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Davenport's Trinity Episcopal Cathedral bishop's house becomes a music school
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Davenport's Trinity Episcopal Cathedral bishop's house becomes a music school

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For more than 10 years, a 1930 former bishop's house on the property of Davenport's Trinity Episcopal Cathedral has stood vacant, not a practical home for today's clergy.

Now, though, this large, nearly 5,000-square-foot limestone building is springing to new life, becoming home to the Quad-City Music Academy, a nonprofit founded last year to give music lessons.

The academy is the brainchild of Hannah Holman, principal cellist for the Quad-City Symphony Orchestra, a cellist with the New York City Ballet Orchestra and resident of Iowa City, who for the past several years has dreamed of improving the quality of music instruction in the Quad-Cities and making it available to talented youth who might not otherwise be able to afford it.

The academy received its nonprofit IRS status in February, and lessons began in September via Zoom to five students by teachers recruited by Holman. Violin, viola, bass and cello instruction are available now, with more instruments to be added with time.

But the academy also wanted a physical place to call home and, coincidentally, Trinity Cathedral was looking for a new use for its former deanery at 1103 Main St.

The two reached agreement on a 15-year lease and, on Dec. 15, the Very Reverend Dr. John Horn, dean of the cathedral, turned over the keys to Holman, executive and artistic director of the music academy. The building will now be known as the Deanery School of Music.

"It's such a big, beautiful space," Holman said earlier this week as she prepared for a virtual fundraiser on Wednesday. "Architecture can do so much for one's soul, and everyone deserves to feel like that.

"Students in the Quad-Cities deserve a safe, empowering, and inspiring space to flourish as people and musicians."

Trinity's Horn described the transaction as a "win-win situation."

"It (the academy) is really good for our community, and it builds on our own rich choral tradition."

Why the academy is needed

The academy is needed for several reasons, supporters say. First, there are not enough good classical music teachers in the area and those that are working are overwhelmed, said Joe Lohmuller, a Davenport-based surgeon who is president of the school's eight-member board.

As a result, talented young people aren't getting the instruction they deserve, or they have to drive elsewhere to get it.

Quad-City area students "have a hard time qualifying at state competitions, particularly in string instruments," Lohmuller said. As a result, there aren't as many Quad-City students represented in state orchestra as there are from Iowa City, Cedar Rapids or Des Moines.

And, subsequently, a large number of the members of the Quad-City Symphony Orchestra are from other places, not the Quad-Cities, Lohmuller said. "They literally drive in, or fly in, and then they are gone. They are not teaching, they are not playing in the area.

"Why can't we have our own musicians? It's not for lack of talent being here," he said.

"I am wholly involved in improving the Quad-City community and development of the arts is one of the ways we do that."

Finally, Lohmuller hopes the school will provide lessons to young people whose parents can't afford them, or can't afford to buy an instrument or don't have the means or time to transport their child to a lesson.

At the same time, the academy will need to pay its teachers and operating expenses.

Lohmuller, now with the Genesis Health Group, is enthusiastic about lending his support to the academy, with his expertise as a small business owner (president of the former Davenport Surgical Group) and as a seasoned member of several boards who can help with managing people, contracts, negotiations, hiring lawyers and accountants as needed and maintaining a building. He also loves music. He and his wife are 29-year orchestra ticket holders, and he enjoys piano, guitar and singing. 

Other board members are: Patricia Duffy, vice president, and president of Personal Marketing Research; Scott Tunnicliff, treasurer, and program director of the Hilltop Campus Village Corp.; Hannah Holman, secretary and artistic director, and cellist; Sue Von Maur, director, and a member of the Von Maur family; Tim Gulbranson, director, and attorney at Lane & Waterman LLP; Ron May, director, and president of Opera Quad Cities; and Kyle Gott, director, and vice president of private banking, Quad City Bank & Trust Co.

The work ahead

Renovations and improvements to the building are in the works, beginning with all new windows (the building has about 40) and repair of water damage that occurred after someone swiped one of the building's copper gutters, Holman said.

Other early work will include providing handicapped accessibility to the building as well as to a first-floor restroom and at least one of the music studios, she said.  

The building's second floor contains four large and two small bedrooms, all of which will be converted into teaching studios. For student-teacher safety and security, each room will be equipped with cameras, and windows will be cut into the doors, Holman said.

The first floor contains a large living room that will be used as performance space and a study that will be used as office space and for board meetings.

To help pay for the work, the academy has received a $50,000 challenge grant from the Hubbell-Waterman Foundation that it must match with another $50,000.

One way to do this is simply by asking, but the academy also will have fundraisers, such as a virtual living room music series once a month.

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