Stillwater Music students filled their new building on Main Avenue with rhythm Monday afternoon.
For years, Stillwater was housed in a converted car wash on 32nd Street. The nonprofit had five parking spaces, no soundproof walls and a bathroom that had to be accessed by walking through a classroom, Executive Director Jeroen van Tyn said.
In November, the nonprofit finalized a deal to lease about 3,000 square feet next to Katzin Music in the Crossroads Center. Katzin, a retail music store, also offers private lessons, while most Stillwater students learn in an ensemble setting.
“The synergy there is awesome,” van Tyn said.
The nonprofit looked for about two years for a space that would better serve about 345 kids, teens and adults in the bands, he said.
“It was really hard to find an appropriate space, in a good location, at an affordable price,” he said.
He was working on contingency plans when the agreement for the space was finalized. The remodel took about four months, a “light-speed” process, he said.
The nonprofit had about $30,000 in the bank to help pay for the remodel, and it received a bridge loan on favorable terms, he said.
Stillwater must raise another $100,000 to pay for recently finished construction, he said. The nonprofit’s GoFundMe page has raised $4,100.
The new space has four classrooms, one of them large enough to host small concerts, a practice room, an office and a waiting room.
Soundproof walls allow several bands to practice simultaneously, something that was nearly impossible at the previous location.
That is key because practicing in groups is at the heart of the nonprofit’s model.
“All of us have run bands, that’s how we run our program,” said Steve Dejka, Stillwater’s music director. Stillwater has eight instructors, who also perform professionally.
Thatcher Leavenworth enrolled his son, Miles, 8, this year after he heard teenage Stillwater students play the ukulele and guitar at dinner with friends.
“I was like, ‘Holy cow, how do I foster that in my child?’” he said.
He enrolled Miles in a beginning percussion class and a few weeks later, when they were listening to a bedtime song Miles started vocalizing the off beats in the song, he said.
“I’m totally impressed with it,” Leavenworth said of Stillwater.
Stillwater is set apart from what’s available in public schools in several ways. Its students start playing in small groups when they are 6, and many learn several instruments. The instructors arrange music for their students’ skill level, van Tyn said.
As an instructor, van Tyn has seen some students with attention deficit disorder engage in music and thrive in the program.
“We’re growing better people through music,” he said.
The nonprofit expects to hold a grand opening for the new building soon, but a date has not been set.
The seventh annual Party in Park featuring Stillwater groups is scheduled from noon to 5 p.m. May 20 at Buckley Park.
firstname.lastname@example.orgA caption accompanying a photo with this article has been updated to correct the spelling of Ringo Racheff’s name.