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White Plains Music Conservatory Of Westchester Turns 85

Jean Newton, Executive Director of the Music Conservatory of Westchester.
Jean Newton, Executive Director of the Music Conservatory of Westchester. Photo Credit: Submitted

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Jean Newton, executive director of the Music Conservatory of Westchester , likes to say the school is in the business of not only training tomorrow's performers, but more importantly, training tomorrow's audiences and supporters of the arts.

Founded in 1929 by a group of musicians including the legendary cellist Pablo Casals, the nonprofit conservatory, celebrating its 85th birthday this year, is the largest music organization in the region, serving 2,500 students each year -- 800 who attend lessons and classes at the school’s White Plains campus and 1,700 who participate in outreach programs.

Students range in age from pre-schoolers to senior citizens and hail from 100 communities in five counties -- Westchester, Putnam, Bronx, Rockland and Fairfield, Conn.

Many famous people have graced its hallways, not only musicians but the children of famous musicians, Newton said. Among its former students are internationally-acclaimed concert pianist Garrick Ohlsson, New York Philharmonic flutist Mindy Kaufman and Boston Symphony Assistant Conductor Ken-David Masur, whose father is Maestro Kurt Masur.

More than that, though, said Newton, an Edgemont resident, is the conservatory's sense of community. She herself has been at the school 20 years, ever since first enrollling her then 5- and 7-year-old children in the music program.

"Here, you’re learning everything there is to learn about music and we are open to everyone. "You can be a 55-year-old beginning guitarist or a 6-year-old budding violinist and you'll get a great teacher and fulfill all of your musical dreams," she said.

Conservatory teachers are distinguished professional musicians, as well as dedicated expert educators who enjoy working with students of all ages and skill levels. One can take lessons with musicians who perform with the New York Philharmonic and the Westchester Philharmonic or at jazz clubs like the Blue Note and Iridium in Manhattan.

The school also puts a big effort behind its scholarship program, which provides tuition assistance for students with financial need, and it has a widely acclaimed music therapy program for children and adults with a wide range of disabilities.

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