The Music School of Delaware held a public celebration in honor of its Milford founders and Kent and Sussex County-area donors on Thursday, February 8 at its new Milford Branch location at 23 North Walnut Street in downtown Milford.
“It’s a joyful moment when the Music School honors its founders,” said Music School President and CEO Kate M. Ransom. “Rachel Grier-Reynolds and Linda Wheaton Breedlove were visionaries with a love for their community, who applied their energy and devotion to help make Milford great.”
Rachel Grier-Reynolds and Linda Wheaton Breedlove were given special recognition for their devotion to bringing the Music School of Delaware to Milford in 1981.
The inspiration for the school started when Rachel’s daughter Molly was taking Suzuki violin at the Avenue Methodist Church in Milford. When introducing her daughter to the Suzuki School at the Wilmington Music School, Rachel quickly realized that while Molly was being taught the Suzuki repertoire, she was not using the Suzuki method. Rachel approached the Director of the (then) Wilmington Music School, Stephen Gunzenhauser, sharing her concerns that children living in Sussex County did not have the same access to the correct instruction.
“He very simply, but with a spirit full of possibility, said, ‘Why don’t you start a music school in Sussex County? I’ll help,’” said Grier-Reynolds. “We can do a branch of the Wilmington Music School or you can start your own school and I’ll help. I’ll even send you an excellent string teacher.”
Returning home, Rachel called her friend Linda Burris, now Linda Wheaton Breedlove, whose son Michael was taking piano lessons, and shared her concerns. Linda quickly responded with the same can-do attitude that Gunzenhauser had.
“I would whine about an obstacle and Linda would suggest the solution. My whines became dreams and Linda made them happen,” said Grier-Reynolds. “The challenges became opportunities for our community and Milford was ready, willing and able. From the beginning, Linda saw that a music school would strengthen our children, our church, our community and Southern Delaware.”
The big financial hurdle was a building for a music school. Linda suggested that the families house the school in the Avenue Methodist Church for free, as a resource for all the church families. Gunzenhauser sent the pair his organizational book with a list of grant funding sources and Linda laid out the plan to build the school.
“Many of our friends saw that music is a path to expand and strengthen our children’s development. So Linda reached out to many Moms, and some Dads, and members of the church to create a team,” said Grier-Reynolds. “The Dads raised enough money for a necessary endowment fund. [Gunzenhauser] sent an amazing gem of a teacher and part-time Director Michelle Peters to talk with us about possibilities.”
The Delaware Music School quickly grew from piano and strings in Avenue Church to branches in churches in Dover, Millsboro, Seaford and Lewes, offering a variety of instrument instruction. Under the direction of Board member and piano teacher Pat Fisher, the school added a partnership with the University of Delaware Music Department’s Performing Faculty.
“From the beginning, Linda saw that a music school would strengthen our children, our church, our community and Southern Delaware.
Those honored on February 8 included Milford Branch founders, Linda Wheaton Breedlove and Rachel Grier-Reynolds, as well as donors Draper Holdings Charitable Foundation, The Burris Breedlove Family, David & Ann Burton, Dennis Silicato/Silicato Development, Peter & Joanne Harrigan, Charles & Marie Burton, John & Marion du Pont, David Molotsky, The Music School of Delaware Board of Directors and founding executive director, Michelle Peters. Recognition plaques were presented and unveiled in the Recital Room, the South Wing, the North Wing and additional rooms throughout the building.
Family representation for Linda Wheaton Breedlove was there to accept the honor. “It is a great feeling to see what the Music School has become in Milford,” said Dave Burris, who is a former board member of the Music School of Delaware. “It means so much to know that what Mom and Rachel started has grown to become an institution in our hometown, and we look forward to watching it grow.”
Founded in 1924, The Music School of Delaware reaches thousands of new people from Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Maryland through its instructional programs and over 100 public performances each year. The Music School is the only nationally accredited program of its kind in Delaware and is the only statewide accredited community music school in the nation. The Music School offers standard-setting instructional programs for all ages and has a faculty of nearly 100 expert artists and educators with branch locations in Wilmington and Milford and over 20 satellite and outreach sites statewide. For more information, individuals can call the Milford Branch at 302-422-2043 or visit their website musicschoolofdelaware.org.
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