By Anna Gustafson
Cuts in financial aid from the city and private donors forced the Brooklynâˆ’Queens Conservatory of Music in Flushing to close its doors at the end of January after serving the community for 54 years, the school’s interim executive director said.
“We’re facing challenges like all the notâˆ’forâˆ’profits, and especially like all the arts organizations,” Aaron Felder said. “A lot of grant funding has been drying up, and for us that’s 25 percent of our revenue.”
The city this year cut $50,000 in aid to the conservatory, which still runs music programs in about a dozen public schools in Queens and a site in Park Slope, Brooklyn, where Felder works. Private donors squeezed by the poor economy also handed out fewer contributions to the school, although Felder would not specify which groups those were.
The conservatory had moved to a new Queens headquarters in St. George’s Episcopal Church last fall because it could not afford its rent on its previous location on Main Street in Flushing.
“We were happy to open at our new site in November, but by then the bottom had fallen out of the economy and we didn’t get our enrollment back,” Felder said.
Prior to the school’s move, about 300 students were enrolled in the conservatory. That number was halved once it reopened in November.
The conservatory opened in Brooklyn in 1897 and in Queens in 1955. The school moved from its original Queens site on Franklin Avenue to 42âˆ’76 Main St. in 1998.
“The rent had doubled in the 10 years since we signed the lease,” Felder said about the Main Street site. “We had to close there and we found a wonderful partner in St. George’s Church.”
The conservatory offers private and group lessons for all instruments, from the bassoon to the euphonium. Individuals of all ages are able to take the classes, which include music therapy and computer music.
“People from 3âˆ’ to 103âˆ’yearsâˆ’old come here for instruction,” Felder said.
Felder said the Queens teachers may be able to work at the Brooklyn location and he is hopeful the school may be able to open again in the borough. The 150 students who had been going to the Flushing school may transfer to Brooklyn, Felder said.
The conservatory is bracing for continued economic distress and is looking for ways to save money.
“We’re mitigating risk by doing things like closing the Queens campus and reaching out to new sources of support and looking to collaborate with other arts organizations,” Felder said.
“This was a very, very difficult decision, and it’s a sad day for us,” Felder added.
Reach reporter Anna Gustafson by eâˆ’mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 718âˆ’229âˆ’0300, Ext. 174.