By Sabina Mollot
The Third Street Music School Settlement, which has been in the midst of a busy year celebrating its 120th anniversary, now has another thing to celebrate — a $5.3 million renovation. The project, which is scheduled to begin this summer, will include a state-of-the-art auditorium, a newly built ensemble practice and performance space and an adjoining recording studio.
The plan, which is already 80 percent funded, will also include an expansion to the school’s lobby and an additional staircase which will also serve to make the front of the building, currently marred by fire escapes, more attractive with some glass paneling, allowing those on the street a view inside. There will also be a new elevator installed.
“We’ve reached a point where we needed more space,” said Valerie Lewis, the school’s executive director, during a recent conversation at her office. “The demand for our programs continues to grow.”
At this time, there are close to 4,000 students at Third Street, with 1,700 of them enrolled in onsite programs. The rest learn at offsite locations around the city through partnerships with 25 other schools.
However, the school has needed upgrades at its building, located on East 11th Street between Second and Third Avenues, for a while. Originally part of the St. Mark’s Hospital complex, where nurses were housed, the building has two dates on its cornerstone, 1890 and 1926. Its current elevator is the original one, and is a “traction” elevator, meaning it uses steel rope, and is considered a freight elevator that can carry up to 3,000 lbs. The plan to renovate came out of a number of needs voiced by students and their families, in particular the recording studio, which will be located in the building’s sub-basement. Lewis noted how it’s become increasingly common for conservatories and competitive high schools – and even competitive middle and elementary schools — to require students to provide a high quality recording as part of an audition process. In addition to being able to provide that service onsite, Lewis noted that the studio will also be helpful in teaching students about subjects like sound engineering and re-mastering. She’s also mulling the possibility of putting out a Third Street album of music.