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Brooklyn Music School Raises Over $500,000 in Bid to Save Century-Old Institution

A storied music school in Fort Greene was in dire financial trouble in June. A last-minute fundraising effort aided by some big names helped save the school from closing for the summer.

A century-old music school in Fort Greene has raised over $500,000 in recent weeks to keep its doors open amid severe financial trouble. The school turned to the public for fundraising efforts after having to cut spring programming and furlough much of their staff.

Founded in 1909, Brooklyn Music School (BMS) offers music lessons, dance classes, music therapy and theatre classes to both children and adults year-round. BMS Executive Director Brian Adamczyk says the school serves many low-income families and offers financial aid to keep their programs affordable.

“It's about creating affordable and accessible performing arts programming for any demographic that wishes to receive it, regardless of their financial or economic status,” said Adamczyk. “We intentionally keep our programming very low cost but high quality."

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Brooklyn Music School, which offers music instruction to children and adults, has raised hundreds of thousands to keep their doors open. . Photo: Brooklyn Music School

This year, BMS faced a perfect storm of financial issues that led to Adamczyk and the school board’s decision to ask the public for donations.  For one, the school’s campus, a charming-four story building with 30 classrooms and a 250-seat theater is in constant need of repair.

Several months ago, the school replaced all of the classroom doors so that they could be fully up to code, costing around $100,000. “Just to keep it safe and compliant has been a big expense the last couple of years,” said Adamczyk. “I've lost track of how many pipe bursts we had this year.”

In addition to building repairs and rising costs due to inflation, funding from the Department of Cultural Affairs and their local city council district were delayed this year. This led BMS to make the decision to furlough the majority of its employees and cancel the final three weeks of classes for the spring semester in June. “It was out of absolute, dire necessity to just keep cutting costs to bring expenses down,” said Adamczyk.

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Brooklyn Music School, which offers music instruction to children and adults, has raised hundreds of thousands to keep their doors open. . Photo: Brooklyn Music School

Even after cutting back, the school estimated it would need to raise at least $100,000 by the end of the month to move forward with its summer programming. BMS quickly set up an online fundraiser and planned a benefit concert to reach its goal.

The June 26 concert received support from some big names in entertainment. Performers included Meshell Ndegeocello, Mark Kelley and Captain Kirk Douglas of the Roots, Peter Gunz, Members of Living Colour, Gordon Chambers and DJ Logic. Actor and friend of the school, Jeffrey Wright, promoted the concert on social media to get the word out. From the concert alone, the school raised $10,000.

“What was really neat about the concert is that they all donated their time and performance for this cause," said Adamczyk. “They all messaged their network about this cause and encouraged people to raise money.”

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Brooklyn Music School, which offers music instruction to children and adults, has raised hundreds of thousands to keep their doors open. . Photo: Brooklyn Music School

After hearing about the school’s position through an ABC report, New York Presbyterian offered BMS a large donation of $250,000, knocking their goal out of the park. An additional $180,000 was donated by an anonymous donor through a fund managed by Brooklyn Org. Meanwhile, the online fundraiser reached its $100,000 goal on its final day after a $15,000 donation from PLUS1, an arts nonprofit.

Adamczyk is still processing the fundraiser’s success. “I truly didn't know if I was going to be opening the school the next week, or closing the doors and trying to understand if the school would survive at all," said Adamczyk. “It's just been a rollercoaster of uncertainty and achievement.”

The school’s new safety net is a relief to the BMS’ students.

“I've always seen Brooklyn music school as a part of my life that would never not be there,” said Sterling Savage, a high school senior and BMS student of 10 years. “It’s just so exciting that I know we have enough money to continue on and support not only mine, but other families.”

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Brooklyn Music School, which offers music instruction to children and adults, has raised hundreds of thousands to keep their doors open. . Photo: Brooklyn Music School

Since reaching its goal, BMS' furloughed staff has returned, and the school’s summer classes moved forward, beginning on July 8.

However, despite surpassing of its goal, the school is not entirely out of the woods. With the summer covered, Adamczyk says, BMS will need to continue fundraising to support the school through the year.

“The money is going to be used very carefully,” said Adamczyk, who says it will go to operating costs, payroll and debts, as well as be set aside for future emergencies.

“I don't have a lot of words for just how happy I am that the goal was reached," Adamczyk said. "It showed the community that we were capable of doing this.

"The community truly stepped up and wasn't going to let the school just close without fighting.”


Christopher Edwards

About the Author: Christopher Edwards

Christopher Edwards is a native Brooklynite and current student at Baruch College, majoring in Journalism and Creative Writing.
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