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Community News: Southwest

CRENSHAW : Aging Music School Facing Swan Song?

September 12, 1993|ERIN J. AUBRY

Leading a brief tour of Eubanks Conservatory of Music and Arts, founder Rachel Eubanks' pride and sadness eloquently capture the atmosphere of the neat but rapidly aging campus.

Walking slowly from studio to studio, leaning heavily on a cane, she points out the wealth of information housed by the music library and the collection of rare instruments from all over the world carefully arranged in a glass wall cabinet. But she also calls attention to the badly flaking paint, the many points where walls are separating from the ceiling and door frames tilt at perilous angles.

"We have everything here, students from all over, but the facilities . . . " Eubanks said, shaking her head. "That's the problem here."

Now in its 30th year on Crenshaw Boulevard, Eubanks Conservatory, a nonprofit school, seems to have little to celebrate. In addition to its deteriorating facilities, Eubanks, who has a doctorate in music composition and also teaches piano and theory, has been recovering from hip replacement surgery. Last year, several valuable instruments from her collection, amassed in years of world travel, were stolen from the school grounds. And the school's buildings are on the verge of being condemned by a state accreditation committee.

But despite its woes, the school's teachers, administrative staff and students have an undiminished pride in the Eubanks Conservatory, which has attracted an ethnically mixed group of musicians from as far as China with its programs and distinctly personal touch.

"I've gotten great instruction here," said Angelo Francois, a clarinet player and 19-year-old Cal State Los Angeles student. "I've been coming since the fifth grade. All of my teachers spend extra time with me. Yet I've never felt pressure to accomplish anything other than what I want to accomplish. They let you go at your pace here."

Set back from the busy Crenshaw Boulevard strip on the former site of two private homes, the school seems out of touch with the urban activity that swirls around it, from the weekly cruising scene to last year's riots. Now, faced with dwindling funds and shrinking enrollment--it stands at about 200, less than half what it was a decade ago--Eubanks says the school must reach out to the immediate community if it is to survive.

"We've never advertised, and that's been part of the problem," she said. "There's a very active music community in Crenshaw that we need to plug in to."

Eubanks and others on the board of directors hope to recruit more board members from the corporate world who can aid the school in acquiring grants. The board's 20 members primarily are musicians.

Eubanks Conservatory was founded in 1951 as a one-room school on 47th Street and settled into larger quarters on Crenshaw Boulevard and 48th Street in 1963. It has since grown into a 30-instructor, accredited conservatory that offers private instruction as well as associate, bachelor's and master's degrees in instrument and voice performance, theory, composition and music history.

Students have a chance to perform regularly in public workshops; many have gone on to careers as musicians or music instructors. Private and group lessons start at about $35 a month, but many students are on full and partial scholarships.

Raymond Cho, conductor of the Koreatown-based Korean Philharmonic Orchestra and dean at Eubanks for 27 years, says the school must remain open, if only because it is an example of how the city's many cultures can get along.

"We teach all kinds of music here--Mexican, Korean, Japanese, Chinese," Cho said. "Sure, our buildings are in bad shape, but that's a money problem. The most important thing is that we speak a universal language."

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