First published in the May 5 print issue of Pasadena Outlook.
The Pasadena Conservatory of Music has long held a special place in the hearts of music lovers as one of the only schools to specialize in courses for students ages 4 months to 90+, and motivated professionals to amateurs. serious.
PCM, as it’s affectionately known, has euphonic class for all music enthusiasts.
Founded in 1984, the Pasadena Conservatory of Music has been headquartered in the welcoming Spanish-style white stucco of North Hill Avenue for about 20 years. But the music school is gearing up for a transformational development project called “Common Ground,” which will unite its four buildings into a streamlined campus with an outdoor amphitheater and gathering space to promote more learning, performance and fun. musical.
“We believe that music provides common ground – it provides a subject and an activity where all kinds of people can leave the divisions behind and say ‘This we can do together,'” said Stephen McCurry, director executive of PCM. “At a time when so much seems to divide us, learning, playing and enjoying music offers real opportunities to leave those divisions behind, to forge connections, to find common ground.”
To that end, PCM is embarking on a fundraising campaign to raise $9 million for development, which will promote and facilitate the pursuit of new musical opportunities, while increasing campus capacity to approximately 2,500 students.
The new building plan calls for a large and open space, as well as larger practice rooms to accommodate groups of ensembles, which will expand multicultural programming to include musical traditions from around the world, develop cross-generational programming for younger and older students and will create state-of-the-art music technology programs.
“This project advances our mission and reflects our aspirations for music, while also being part of our fundamental strategic plan – the way the classrooms and amphitheater are set up, it provides common ground and will be the hub and gathering place on campus,” McCurry added. , noting that the project is also in line with the school’s commitment to a diversity, equity and inclusion plan, as it will create more access and opportunities for students of all ages and all horizons.
Currently, PCM serves approximately 1,000 students on campus, representing approximately 200 schools in Pasadena and the San Gabriel Valley, many of whom come from diverse socioeconomic, ethnic, and racial backgrounds. Of these, approximately 25% are preschoolers, 50% are school-aged, and 25% are adults. During non-pandemic times, the school also serves approximately 3,000 students through its public school outreach programs.
Melissa Froehlich, Director of Development at PCM, emphasized how proud the school is to have built such a diverse student community, in more ways than one.
“No matter what someone’s aspirations are, whether it’s learning a Beethoven sonata or learning to play the piano or just playing in a band recorder ensemble, we provide everyone with students the tools to do all of this very well,” she added, noting that PCM has students who are accepted into top music conservatories like Julliard, but also encourages novices of all ages. “Whatever their long-term aspirations are, whether it’s a career in music or just learning to play well or having fun, we provide all the resources and opportunities.”
As an independent, nationally accredited non-profit and music school, PCM has built a strong community of supporters by making music a human experience. Many of these supporters have been helping out the school during the pandemic, when it kept around 90% of its students in class by shifting to a creative virtual and online format.
Actress and nonprofit supporter Jane Kaczmarek, who served on PCM’s board for about 10 years, embraced her dedication and appreciation for the school.
“Few things in my life have sparked as much courage and comfort as classical music. When I moved to Pasadena in 2004 and discovered the Pasadena Conservatory of Music, I knew I had found the way back,” she said. “The faculty, staff, and students of PCM create a musical community where resolution and solace mingle with harmony and friendship, providing refuge from the chaos of the world. I’m part of PCM’s Common Ground campaign because I believe in the life-changing possibilities that music offers and I want everyone to experience that joy.
At the PCM on a recent spring morning, the echoes of a piano echoed down a long hallway, where rooms filled with fancy grand pianos awaited the peak hour of after-school music. The delicate strumming of a ukulele class echoes through a doorway, with a clear vocal accompanying a rendition of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly.”
The sound of music highlighted a triumphant return of classes to campus after the school was closed by pandemic-related health measures, and like institutions around the world, it has endured two difficult years of challenges. unforeseen.
McCurry praised the school’s 80 teachers, who skillfully went online to ensure students were supported in their studies during the coronavirus, when music and other artistic outlets proved so vital during the ‘isolation. Although the school’s older adult students struggled with technology at first, younger staff have turned to offer technical support on a one-to-one basis.
“Our teachers were absolutely amazing,” he said.
Another aspect of PCM is its dedication to live performances and recitals, of which there were around 150 last year. Students climb to practice and record at Barrett Hall, a former morgue chapel where the school is now located. The classically renovated concert hall has 18-inch walls and a cathedral ceiling, resulting in superior sound quality.
If all goes according to plan, McCurry noted, construction will begin next summer and the new facility will launch in 2024, thankfully coinciding with the nonprofit’s 40th anniversary.
“We are going to have a vibrant and thriving campus where students from 4 months old to those 90 years old can all be engaged with the sole purpose of making music – the possibilities are enormous and we expect not only enrollment growth, but to growth in the types of multicultural music we can offer; music is indeed common ground, and we will explore other ways to play together and have experiences together,” he said.
Board member June Li, also a supporter of area nonprofits, studies piano at PCM and testifies to the important work being done at 100 N. Hill Ave.
“Music has the ability to bring people (young and old) and cultures (East and West) together,” she said. “Since its humble founding in 1984, PCM has blossomed into a welcoming presence for music lovers in our community. Common Ground reminds us of the importance of creating common spaces that reimagine how different generations with diverse cultural backgrounds can learn and grow together.