Celebrating 100 Years with the All Newton Music School

This weekend, the All Newton Music School will welcome comedian John Hodgman (Brookline native and an ANMS alumnus) at their Centennial Gala.

Walking through the halls and studios of the is not only a chance to hear talented musicians, it's a history lesson.

"People have been married here, (had) bar mitzvahs here...it started as a residence, and then it was owned by the city, and rumor has it that Bette Davis, her aunt lived here and when (Davis) went to BU, she would spend weekends here," says ANMS Director Paulette Bowes. 

As Bowes walks up the stairs to the second floor teaching spaces, she points out the spot where an organ used to be when the building was a Temple. Just below, a portion of the ceiling is entirely stained glass with etched G clefs and eighth notes on the center windows.

"It's a very eclectic place," Bowes says. 

The ANMS will celebrate 100 years of community music at its Centennial Gala this Saturday, March 10. During the event, which will be held at Brae Burn Country Club, the school hopes to raise money to fund the continued restoration of its 113-year-old building.

The $1.8 million renovation project, which has three stages, will address safety and accessibility issues, structural needs and improvements for teaching space. The school is moving its way into the last phase and has $800,000 left to raise for the project. 

Originally founded as the West Newton Settlement School, the All Newton Music School has taught generation after generation with the mission of "music for all." The school, which provides roughly $50,000 in student financial aid each year, has more than 1,400 students that take lessons at the school each week. 

Saturday's Gala

As part of the fundraising effort for renovations, Saturday night's event will include both a silent and live auction run by Skinner Inc. auctioneer Stuart Slavid. 

One of the featured auction items is a G clef sculpture/letter opener by Newton artist Nancy Schön (famous for the "Make Way for Ducklings" sculpture). According to Bowes, Schön made 10 of the G clef sculptures just for ANMS, and the school will have a limited number of them available to sell after the auction. 

Saturday's gala, which will be hosted by WGBH's Brian O'Donovan, will also include a cocktail hour, live music from Kate Finn and the Finn Tones and a banquet dinner.

The evening's special guest will be comedian John Hodgman, a Brookline native and ANMS alumnus (he played clarinet).

"The gala is to celebrate the whole 100 years," Bowes says. "We're acknowledging all of our faculty, our fantastic students, the board and the corporation that have really been the force behind keeping the school where it is."

In addition to Saturday night's live and silent auction, the school is raising money with a Brick Legacy fundraiser. Through this fundraiser, families and ANMS community members can purchase bricks or stone benches that they can get engraved. 

Eventually, the school hopes to build a pathway with the bricks that leads the back of the building, where they could have outdoor concerts in the summer. 

"That [campaign] has been really successful, people have really taken to it" says Director of Communications Michelle Shoemaker.

Aside from the fundraising push, the school also hopes to spend Saturday night honoring the talented musicians at ANMS and the "dedicated" faculty that has shaped the school. Some of the ANMS teachers, Bowes says, have been with the school for 40 years. 

“[The gala] is the culmination of respect and appreciation for the volunteer work that goes on to make the school what it is,” Bowes says.

For more information on fundraising or Saturday's gala, visit the ANMS website.

Should they stay or should they go

Since 1965, the ANMS home has been the historic building at 321 Chestnut St.

While the ANMS' Chestnut Street residence has history and character, Bowes says it was not the only option on the table when the school's board considered the growing school's needs. 

Three years ago, when the renovation process started, the school considered moving to a new facility. The community, Bowes says, was divided.

"We really did have to go through the process of looking at everything, and explaining to people why we can or cannot stay," Bowes says, noting that many parents and faculty did not want to leave the "warmth" and community feeling of the Chestnut Street building.

In the end, the board decided to stay at the current facility and renovate the building. Although new facilities would have provided more space, it would have been "a huge undertaking" to buy a new building, Bowes says, and something the school would not have been able to afford.

"I'm particularly proud of the (ANMS) Board and how they've made the right decision," Bowes says.

Since then, the school has upgraded the fire alarm system, fixed lighting, upgraded plumbing, added an early childhood classroom, overhauled the electrical system and installed a set of skylights on the top floor of the school. Soon, the exterior of the building will have a finished paint job, the concert space will be renovated and the building will be handicap accessible.

With the additional $800,000, the school hopes to finish out the last bit of the project in 2013.


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