The official dedication of the new took place March 17. Over 200 invited guests attended the dedication and tour of the new facility, which opened its doors to the public Jan. 3.
Among the guests in attendance were officials, local business representatives, and state and township politicians.
“The turnout is fabulous and spectacular,” Lisa Romaniello, Ward 1 commissioner, said.
Romaniello, who is also vice-president of the Settlement Music School Willow Grove branch board, said that the school is an excellent resource for music and the arts for the Upper Moreland community, noting that prior to the Willow Grove branch opening, and aside from the district schools, there was no particular public facility in the township to hold public concerts on a large scale.
According to Konnie Stark, the Settlement Music School Willow Grove branch board president, the school will have programs for students and musicians of all ages. Residents of Upper Moreland and surrounding communities can attend public concerts inside the 320-seat Leonard Mellman Recital Hall two to three times a month.
During the dedication remarks, Settlement Music School executive director Helen Eaton spoke on the beauty of the new Willow Grove branch, and spoke of the extended list of programming now available, because of the new construction.
She gave much credit to George vonScheven, honorary trustee of the school's central board, who provided architectural and design services along with contractors TN Ward.
The 2,500 square-foot building has the capacity to enroll over 1,000 students, according to the dedication program.
Eaton, who came to Settlement more than six months ago, also helped to present a token of appreciation from the school to Andrea Baldeck and Dick Smoot, who she called the heart and soul of the Settlement School’s Centennial Campaign, of which Baldeck and Smoot were co-chairs.
The Centennial Campaign raised $25-million and revolved around the school’s 100th anniversary.
Other noted township officials who attended the event were Lisa Berlin, who sits on the Upper Moreland School District school board, township manager David Dodies, Ward 6 commissioner Sam Valenza and Ward 2 commissioner Kevin Spearing.
“I’m excited to have this school in the community,” Spearing said. “It’s a great step to redevelopment.”
According to Ward 7 commissioner James McKenna, who also sits on the Willow Grove branch board of Settlement Music School, the township should expect an influx of patrons to nearby businesses and restaurants, as parents drop off their children for lessons or attend concerts.
“Lisa’s [Romaniello] always been a champion of making Upper Moreland a destination,” McKenna said. “Settlement helps in accomplishing this.”
With access to the SEPTA Warminster line only a block away from the school, and its noted reputation of musical education, McKenna expects the school to draw students and their parents from both near and far.
“I love playing piano. My parents always encourage me to play,” said Cary Zhang, 14, a student at Settlement Music School in Willow Grove. “The staff and my teacher are so supportive.”
Cary, who attends school in Central Bucks County, has taken piano lessons at Settlement for years. She followed her teacher when the school moved from its comparatively cramped Jenkintown location to the three-story building in Willow Grove.
“The acoustics are so much better,” Cary said of the new performance hall. “I feel so much more free to play.”
During the dedication ceremony, in front of the assembled guests, she performed “En Blanc et Noir” with fellow Settlement piano student Stacy Chang, 15, who also attends school in Bucks County.
Cary and Stacy performed on separate pianos, facing one another on the Monroe Levin and Cameron McGraw stage, named for the original founders of the Jenkintown branch.
Both students benefit from Settlement Music School scholarships. According to a recent release, Settlement gave over $2 million in financial aid and scholarships to students in 2010.
“The arts are not just for people that are affluent, but for people who want to study music,” PA State Rep. Thomas Murt (R-152), said after the dedication ceremony.
Murt, whose office strongly supported the creation of the Settlement Music School in Willow Grove, cited his background in education when he spoke of the benefits of musical instruction.
“[Music] does teach perseverance, dedication and discipline, and gives a child structure,” Murt said, adding that schools facing hard decisions about budget management should consider the year-round benefits students receive from artistic studies.
Also during the dedication, PA State Senator Stewart Greenleaf (R-12) presented Settlement Music School with a Senate citation, outlining the state-of-the-art facilities of the new Willow Grove branch, as well as the many lessons, classes, activities and programs of the school.
Greenleaf, who has a residence in Willow Grove, pointed out the connection between the new Settlement branch and the area’s history of musical performance.
“Willow Grove is known nationally, if not internationally, because John Philip Sousa played right over there in Willow Grove Park,” Greenleaf said during his dedication remarks. “Now, here you are, bringing that tradition back to Willow Grove.”