and having a positive impact.”

This photo features the oldest piano on Third Street, which dates from 1901 and is still in use today.

It’s the sense of community that builds connections, including between the generations attending the school, and sees children grow over the years, Lewis noted. “It’s a beautiful thing to watch,” she said of seeing kids progress over time.

With so many modern distractions, school is a chance to focus on something other than staring at a screen, Lewis said. “I personally find it very healing, but I think everyone does it. It’s a relief,” she said. “The ability to turn it off is making a comeback.”

John Lennon helped Third Street honor legendary American radio program director Rick Sklar in October 1974.

The school also offers many events every week, offering a variety of genres of varying ages. Part of its programming this year for the 125and anniversary included an evening with Philip Glass, live chamber music at Poisson Rouge and a special tribute concert at CBGB. And the big 125and The May 6 anniversary gala will feature alumni and honorees, including singer-songwriter Jason Mraz and Lyor Cohen, global head of music at YouTube.

Beyond any potential performance pressure, school is also about having a good time, Lewis said. “It should be fun too, it’s part of the Third Street experience,” she said. “I think community is really what defines us and makes us who we are.”

More information can be found at thirdstreetmusicschool.org.


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