Any institution with legitimate claims to Chubby Checker, Frank Rizzo, and Albert Einstein deserves better.
Unfortunately, Settlement Music School has found it is not immune to the vagaries of the economy: For a second time this year, the community school of the arts has had to make significant cuts in salaries and other expenses to make ends meet.
It has avoided cutting programs, but staff was told this week there would be pay cuts ranging from 1 percent to 10 percent depending on compensation levels as well as a two-year moratorium in contributions to the pension fund.
This follows word in April that senior managers - including executive director Robert Capanna - were taking 10 percent salary cuts and six salaried positions were being eliminated.
All told, the trims will save $1.1 million, a significant portion of the Queen Village-based school's $1.5 million budget shortfall.
Settlement, founded in 1908, serves about 15,000 students in the eight-county region.
Its revenue is expected to fall from $9.5 million last year to $7 million this year as donations have dropped during the recession.
"We were doing just fine until the [stock] market collapsed in October," Capanna said. "November and December were down, but not impossibly down. But January and February, it was like people just turned off the tap. We got practically no contributions at all. I've never seen anything like it."
The school responded with cuts and increased fund-raising, which resulted in an upswing of sorts in April, Capanna said.
"We are probably going to end this fiscal year not quite as bad as we had projected," he said. "Going forward, I think our focus is going to be on maximizing earned revenue and keeping expenses as low as we can.
"We are trying not to limit the programs we offer or financial aid." About 35 percent of Settlement's students receive aid now.
From its founding, Settlement has offered music lessons and performance opportunities for students and aficionados at all levels of ability and interest, from children to senior citizens.
"It plays a huge role in a lot of lives," Capanna said. "There are people who have lifelong relationships with Settlement Music School. There are guys who play in our senior chamber music program, who are in their 70s and 80s and were here when they were 8 and 9 years old. There are graduates of Settlement Music School in every major symphony in the United States."
It also has reached a broad base, which is evident from the individuals who have passed through its doors.
Chubby Checker, for example, took piano lessons at Settlement before he topped the charts with "The Twist." Frank Rizzo learned the clarinet at Settlement long before he became the city's mayor. And Albert Einstein, long after declaring everything relative, played chamber music at the school in the 1950s.
Settlement At a Glance
Locations: Four in Philadelphia, one each in Jenkintown and Camden.
Annual financial aid:
Focus: Music, dance,
and visual arts.
Total students since founding: 300,000.
Current faculty and staff: 325.
SOURCE: Settlement Music School