Arts for all –

Julianna Gray, Suzuki violin instructor at the Arts Academy, works with a young student. Photo by Kathy Collins

St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy in Geneva starts a new year

by Charlie Wilson

St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy could be on the cusp of a new era.

While today’s music and dance students are beginning another academic year at the academy in Geneva, the school has embarked on a $4 million capital campaign to enhance the learning experience for students of tomorrow. In June, the academy announced that the campaign had raised $1.9 million through generous donations and grants.

The academy provides arts education not available in public schools nor elsewhere in the local community. Music offerings include violin, viola, cello, guitar, piano, voice, and four community choirs. The dance program includes ballet, tap jazz, creative movement and modern dance. The school has more than 300 enrollments and serves students from 16 school districts.

“We believe the presence of high-quality arts education improves the quality of life of the entire community,” shares Dean of Faculty, Donna Davenport, Professor of Dance at Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

“The high caliber music and dance education offered by St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy has transformed many a student over the past 15 years,” said Sharon Arthur, manager of the Community Spirit & Arts Capital Campaign.

“Drawing from a five-county area of the Finger Lakes, we focus on helping children realize their potential not only as singers, musicians and dancers, but as members of their community and the greater world,” Arthur continued. “A successful capital campaign will ensure these offerings are available to students for years to come.”

While many academy programs focus on young people, the school serves everyone from infants to adults. St. Peter’s Episcopal Church sponsors and supports the school, but it’s open to all and there is no religious component to the music and dance instruction, said the Rev. James Adams, Head of School for the Academy and Rector of St. Peter’s Episcopal Church.

“Quality arts education at St. Peter’s Community Arts Academy has impacted many young lives,” Adams said. “Hundreds of young people have participated in the academy’s European tours and performed in some of the great British cathedrals. Many of our students have continued on with arts education in college and are now performers and/or teachers. Having a community arts academy which strives for the highest standards in a new campus will be a shining part of Geneva’s future.”

The school’s steady growth has created the need for improvements and more space for instruction at 149 Exchange St. in Geneva.

With its mission of “Arts for All,” the school offers scholarships and no student is turned away for inability to pay. All faculty members are both teachers and accomplished performers.

Arthur said the capital campaign has four key components.

  1. Improve the academy programs by establishing a dedicated facility that is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Academy’s expanded music studios will be in the now-vacant former rectory on the church grounds. Also planned is a new addition connecting the rectory and the parish hall.
  2. Encourage endowment gifts to support the ongoing maintenance of the facilities.
  3. Maintain a scholarship fund that is critical to support those with little or no financial ability to pay for lessons.
  4. Provide funding for staff leadership, essential for the school’s future development.

Performances are also an important part of the academy’s programs. Students present about 50 performances during the academic year, which helps boost confidence in their abilities. The academy believes these performances help in the ongoing development of Geneva as a vibrant community that values the arts and education.

Most performances are local, but since 1999, choirs travel every four years to Europe, where they sing in cathedrals and parishes in England, Scotland and Wales.

Arthur notes that donations certainly help the school. One example is to sponsor a student for the 36-week school year. Supporting the operations is another way to help.

As the capital campaign aims for the future, the current academic year begins September 4, 2019. The school has a rolling registration policy, so people can register any time during the 2019-20 academic year. Those wanting to take a class are urged to meet with the appropriate faculty member.

The school’s website,, contains contact information and more details.

One of the academy’s programs is Musical Beginnings, a pre-school music and movement class for ages one to three or three to five, where a caregiver and their little one explore the building blocks of early music education. This year, the Community Spirit & Arts Capital Campaign envisions many musical beginnings for the school itself.

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