After 20 years, Church St. School still creating


BY Aline Reynolds

Twenty years ago, Lisa Ecklund-Flores converted a second-floor loft at 311 Church Street into a school. It consisted of two large classrooms, a small lobby and an office.

Ecklund-Flores remembers those days and recalled “the families carrying their umbrella strollers up 23 stairs to get to it, following the kids’ footprints we had painted on the floor.”

The Church Street School for Music and Art has come a long way since then, now celebrating its 20th year anniversary with 40 teachers and a plethora of pre-school, after-school and teen programs. The school offers music and movement and visual arts classes four days a week for children ranging from 16-months to four years old. It also has an after-school arts academy for kids, ages 5 through 12, with classes that offer drawing and painting, drumming, sculpture, hip-hop dance, and photography.

“The [toddlers] are not as verbal, so music and art are some of the best ways to really help them learn,” said Betsy Kerlin, director of programs and development. The music and movement classes, targeted towards younger kids, train the youngsters in music listening “so they become better instrumentalists at a later age,” she explained.

Children, as young as four-years-old, learn the basics of piano and guitar. Others will partake in rhythm exercises.

“The teacher might be at a piano, doing something in rhythm, they’ll say ‘stop.’ By the end of class time, you can really see they’re learning how to listen and how to hear the music,” she said.

In the visual arts program, 3 to 5-year olds will experiment with Cray-pas and paper.

“They’ll make whatever they want – we’re not trying to direct their creativity at all,” Kerlin said.

They also learn the fundamentals of painting, collage, printmaking and sculpture, individually and in group settings.

The pre-K classes prepare the children for kindergarten-level English and math. “They’ll look at letters and learn how to read a little bit,” said Kerlin.

After-school classes for teens will include art studio workshops and the third annual “rock the house” program, in which groups further their instrumental skills in music bands that rehearse in the school’s practice rooms and multi-purpose room, located on the ground floor.

“They start to learn a little bit about rock history, or whatever they’re interested in,” Kerlin said.

The teen program also has the TriBattery Pops!, a group of volunteer musicians who rehearse twice a month. The program is directed by the band’s founder, Church Street School parent Tom Goodkind.

Finally, teens can enhance their arts skills in intensive drawing workshops, designed for middle school students that seek to develop art portfolios for high school admissions. Students draw from observation using still life, landscape and human figure as subject matter.

Church Street School also has blues, jazz and rock jam sessions; painting; blues to Beatles guitar classes; and pilates and yoga. Private instrumental lessons are scheduled individually and by appointment.

There are still some remaining spots in the school’s arts express program for children ages 2 through 4 as well as the pre-K program. For more information, contact Betsy Kerlin at 646-395-6590, or e-mail her at betsy@churchstreetschool.org.