Los Angeles Teacher Keeps Music Education Alive for 50 Years Running

Mickey Fruchter 2013 P
Valerie Reich

Ask an industry insider where the music business lives and there's a good chance that person will say Los Angeles.

With musical roots as deep as The Beach Boys and The Byrds and evident in such iconic buildings like the Capitol Records tower, L.A. has more than its share of stars, one of which is thriving in the Boyle Heights area of East Los Angeles.  

That's where music teacher Mickey Fruchter recently celebrated his 50th year at the Neighborhood Music School. Opened in 1914, the nonprofit offers inexpensive music lessons to kids in the community, made up of mostly working-class residents who are predominantly Hispanic. Scholarships are also available for those who qualify.

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“Kids need music," Fruchter tells The Hollywood Reporter on a recent visit to the classroom he has called home for nearly five decades. "It’s a formula that helps students learn -- self discipline, team work, translating symbols, which helps with math and science, and self-esteem.”

Fruchter would know. Before coming aboard at the music school, he played violin throughout high school and continued on to Cal State L.A., where he later taught sound recording and engineering as a professor. Eventually, a director from NMS called Cal State  L.A. looking for a violin teacher, and Fruchter accepted.

“When I got my first paycheck, I almost quit," he says. "It was for $1.50 an hour, which was low even for 1964. But I was convinced to stay if I didn’t have to babysit the kids. They needed to practice and learn.”

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Fruchter, like many who work with musicians -- amateur or otherwise --  is concerned about continual cutbacks to art and music programs in L.A. schools. Still, he remains “cautiously optimistic” that student music programs, such as the ones supported by the L.A. Philharmonic, expand as the economy improves. 

"Music education is about more than just music," offers Fruchter. "It means fewer kids that end up in gangs or do drugs or get into fights."

For more information on the Neighborhood Music School or to make a donation, head over to www.neighborhoodmusic.org.

Twitter: @THRMusic