If you stop by on a Friday afternoon, you’ll hear it before you even open the door. The discerning ear will pick out a little Britten, some Twinkle, perhaps some solfege coming from Music Theory class, accented by the the sound of snacks and the zipping of backpacks. Open the door and you’ll see it: all life and love and a glorious mess of beautiful young faces and instrument cases in a light-filled expanse of music-making that fills an entire converted factory floor. This place in which A.C. Gilbert once manufactured “Erector Set” toys--introduced in 1913 as “Educational, Instructive, and Amusing”—is filled with young people engaged in variations on that same theme. They are making much more than music, and the space we now have the pleasure of calling home is more than classrooms and rehearsal spaces. It is a true haven.
Our students told us as much when they explained what keeps them coming back, despite the many hours of hard work we require of them each week. “Music Haven was a safe haven for me.” (violist, 18) “It gave me a way to express myself in a new way. It also helps me not to be stressed.” (cellist, 13) “It makes me a better person. I love it very much.” (violinist, 9) “It’s like a family.” (violinist, 14) “I feel like I’m at home and I feel really comfortable.” (cellist, 11)
There is no shortage of danger, hate, distrust, and fear waiting for our kids when they step out into the world. At a time when those who seek refuge or opportunity are being turned away, turned in, or torn from their families, we have a space of love, freedom, and inclusion, built around a very simple form— the string quartet. The very structure of our new space exists to protect this rare thing in which people must listen carefully to each other, respond with both sensitivity and courage, adapt to each other’s needs, offer support, and stop to marvel when someone is on a roll. Each voice must carry its own part knowing the full integrity of this structure depends on it. Or as one of our 9-year-olds put it, “Always take responsibility and try your best.”
In June 2018, our first group of students graduated. All have gone on to college. They couldn’t have imagined as tiny 6-year-olds first feeling the weight of an instrument in their tiny hands what they’d grow to create together. It’s only because they, their families, their teachers, and our supporters have stuck with it over so many years that we have the Music Haven we have today, in a space of our own where we feel safe, welcomed, valued, heard, and free to make music, make mistakes, take chances, try again, or ask for help. Everyone should have a place like that.