Hochstein School of Music celebrates 100th year amid uncertainty

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Some of the most hurt by the COVID-19 coronavirus crisis are non-for-profits in Rochester. Inspired by the partnership between United Way of Greater Rochester and the Rochester Area Community foundation, News 8 is producing a series of stories showing what a different non-profit does, how the crisis affects them, and how people can help. The United Way has launched the “Community Crisis Fund,” to allow rapid deployment of resources to help non-profits impacted by the virus outbreak.

Hochstein School of Music is a music and arts school in Rochester. This not the way they wanted to celebrate 100 years of operating in Rochester. We talked with Peggy Quackenbush, the president of the school, and Gary Palmer, Assistant Director and Dean, at the school about how Hochstein is facing an unprecedented challenge in its 100th year.

What does the school do normally?

PQ: Hochstein is a community arts education school. We serve people of all ages, backgrounds, of any level of experience or ability. We’re highly inclusive and diverse. We have lessons in music and in dance… And we have a large team of arts therapists who work with people all over our community… We also provide a lot of performances. We also rent out our space, so we have a lot of partners in that.

GP: We have four orchestras, two wind ensembles, small and large ensembles, early childhood music classes that start at 6 months, theory classes… Americana classes… Expressive art classes, which are students with special needs working with art therapists… The mission of the school is to provide students (with arts education), regardless of their background and ability to pay.

PQ: It’s very eerie for our building to be so quiet.

Photo provided by Janice Hanson

PQ: Typically we have a few hundred people in and out of our building for instruction everyday, and on Saturdays its probably 800 people.

GP: We have over 100 faculty, and close to 70 of them individual lesson instructors, with 900 students for individual lessons alone… If we take in that, all of our off-site clients, and our summer activities, we connect with 3,500 students in a given year.

PQ: We’re an employer of the faculty. Instructors are paid by us.

Full interview with Peggy Quackenbush here:

How is the crisis affecting you?

PQ: In any given year, 60% of our revenue is from tuition, 5% from rentals, and the remainder is contributed revenue. We’re doing our best to remain connected to our friends, supporters, donors… But we know that there will be an impact, because a lot of people are struggling themselves.

PQ: We had to postpone our biggest fundraising event for the year, so we’re definitely going to be experiencing that loss.

GP: In the past, that’s been responsible for probably for $130,000-$140,000.

PQ: It’s a big challenge, and it’s changing every single day. Since we decided we couldn’t have anyone on site starting Monday, our teachers have been incredibly creative of finding new ways to provide instruction… A lot of our class teachers are finding ways to keep connected and engaged with their students…

PQ: They should have plenty of time to practice. We’re doing our best to inspire them, and to figure out ways to make it fun.

PQ: Dance classes are very hard to do, and our therapists are not allowed to enter buildings, and we can’t get online access to the clients we work with in those facilities.

PQ: All of this is going to affect the individual instructors and the organization.

GP: If we had to start giving out credits, it would be financially devastating for our teachers.

PQ: We’re working very hard to figure out how to manage, how to sustain, and the most important thing, how to sustain our people.

GP: I have 18 students right now…. Well it’s very tricky, and I have to say I’ve been really thrilled with the individual lesson faculty, and almost 100% have been willing to do that….

GP: What I don’t know is the response has been from students. I’m only hearing about the good things… I’ve been able to connect with all of my students, and everybody is on board.

GP: I’ve been really thrilled with how the class instructors are really being creative with how they’re trying to come up with other ways to do things… Even the two folks working with our bagpipe class, they worked out a way to get people individual instruction. And our tap teacher, she’s been teaching tap from her kitchen.

You can check out how another local musician is handling online lessons here.

GP: But everyone is spinning right now, so if you’re home with your kids, they’re worrying about other things, and maybe lessons aren’t the first thing on their minds. We’re still assessing, but we’re hoping that if they’re not willing to do it, that they hang with us until we can get back in the building.

GP: (For me), I’m surprised with how well my 8 lessons have gone so far.

GP: We’ve always had a close-knit faculty and staff, and I think this is going to bring us closer together, and it’s stretching our capacity to do things to do we might not have thought to do before. The unknown is the financial piece.

GP: This is our 100th anniversary, and we’ve been talking about ways to expand our program and reach new parts of the population, some of the most marginalized that have not been able to come to our building.

GP: (But), if we end up looking anything like we looked like before we started, we’ll call it a success.

Full interview with Gary Palmer here:

Why is this NPO important, and how can people help?

Signing up for online lessons through the school’s website, and learn more about future endeavors. There is also a donation button on the website.

PQ: I think this crisis is really showing us just how important music — and the other arts — are. It’s such an important way for us to express ourselves, to remain connected with what our humanity really is, to experience beauty, it’s a great comfort… And to share that with other people. Person to person connection is an incredible bridge, and we need it now more than ever.

GP: For me, both teaching and performing, it’s always about connecting with others. Music is a very social activity, but now, that has evaporated. All this remote instruction is to keep connected with people. It’s one more way we can keep connected as human beings.

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