A devastating fire at a Dunwoody music school two years ago wasn’t enough to destroy the institution or the aspirations of its students.
Flames engulfed the premises of the New School of Music on April 2, 2017, forcing its owners to shut down the operation and seek a new location. The fire destroyed not only the Dunwoody Village building but numerous musical instruments, although no injuries were reported. Within a matter of days the school found a new and much bigger home inside Temple Emanu-El in nearby Sandy Springs, where it is now thriving.
New School co-owner Rick Smith said, “We got through the worst of the hurdle and we’re starting to rebound here. It’s really taking shape. We had teachers who stuck with us through the storm, but now their classes are getting full, so we’ve had to bring on additional faculty. That is really promising.”
The New School of Music was founded in 1997 by Smith and fellow musician Robert Trocina, and they now run seven locations in the Atlanta area. Overall, the company employs about 80 faculty and staff, and gives musical instruction to more than 1,600 students. Smith is also conductor of the Gwinnett Symphony Orchestra and Chorus, which sometimes features students from the school.
Senior Rabbi Spike Anderson told the AJT there was ample space for the school in an unused wing of the main building. “They’ve been with us a while now,” he said. “Two days after the fire they were having lessons in our synagogue. It’s worked out very well.”
He added, “Music happens all the time now. It’s a wonderful symbiosis and there’s a nice cross-pollination because we’ve got congregants who now know there’s a music school and it’s easy for them to come to their synagogue to get lessons, even though we are totally separate entities. There’s a certain comfort level – that’s also nice.”
The arrangement with the temple was initially supposed to be temporary, according to Scott Greenwald, a local attorney for Goodman-Gable-Gould/Adjusters International who assisted the school during the move and with recouping some of its losses. “Their main concern was to get up and running fairly quickly without losing students and teachers. Normally a transition of this kind can take six weeks.”
Smith said everyone at Temple Emanu-El has been “extremely welcoming. We were so vulnerable at that pivotal point in our history, but we’re very fortunate. They are all attentive to our needs and have been great landlords to the school.” He credits Executive Director Stephen Blick in particular. “He has been our direct contact from day one; super nice guy and so easy to work with.”
Smith and his team are able to offer a wider range of programs as a result of the larger space. On tap are a drum circle, group piano lessons with multiple keyboards, and the Summer Music Club, which is similar to a book or reading club. Students also participate in bi-annual recitals to showcase their progress. In addition, teachers and students will perform with the Gwinnett Symphony Youth Orchestra on May 13 at the Infinite Energy Center, with Smith conducting.
“It’s an exceptional team that really works hard and it’s nice to show off their talents,” Smith said.