by Mike Telin

BSMA BldgThe Broadway School of Music and the Arts (BSMA) will present Old World/New World: An Intimate Evening of Chamber Music, on Friday, May 30 beginning at 7:00 pm at Trinity Commons in downtown Cleveland. This annual benefit supports BSMA’s music and arts instruction and programming for underserved children and adults.

Hosted by WCLV 104.9 FM’s Bill O’Connell, the evening features Dvorak’s Drobnosti Op. 75 and Quintet in E-flat Major Op. 97 as well as Mark O’Connor’s folk-inspired FC’s Jig performed by Cleveland Orchestra members Katherine Bormann, Elayna Duitman and Sae Shiragami violins; Lisa Boyko and Lembi Veskimets violas; and Bryan Dumm and Alan Harrell cellos. Tickets are available on the BSMA website or by telephone at 216.641.0630.

“The Student Financial Aid Fund is a very important piece of what we do at the school,” BSMA executive director Barbara Bachtell said during a recent conversation in her office at the school. “Over the past 10 years we have given out roughly $75,000 in tuition assistance. We try to keep our rates low, but there are still families who cannot afford them.” Currently, 30-minute individual lessons range from $16.20 to $18.00.

Bachtell pointed out that although BSMA predominantly serves the neighborhood, they are open to everyone. “Students have come from as far away as Solon, and there is a family who have been coming twice a week from Collinwood for seven or eight years.” BSMA’s latest statistics show that students attend over 50 area schools. “We also serve adults and seniors: our oldest student is in her 80’s.”

Located in Cleveland’s Slavic Village neighborhood, The Broadway School of Music & the Arts currently rents space in the landmark building that from 1918 until 1968 was home to the Hruby Conservatory of Music. The building was later purchased by Dr. Nicholas Demmy and his wife Olean, who restored the space and established the Broadway Branch of the Cleveland Music School Settlement in 1980. In 1983, the school became an independent non-profit, and the building was eventually sold.

When asked to name the biggest challenge the school currently faces, Bachtell, who has served as executive director for 16 years, points outside her second-story window. “Decline in the neighborhood’s population,” she answers. “The neighborhood was ground zero for the foreclosure crisis. It’s lost nearly 30 percent of its population in the past ten years.” In spite of this, Bachtell remains optimistic about the future of the neighborhood and the school. “We have to deal with the loss of population, so we have to be engaged in new and different partnerships that connect us to new community opportunities. But the neighborhood is well connected — organizations and residents regularly interact with each other.”

It is that community interaction that has presented BSMA with many new and exciting opportunities. “As the neighborhood has changed, we have had to change to fit the needs of the neighborhood, and we take our cues from the Slavic Village Development Corporation and other partnerships we are involved in with neighborhood agencies.”


BSMA is also part of the Family to Family Neighborhood Collaborative and the P-16 Council that bring together representatives from social service organizations, schools, and businesses. “This is immensely helpful to us because we are be able to hear what people in our community need and we can try to adapt.”

One example of a new opportunity is found in BSMA’s Suzuki violin program. “We have a good relationship with the Sato Center for Suzuki Studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Bachtell said. “It’s great having this link because every year they send us great teachers. But as we saw the impact of the population decline on our on-site enrollment, we began to work with students in other places, like the Villa Montessori Center, located one block away, where we now offer Suzuki classes. We’ve also been giving after-school classes at University Settlement for a couple of years. We also work with Literacy Through The Arts by providing violin classes for their summer program.”


Listening to the needs of the community has also led to the creation of a twice-monthly drum circle for women at theCommunity Assessment and Treatment Services, Inc., a substance abuse rehabilitation center. “So many of the women say how great it is to be part of a musical unit. A couple of weeks ago they were invited to perform at CWRU as part of a SAGES class.” The women have also performed at McGregor’s Senior Center and the Broadway Farmers Market. “Many of the women have lost all self-esteem and to suddenly to have a support network to perform and have people listening to them is an experience they have never had before.”

Although Barbara Bachtell is BSMA’s only full-time staff person, she quickly acknowledges the many dedicated teachers and staff at the school. “There is a lot of support at the neighborhood level as well. Even though it’s not necessarily monetary support, we do connect with the community leaders and residents.” The community played an important role in developing the school’s new Strategic Plan, a process Bachtell said was wonderful. “The process included a community survey, a survey of current and former students and interviews with faith and community leaders. We also really began to dealing with our physical space and accessibility issues. It is a time for us to re-invent ourselves.”

Published on May 20, 2014.

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