How Grand Circle Foundation helped the St. Petersburg Music Boarding School survive—and thrive
By Tatiana Alexeeva, Area Manager, Russia
I have always been grateful for Grand Circle Foundation’s active support in Russia. When I joined Grand Circle, the Foundation was supporting the Church of the Transfiguration—an 18th-century wooden church in Kizhi Pogost—through a grant to the World Monuments Fund. By 2004, though, I felt that the museums of Kizhi Pogost no longer needed Foundation support. So I began looking for a new site.
In Russia, every district has a music school, where children take music classes after their regular school program. But a music boarding school is very unusual, so the St. Petersburg Music Boarding School really caught my attention.
I arranged a meeting with the school principal, Irina Olegovna Tovpich. I explained to her that Grand Circle Foundation doesn’t just provide funding, but that we also look for schools where we can work in partnership with the principal to improve the school’s condition. Mrs. Tovpich was very excited by the idea.
Budding percussionists gather around a metallophone (xylophone)—just one of many instruments that have been donated to the St. Petersburg Music School.
You see, at that time, the school was falling apart—literally and figuratively. The building had badly deteriorated, the school faced financial difficulties, and, rather than help the school, local authorities decided simply to shut it down. What a shame that would have been! Not only does the school provide a music education to gifted students, it has a policy of giving preference to students from needy families and orphanages, who account for 50% of the student body.
I knew that, if anyone could save the school, it was Mrs. Tovpich. Students, parents, teachers, and residents of St. Petersburg also rallied to the cause. To us at Grand Circle, the goodwill of teachers who make music education available to all children regardless of their financial or residential status sealed the decision. I was proud that Grand Circle Foundation was among the first to provide that support and to breathe new life into the old school. Happily, the campaign was a success, and the school moved into its new building in September 2005.
Today, 100 teachers provide 250 students, ages seven to 17, with academics through secondary-school level, accompanied by the highest level of music education. Half the students board at the school, and room and board is free to students from poor or troubled families or orphanages, or whose home is a distance away. Training in a musical instrument, as well as chorus and orchestra experience, is provided, and students also perform at official events and for veterans groups, hospitals, and other organizations. It is the only school of its kind in all of northwest Russia.
Thanks to the support of Grand Circle Foundation, the St. Petersburg Music School receives support that helps provide instruments—like the drums shown here.
Since our first donation in 2004, Grand Circle Foundation has donated a total of over $26,300 to the school. In the school’s 250-seat concert hall, where the students are able to share their accomplishments, the Foundation has provided audio equipment and helped the school orchestra with the recording and printing of its first CDs. Foundation donations have also been used to fund the establishment of a computer lab, to invest in new instruments, and to renovate the school’s kitchen, restrooms, bedrooms, and heating system.
In addition, when Grand Circle’s private Russian river ship, the M/S Tikhi Don, was refurbished beginning in late 2004, the school received a truckload of tables, chairs, blankets and bed linens, tableware, and kitchen utensils that had previously been used onboard.
Helping to give gifted students a chance they wouldn’t normally have—now, that’s music to my ears.
Learn more about the work of Grand Circle Foundation at www.grandcirclefoundation.org.