V-JAM Philly Session Leader: Settlement Music School

“We know that art and music lifts our souls and can unite us all,” says Karin Orenstein, Director of Education for Settlement Music School and a member of Jazz Philadelphia’s Education Working Group. “At Settlement, we believe that the act of doing, of practicing, of reaching goals, will be what gets us through this time with our spirits intact.”

The Settlement team is living out this belief. In addition to transitioning their lessons and classes to a distance learning platform, the school just launched two series of free classes for all ages and ability levels. The first is called Settlement Kids: Live, which airs on Tuesdays and Thursdays each week at 10:30 a.m. on Settlement’s Facebook page for the remainder of their closure. The second is called Settlement 101: Live, which airs on Thursdays at 6 p.m. on Settlement’s Facebook page, also for the remainder of the closure. Settlement is also waiving registration fees for their 4-week online individual instruction package.

Pre-Covid-19, Settlement offered 10,000 services every week in music, dance, and arts therapy at six branches and through dozens of community partnerships across the region. Regardless of age, background, ability, or economic circumstances, there is a place for all at Settlement, which offers financial aid to more than 60% of its student population, aged 6 months to 96 years. “We can’t wait to open our doors back up and welcome students for performance hours, recitals, and open houses,” says Orenstein.“Most importantly, we look forward to hearing the familiar sounds of music filling our studios again and the laughter and chatter in our hallways.”

Founded as the music program of the College Settlement in the Southwark section of Philadelphia in 1908, the school has a rich history. Settlement was incorporated as an independent community school of the arts in 1914 and developed a conservatory division that served as the nucleus of the Curtis Institute of Music in 1924. In the 1940s through ‘60s, Settlement expanded to satellite locations and established the Germantown and Northeast branches. In the 1970s into present day, Settlement undertook a program of education and therapy in music and dance for children and adults with disabilities, created three more branches, and formed relationships with the Camden School of Musical Art and the Creative Arts Morgan Village Academy (CAMVA).

Even though this is an unprecedented time for educational institutions, Orenstein says she has been awestruck by how quickly Settlement’s staff, faculty, and community partners all came together. As she sums it up, “We have been receiving one overjoyed message after another from students of all ages that this is working and that their music lessons are a bright part of their week.”