NMS Establishes Fund For New Refugees

The following was sent by Lisa Rovello, marketing and public relations manager at the Neighborhood Music School. 

Neighborhood Music School (NMS) is pleased to announce the establishment of a new endowment fund, the “Welcome to the Neighborhood Fund for New Refugees,” which will support arts education opportunities at NMS for refugee families settled in the greater New Haven region. The fund will also encourage refugee musicians to perform and offer instruction in traditional music from their countries of origin at NMS.

The fund was created last fall by a generous anonymous donor and is supporting two students from refugee families so far this year: a middle school student taking flute lessons with faculty member Elaine Thoma and participating in NMS’s DELTA Initiative (Developing & Empowering Leadership Through the Arts), and an elementary school student participating in the After-School Arts Academy (ASAA) “Musical Warrior” program.

Since the Trump administration’s travel ban was announced – sending many refugee families and those who work with them into crisis – another major donor has stepped forward to contribute to the fund and provide support for a young man from a newly settled Syrian family who wishes to take percussion lessons at NMS, a place described by this donor as exemplifying joy, friendship and community.

And the fund continues to attract interest. Although judiciary actions have put a stop to the ban for now, the future for refugees in our country is still far from certain, and NMS is heartened by our community’s generosity.

“The fund is an opportunity to benefit both NMS and IRIS (Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services), and especially the refugee children,” says the anonymous donor who set the fund in motion, adding that the fund was inspired by the story of a community of musicians in Utrecht, in the Netherlands, playing and performing with refugee musicians from Syria. “People who love Neighborhood Music School and wanted to give children a chance to heal through music came up with this idea.”

Ann O’Brien, Communications Director at IRIS, a non-profit refugee resettlement program in New Haven, says that allowing refugee families the opportunity to take music or dance lessons at NMS lets these individuals “connect through the universal language of the arts,” which is especially important to those who haven’t yet mastered English.

“From our perspective, it’s a natural connection because we are trying to promote acculturation – getting used to the United States socially,” she says. “The arts are an integral part of that.”

O’Brien says that IRIS will continue to resettle as many families as possible in upcoming weeks as the executive order’s fate is decided. She adds that she and her coworkers have been incredibly inspired by the recent outpouring of generosity and compassion for the refugee community, including a record-breaking crowd at the annual “Run for Refugees” – a New Haven fundraiser for IRIS – on February 5th.

NMS Executive Director Dan Gurvich says that the “Welcome to the Neighborhood Fund” speaks directly to the school’s mission and history.

“Neighborhood Music School was created in 1911 as a ‘settlement house’ meant to serve the city’s immigrant community, and we are honored to continue that mission today, especially in such a troubling political climate. We open our doors and our hearts to newcomers, creating community and bringing individuals from all different walks of life together through the arts.”

Those interested in contributing to the “Welcome to the Neighborhood Fund” can learn more by visiting the NMS website at NeighborhoodMusicSchool.org or by calling NMS Development Associate, Brandon Gallego, at 203-634-5189, ext. 15.

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