More than 100 years ago, a settlement house in the Southwark section of Philadelphia provided services to immigrants, from English lessons to sewing classes. Soon it began offering music lessons, a mission it continues today.
In 1914, Settlement became an independent music school. And in 1917, it moved into what is still its main branch: the Mary Louise Curtis Building at 5th and Queen Streets. On a typical Saturday, the building is alive with the sounds of kids at play - playing music that is:
Kid 1: I take ballet, violin and I go to music workshop.
Kid 2: I play recorder and drums.
Kid 3: I play in a quartet, with piano, cello, violin and viola..
While its conservatory division became the nucleus of the Curtis Institute of Music in 1924, Settlement continued to offer instruction at all musical levels from beginner to pre-professional. Over the years, it has influenced hundreds of people who have gone onto success in various fields. Among them: Twister Chubby Checker, composer Michael Bacon, and the late Star Wars Director Irvin Kershner:
KERSHNER: I consider film as music, because its rhythmic, it has repeats, it has movements..
BACON: So Settlement to me was always a relaxed fun place to be, which is what you want to provide to children with music
CHUBBY CHECKER: Little did I know the things I’d learn there I’d be using in my music career, far beyond my expectations..
Today, in addition to its main building, Settlement has branches in Germantown, the Northeast, Willow Grove, West Philadelphia, and Camden.