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Community Music Center of Boston to open new campus in Roxbury

Avery Bleichfeld
Community Music Center of Boston to open new campus in Roxbury
Staff and students from the Community Music Center of Boston tour the site of the organization’s new campus in Nubian Square. PHOTO: Rue Sakayama

A new song is starting as a local community music education group is planning to bring music lessons to Nubian Square.

Community Music Center of Boston, which provides youth music training to about 400 students and is one of the largest external providers of arts education to Boston Public Schools, announced April 4 that it plans to open a new space in Nubian Square on Washington Street, in the old home of the Nubian Gallery.

Zachary Sheets, the center’s chief advancement officer, said he hopes the new space will bring a stronger reputation for the arts to a neighborhood that is on the cusp of expansion from a number of arts and culture groups.

“We don’t want to perpetuate this idea that if you want to participate in arts you have to drive into a neighborhood like the South End or Back Bay,” Sheets said. “We want this to be very much a sense of community building.”

The new site is an expansion, not a move — the music center plans to keep its current location in the South End in addition to opening its new campus in Roxbury — and Sheets said the space should allow for the center to host more students in its onsite music lessons, as well as continue supporting youth workforce development efforts the group runs to keep students from having to decide between pursuing the arts and getting a job to help support their families.

The expansion, slated to open in 2026, is part of a broader effort from the organization to change tunes and expand its presence and impact.

Sheets said historically, the music center treated itself as a “best kept secret” neighborhood music school, but the move will allow the organization to have more influence in public conversation around things like culturally inclusive teaching, music therapy and youth arts workforce development.

“You can’t do that if you’re a best kept secret, but you can do that if you’re an anchor institution in a cultural district,” he said.

One core aspect of the expansion is a push to make the center’s lessons more accessible to residents from neighborhoods like Roxbury and Dorchester. Sheets said currently those families often have to drive to the music center’s location in the South End, drop off their kid and wait with their hazard lights flashing for the lesson to finish.

Lorraine Payne Wheeler, who leads the Roxbury Path Forward Neighborhood Association, said the new location will be convenient, especially given its proximity to the transit hub of Nubian Station.

As a child, her son attended piano and violin lessons at the Community Music Center of Boston. She said she would drop him off and then drive around the South End looking for parking.

She said she’s happy to see the organization expand into Nubian Square and see the group continue connecting students to arts and culture education that might not be provided during the school day.

“The school system is not always able to fund the arts, so an organization like this provides out-of-school-time opportunities for kids to expand into cultural areas that aren’t always covered in public schools,” Payne Wheeler said.

The Community Music Center’s move adds to a symphony of efforts to bolster and revitalize Nubian Square, with no small focus on arts and culture.

The Nubian Ascends development — a project under development at the site of the Blair parking lot — aims to bring arts and culture programming to the area as well as increased job training in the life science industry. New businesses, like Jazz Urbane, which plans to open a jazz cafe in the Bolling building sometime this year, plan to put down roots in the square. Franklin Cummings Tech is in the midst of a move to the neighborhood — the school broke ground on its new campus in March. Developers are building new affordable artist-focused housing nearby.

Payne Wheeler called it a very exciting time in Roxbury.

“As more of these projects come online, you’re going to see Nubian Square come to life,” she said.

The Community Music Center of Boston hopes that by bringing students and their families into the area, it might help spur new life in the area.

“Being part of a new wave of businesses and arts ventures and commercial ventures that are open from after-school into the evening is going to be a really important thing for the square,” Sheets said. “To be able to have more foot traffic, people who are stopping at the coffee shop before their lesson and going out to dinner after their lesson; … I think that’s a big part of what this means for our relationship to the neighborhood.”

Community Music Center of Boston, Music education, nubian square, roxbury