Neighborhood Music School Builds Community and Inspires Personal Growth

Neighborhood Music School has engaged students throughout the pandemic while refocusing its attention to its founding values.

The studios, stages and hallways inside the Neighborhood Music School (NMS) are a creative laboratory, where chance encounters turn into impromptu jam sessions and life-changing personal connections. The school draws an incredible diversity of students and professional musicians from more than 80 towns and cities across Greater New Haven and beyond, providing unique opportunities for learning and personal growth.

ATLAS students at Neighborhood Music School in the school's production of "The Wiz" - June 2021. ATLAS graduated its first class in the spring of 2021. Photo by Sandra Abramson

While forced to close its doors for 15 weeks during the COVID-19 lockdown, NMS continued to deliver instruction online. Meanwhile, school leaders took the time to reimagine the traditional model of arts education to place less emphasis on creating professional artists and give more attention to the development of life skills and the joy of shared artistic expression.

“It was actually a return to our roots,” said Executive Director Noah Bloom. “We refocused our goals to align with our original mission, which was dedicated to building community and inspiring personal growth. Professional training has always been a by-product of our teaching, but not the central goal.”

NMS serves students of all ages and abilities. Photo contributed by Neighborhood Music School.

Neighborhood Music School began in the early 20th century as part of a settlement house on Wooster Street. Now one of the largest community arts organizations in the country, the school serves thousands of students and is a vital employer of professional musicians in the region.

A long-time grantee of The Community Foundation and several designated funds at The Foundation, NMS received a three-year general operating support grant in 2018 and a general operating support grant in 2021.

Learn more about and support Neighborhood Music School.

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Teacher and students in Piano Lab class, 2021. Photo by Anne Tubis

During lockdown phases of the pandemic, NMS continued to provide free arts and leadership education virtually to New Haven public school students through its DELTA program (Developing and Empowering Leadership Through the Arts).

Students in DELTA participate in workshops and master classes, ensembles, and work on collaborative presentations. Juniors and seniors take on the responsibilities of mentoring younger students, leading workshop and assisting classes. The older students also have access to the NMS recording studio for creating original works and professional- level audition tapes for college applications.

The ATLAS Middle School at NMS also continued through a hybrid model. The recently created school connects academics with academic production. Through a partnership with Long Wharf Theatre, the students learn all aspects of running a theater company.

ATLAS graduated its first class of 14 eighth graders in the spring of 2021, all of whom went on to public schools in New Haven and Hamden.

Do you have a long-term interest in supporting local arts nonprofits or other causes you care about? Learn about charitable funds at The Community Foundation.