Nestled in between the old partially renovated Victorian houses of grandeur in Germantown stands the Settlement Musical School. Patricia Manley, director of the Germantown Branch, explained that the building helped incorporate two competing and segregated YWCA charters into one in the building, one of the first charters to desegregate. The demanding numbers of incoming immigrants turned the former YWCA into a musical school aimed at immigrants, and finally the current neighborhood it’s stationed in. “We have teachers from around the world including Russia, China and Japan,” Manley added. All of the teachers have master’s degrees and are specialized in one instrument, providing their students with a more detailed instruction.
The classes offered are for children in preschool through high school, with additional classes offered to older adults. More importantly the school’s classes for the disabled are not classified by disability and provides a space for an organic mixing
of classes. “Mixing groups allows the participants and students to communicate better with each other through their instruments or voices. The focus is taken off of their disability and they are able to work in harmony as a unit.” Manley explained. “Your supermarket, everyone there shops from your neighborhood, they pay the same rent, mortgage, come from the same class. Same with your church.“ Essentially, the Settlement School is one of the last places around that help connect the underprivileged with those of higher background and allows them all to become involved in the community.
But the school’s plans of renovation, expanding their programs or building the Willow Grove branch have all been put on hold due to the lack of funds.
“We had to control expenses, we all took pay cuts…contributions dried up,” Manley noted. About 50 percent of the funding comes from the school’s tuition, but now more than ever more are applying for financial aid, which then denies the school of any possible income. Manley added, “It’s this very kind of economy that hits the most vulnerable person of class.”