As mentioned in our last post, the City of Mukilteo notified us in May that we could no longer use the space we were renting at Pointe of Grace Church in Harbour Pointe, due to an obscure and archaic zoning law. As a small-budget nonprofit, we did not have the resources to fight this decision. After more than a year of no income, and only half the number of students this spring that we had before the pandemic, our financial situation was critical, and the board decided to close the school. Many of our students who were taking lessons as of May have been able to continue lessons with their current teachers, who are now teaching independently out of their homes; however, Mukilteo lost an easily accessible and equitable source of and venue for music lessons. The pandemic has been a difficult time for everyone, but especially for performing arts nonprofits, school performing arts programs, teachers, and students. Our state and federal governments have offered pandemic impact loans and grants to businesses and nonprofits, but in this case what was needed most was a willingness on the part of the City to make zoning laws work for (not against) a local arts education nonprofit that contributes to the cultural life of the city. For more information on the long-term effects of the pandemic on Washington state arts nonprofits and the necessity of expanding and sustaining public support, see the Cultural Impact Study published this spring by ArtsFund: https://www.artsfund.org/wa-covid-cultural-impact-study/
On Saturday June 18th, the Gene Nastri School held our first student recital since 2019. Nine students ranging in age from 6 to 17 performed for family and friends. Our teachers had been offering in-person lessons since last September, so it was wonderful to celebrate the results of all the excellent work that students accomplished over the past school year, and the resilience, perseverance, and flexibility that they and their teachers demonstrated. It was also gratifying to gather students, teachers, and parents for one last recital after two very challenging years.
After the City’s decision, interest was expressed in keeping the Gene Nastri School in a state of “suspended animation” until a new home can be located and staff hired. Former director, Carol Harkins, will be leading this effort, and will be taking over the title of Director again, starting this July. I will be stepping down and handing over the reins to her again starting this week. The school email and phone number will remain the same. The current mailing address will be valid until at least September. I wish Carol all the best in keeping the school alive for the benefit of the community. In the meantime, we will continue to offer referrals to teachers that we know and can recommend. I have enjoyed getting to know our Mukilteo community and our fellow nonprofit performing arts communities better, and I plan to continue working in various ways to support more students discovering and enjoying what the performing arts have to offer.
Julie Buetow, Director
Gene Nastri Community School of Music