Pike new home of Colorado Springs Youth Symphony


Jennifer Boylan, conductor of the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony's Vivace Strings group, explains a musical point during a practice Sept. 8 in the former Pike Elementary School gym.
Westside Pioneer photo
Allaying fears of what would happen to an empty neighborhood school, the Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Association (CSYSA) recently moved into the former Pike Elementary, 2510 N. Chestnut St.
       The non-profit organization, founded in 1980, seeks out and trains talented young musicians - about 350 at present - and organizes performances locally or as far away as China. About 350 children from the region, ages 7 up to high school, play in any of seven different groups.
       CSYSA has signed a one-year contract with School District 11 for 8,924 square feet, including the former Pike gym, main office, library, teacher's lounge and all the classrooms in the north wing.
       The remainder of the building is used by D-11 for records and storage.
       Pike Elementary, which had started in 1956, closed after the 2008-09 school year as part of a district space-efficiency push that led to several closures around the district.
       “I'm really thankful that it's going to remain a school building as such,” commented Carol Gravenstein, a board member of the Mesa Springs Community Association, when contacted this week. She had been among several from the neighborhood around Pike who had expressed concerns about an empty building and potential site neglect during the D-11 Board of Education public meetings last winter on the “reutilization” plan, as it was called.
       Also pleased with the musical entity's arrival is Tom Fleecs, District 11 fine arts coordinator. “I think it's a great use of district space to have something educational going on there,” he said.
       In interviews this week, CSYSA music director Gary Nicholson and executive director Debi Krause-Reinsch talked about their delight with the site. “It fits us like a glove,” Nicholson enthused, in terms of the number of rooms and extent of storage space.

ABOVE: The Youth Symphony performed in 2008 at China's Shanghai Oriental Center. BELOW: The current look of the entry way to the former Pike Elementary School. The instruments are part of a music display.
Aaron Nicholson photo, courtesy of Colorado Springs Youth Symphony Association (above); Westside Pioneer photo (below)

       The CSYSA administration office is where the Pike main office used to be. The gym, which has “surprisingly good acoustics,” according to Reinsch, is used for practices by each of the seven groups, with the other rooms available for “sectional” practices by sub-groups such as woodwinds, brass or percussion, which have their own coaches. “Thank goodness, the cinderblock walls, help with the sound, so there's not a lot of bleed-through,” she said.
       The organization's locale for the past eight years had been the Benet-Hill Monastery on the city's eastside, but a tightening space situation there forced the move. “For the last couple of years, we've been looking for a place we could call home,” Reinsch related. Knowing District 11 was planning some building changes, “we said if there is an opening, let us know. They showed us Pike, and we liked that it was up on a hill in a nice neighborhood.”
       Leasing a District 11 facility “made sense” because the Youth Symphony was already “partnering” with District 11 in terms of student musical development, she said.
       For one of the musicians in the Youth Symphony, viola player Rachael Richardson, the Pike facility is quite familiar. She, along with her parents, uncles and aunts, attended the school, and even now, as a Coronado freshman, she walks from her grandmother's house to go to practice. “It feels real nice” to come back,” she said. “I miss this school, and I felt bad when it closed. I was excited when the Youth Symphony moved there, because I have lots of memories at the school.”
       One of those memories is of the gym itself. “I remember it being so big,” she said. “Now it seems real small.”
       The only concern for the CSYSA about Pike is how long it can stay there. Reinsch would like it to be long-term, but District 11 has tentative, long-range plans in which the association could become part of a Wasson High arts magnet program. But it's not certain yet if that will happen. “We're kind of waiting to see how that goes,” Fleecs said. “It all depends on what they develop at the school.”
       The Wasson magnet idea was a closure alternative that came out of the reutilization meetings. The Board of Education is scheduled to consider the idea in greater detail during the current school year.
       Regarding CSYSA activities, its website elaborates that the Youth Symphony “presents over 60 performances each year regionally, nationally, and internationally. The educational program features music camps, performing tours, leadership classes, a solo competition, exposure to all forms of orchestral literature, chamber music ensembles, and community collaborations.”
       There is a fee for those who successfully audition into the Youth Symphony, but family income should not be a drawback for applying. “In quite a few cases,” money has been “found” to provide scholarships for needy musicians, Reinsch said.

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