For years, Linda Weise, founder and executive director of the Colorado Springs Conservatory, received dozens of unsolicited resumes from teachers and performers looking for work.
The number of resumes far exceeded the number of jobs at the nonprofit preparatory school for the arts.
In recent years, though, Weise has cut a number of deals to provide classes to local public and private schools that had either cut arts funding or wanted to expand their programs.
Since then, Weise has seen a surge in enrollment and has expanded her after-school programs to include daytime classes.
And that means she was able to dig into that pile of resumes. She’s hired six additional teachers since September.
“Ironically, in this economic downturn, I am bringing on board phenomenal talent,” Weise said. “Suddenly, we were looking for four days a week of curriculum for kids in preschool through high school.”
Weise, who is Julliard trained, now employs 45 part-time instructors who teach from 10 to 35 hours a week at $22 to $30 an hour, depending on experience and expertise.
She is running a two-tiered educational program, one for daytime students and one for after-school students.
During the day, she runs the arts enrichment program for more than 200 students from public and private schools who are bused to the conservatory each week.
In the afternoons, she offers lessons for about 75 students who pay annual tuition of between $1,150 to $3,170 for a curriculum that includes theory, history, composition and 45 minutes of private lessons.
The opportunity to offer daytime classes to public school students first came about three years ago.
That’s when Harrison School District Superintendent Mike Miles proposed a partnership because he wanted his students to have access to an arts program beyond traditional band and orchestra.
The district buses 40 students once a week to the conservatory for four hours of piano, guitar, composition, percussion, dance, theater and playwriting at a cost of $6.50 per student per hour.
After that, the conservatory entered partnerships with other schools, including the Colorado Head Start Association pre-school, Manitou Springs School District and Mountain Vista Home School Academy.
“What’s interesting is that our services are being sought out,” Weise said. “We are able to bring to kids — who didn’t necessarily sign up for it like the after-school kids — the same kind of agenda. You are having discussions about music in a different way other than just playing in band.”
Daytime and after-school students are of equal importance, and both are being educated by some of the best artists in the country, Weise said.
She beams when she runs through the staff roll: Ian Buckspan, one of the top clarinetists in the country; Tom Wilson, associate conductor of the Colorado Springs Philharmonic and director of the Chamber Orchestra; and Steve Barta, international jazz musician, to name a few.
“I sought (the conservatory) out because I saw what Linda was doing as being passionate and I saw what she was doing as really working,” said Barta, who has 30 years experience teaching students, educators and professional musicians. “The level of teaching and experience that this school has is on par with any college.”
That teaching all happens in four classrooms and a shared auditorium with Galileo Middle School on North Union Boulevard.
This year, the conservatory marks its 15th year in business with a $500,000 operating budget.
Tuition covers the bulk of the expenses and Colorado Springs Conservatory Foundation raises about $165,000 a year to buy instruments and offset tuition for economically disadvantaged children.
Disadvantaged or not, all the students benefit from the conservatory in more ways than through singing and dancing.
Weise pushes students to maintain a high GPA, and 100 percent of students who attend the after-school program have graduated from high school and 90 percent go onto universities, colleges and other conservatories.
Mixed in with the music and theater lessons are some life lessons too, said Joelle Sostheim, 16, a student in the after-school conservatory program.
She thought she would attend the conservatory and just sing and dance. The program, she said, has taught her time management, social skills and confidence.
“For me, it’s a place where I can learn everything I might need to use life — skills we will use throughout our entire life whether we are going into theater or become a doctor,” she said.
The rigorous program is what attracted newly hired teacher Angelina Gadeliya, an Oberlin and Julliard trained musician and a former fellow in The Academy Program at Carnegie Hall.
She grew up in the Ukraine, where youth after-school music programs are some of the best in the world.
“I could sense right away that it was a really strong, tight community,” she said “The kids here get so much support and get challenged in so many aspects of the arts, which I find really inspiring.”
Weise sees that inspiration spreading.
“One of the coolest things about this place is that it is its own ecosystem and within that ecosystem comes different cultures every day,” she said. “We’ve broken down the barriers, everyone is on the same plane, but yet they are here to share their stories.”