There’s no doubt in my mind Ari Moore is a musical prodigy. I’ve seen him in action often as our daughter’s piano accompaniment.
There’s no doubt in Moore’s mind the Community Music School gave him the tools to embrace his gift and nurture his passion – and the confidence to share it with audiences.
“I wouldn’t be at the level I’m playing at now if it wasn’t for CMS,” said Moore, 18, who graduated from Enloe High School last spring and now attends Wake Technical Community College. “Being at CMS really built my confidence and performance levels, too, so now I know how to express emotions in the music through my body language.”
The same has held true since 1994 for more than 2,000 budding musicians and their families who have relied on affordable lessons at the Community Music School on Tucker Street in downtown Raleigh.
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But last month, with coffers too bare to sustain its operations or pay teachers, the nonprofit that relies on grant funding and donations was forced to suspend its classes for the first time.
The school’s board has launched an emergency fundraising campaign in hopes of raising $100,000 by Jan. 31 to re-open early next year.
“Programmatically, the school has never been stronger,” CMS operations manager Erin Zanders said, noting growth in student enrollment and expanded offerings. “Unfortunately, the fundraising hasn’t kept pace with the growth.
“For 23 years, we’ve been offering these programs for students and accomplishing a lot with them, but we’ve never had a reserve fund when the money doesn’t come in the way we need or expect it to,” Zanders said. “This year, we needed one.
“It’s been a tough year for fundraising.”
That’s often the case in election years, when many of our donations go to candidates, not causes, experts say.
Nonprofits can rally donors with year-end giving appeals as this year’s #GivingTuesday approaches on Nov. 29.
The Community Music School offers private instrumental music and singing lessons for $1 per half-hour session, exposing students ages 7 to 18 to a variety of instruments and genres from classical to contemporary. The school loans its students the instrument of their choice for classes taught by contracted music teachers.
This year, the school has 120 students and 17 teachers. The only requirement for students is eligibility for free-and reduced-price school lunch.
Classes run for 30 weeks each year, following the Wake County school schedule.
The school recently added music technology, which teaches recording and production to give students marketable job skills and introduce them to new career paths in the music industry. It also now teaches musical theater to provide stage experience to young actors.
Mairym Azcona has five children, ages 7 to 16, who play drums, the sax and piano, the bass and the violin at the Community Music School.
“We’re very sad,” Azcona said of the school’s closing. “My kids have come out of their shell. One of them has not considered suicide anymore; my special-needs child’s communication is improved and so has his self-esteem; and my daughter can now compose songs.
“It’s just amazing, and all of that is because of CMS.”
Moore’s younger brother, Caleb, now takes classes at the school. Their grandmother, Inez Brewington, said students aren’t just missing classroom instruction. Also on hold are recitals, concerts, community performances, workshops and master classes.
And students are missing out on lessons in discipline and accountability.
“The training we’ve gotten there, we couldn’t have gotten anywhere else,” Brewington said. “We couldn’t afford it.”
She added: “Compared to what the streets offer and what the streets are doing to not just young black boys, but young boys period, I’ll take CMS any day. It’s a protector. There is much more benefit than them just learning to play music.”
How to help
To donate to the Community Music School, go online to www.cmsraleigh.org.