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Press Room

All media inquiries should be directed to:
Dave Zibell, Old Town School Marketing Director
773-751-3351 (email preferred)


December 3, 2018
Old Town School Board Extends Discussion on Armitage Building Sale Through March 2019, Engages School Community

October 22, 2018
Old Town School of Folk Music seeds endowment through sale of Armitage building ▸

October 25, 2018

A letter from the Executive Director, Bau Graves, and Board Chairman, Kish Khemani, Old Town School

Dear friends of Old Town School:

The announcement of change is difficult for all of us and Monday’s announcement regarding the sale of the Armitage building is no exception. We appreciate the response that we’ve received from our community, sharing your support as well as concerns. It is a testament to our shared passion for the long-term success of the Old Town School.

We want to take the opportunity to clarify questions that have been raised this week and to assure you that this decision was not made lightly. We are listening to you, hearing you, reading your posts and emails, receiving your phone calls and we greatly appreciate those of you who have reached out directly. We fully recognize that change is challenging. In our case, the Armitage building has been the site of many Old Town School memories and so much amazing music. We honor that rich history, understanding and sharing in a new path forward.

The decision to sell Armitage is part of the School’s strategic plan that includes financial stability and sustainability. Our board of directors, who have governance and fiduciary responsibility for Old Town School, voted unanimously to approve the sale. We cannot express to you enough that this is a dedicated group of volunteer leaders who care deeply for the School. The board has always taken its responsibilities seriously, and this is no exception.

Proceeds from the sale will provide funds to seed an endowment that will help support the future of the school. An endowment will allow our School to plan with confidence and be prepared to respond to changes or challenges to operations, thus creating a fund designed to protect and care for our people and community—faculty, staff and students. As a member of our community, and as a best practice for not-for-profits, you can feel comforted knowing that its existence is intended to do exactly as we all want—ensure the school’s viability long into the future.

Old Town School currently has zero debt and this is the right time for this sale given favorable market conditions. That said, in an era of increased competition, changing audience needs and wants, and declines in class enrollment, we must responsibly re-examine parts of our operations to ensure a continued balanced budget as well as putting in place a road map for the future.

To further clarify, the sale of Armitage has been discussed many times over the years and is not being used to balance our annual budget nor as a response to unionization efforts. As you may have heard, a group of teachers are in discussions about possibly organizing. We respect their right to do so and are open to talking about how we can collaboratively continue to strengthen the School.

We are a unique and vibrant music community. We have teaching artists with a heritage of excellence in music and dance instruction. We have incredible programming all throughout communities in Chicagoland. We have a facility that is second to none in this country and that is open and accessible to all. We have a thriving community of people who love to share and participate in the arts. We have the unique opportunity now to seed our future and collaboratively continue to strengthen the school for many years to come.

While we share in the emotional significance of the Armitage building and its heritage at this time in our School’s history, Armitage is open for business for several more months. We value your engagement with Old Town School and will continue to share information regarding the sale. We also appreciate your input and patience during the transition process.

Please join us in planning for and advancing our future together—making music and memories within our walls and beyond—reaching out into Chicago and the broader community to honor our artistic tradition, rich history and this legacy that we all care deeply for.

Our sincere appreciation for your continued support of the Old Town School.

Bau and Kish