Midtown Raleigh News

Music school gets aid from city

A nonprofit that gives music lessons for $1 to economically disadvantaged children will get help from the city to deal with a budget crisis.

The Community Music School had struggled to pay rent at its home on Tucker Street downtown. The school pledged to use the city’s one-time contribution of $5,000 to get matching money from the A.J. Fletcher Foundation.

Unlike many arts nonprofits, the school does not get money from membership dues or ticket sales, said director Linda Frenette. A grant program through the N.C. Arts Council was eliminated last year, setting off a scramble to replace $12,000 in funding.

“We don’t really have wealthy alumni who can step forward and help us,” Frenette said. “Our families are terrific. But we don’t have deep pockets here at the school.”

Frenette, who took over as director last spring, has worked to revamp the budget and energize fundraising. The organization had a deficit of more than $37,000 at the end of its last budget year, according to figures given to the city.

Former City Councilwoman Mary Cates brought together local musicians to open the school in 1994 after she visited a similar program in Nashville. Students receive weekly, private music instruction for $1 a lesson. The instruments are provided at no charge during enrollment. Fourteen teachers work on a contract basis.

“They have a business model that’s a little tough to sustain,” City Manager Russell Allen told council members last week.

About 115 students are enrolled this school year, with 50 on the waiting list.

After The News & Observer spotlighted the school in its holiday giving guide, readers donated enough money to keep the doors open for a few months.

“There were a lot of people who never supported us in the past who came forward,” Frenette said. “We hope they will become long-term supporters.”

The City Council’s Budget & Economic Development Committee unanimously agreed to provide one-time aid from council contingency funds. A final council vote was scheduled for Tuesday.

Fundraising will resume in the form of a “Bach & Roll” casino night party April 21. This is the third year for the fundraiser.