The Rainey Institute currently reaches about 850 children and young adults annually and exposes them to a diverse assortment of arts programs, which they may not encounter otherwise. These programs continue to expand in 2012.
Since 1966, the institute's main priority has been education through visual and performing arts. Today, students at the institute can discover everything from music and dance to arts and crafts to sewing at the Institute's $5.6 million building at 1705 E. 55th St.
Completed in January 2011, the facility includes a theater, art classrooms, music classrooms, a dance studio, a sewing room, seven private practice rooms for musicians, dressing rooms for actors and actresses, a community room and a full kitchen.
"The children get a great world of experience here," said Lee Lazar, executive director of Rainey Institute.
Rainey expanded its programs for preschool students in September. In February, Rainey will begin collaborating with neighborhood preschools, such as the Fatima Family Center, and offer preschool arts classes Monday-Friday.
About 40 part-time teachers help out at the institute throughout the year.
Isabel Trautwein, a violinist with The Cleveland Orchestra, provides artistic direction for the new El Sistema@Rainey orchestra program. This program, based on a curriculum that originated in Venezuela, focuses on providing underserved children the chance to learn music.
Thirty children joined El Sistema@Rainey in 2011, its first year at Rainey Institute. Lazar said he expects enrollment to climb to 60 students in 2012 and 90 by 2013.
El Sistema students perform in weekly concerts and performed at Severance Hall on Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The concert was part of Severance Hall's annual free community open house .
The Cleveland Orchestra and its partner, Conn-Selmer, Inc., are the official providers of Scherl & Roth violins for El Sistema@Rainey. But before children are allowed to play those instruments, they must learn how to take care of them. They do that by attending a workshop with their families and creating their own cardboard violins. They use the cardboard violins to learn the proper technique for handling their instruments. After six weeks in the program, a formal "graduation" ceremony is held and students trade their cardboard instruments for real ones.
Rainey Institute also offers courses in Capoeira.
Capoeira is a rhythmic martial art form that originated in Angola and Brazil. It incorporates drumming, gymnastics and break-dancing to create excitement and inspire discipline in performers.
The institute brings many of its programs together in the Rainey Theater Program. Students of drama, music and dance can audition to participate and display their talents on stage in public performances through the program.
Lazar said many students demonstrate exceptional talent in one particular field and will often want to pursue it beyond the institute.
Tayla Gray started as a voice student at Rainey Institute and now goes to the Cleveland School of the Arts, where she majors in vocal music.
"I honestly believe I would have never been able to reach my highest potential without Rainey," Tayla said.
Rainey prides itself on making its programs affordable. There are minimal registration costs as well as weekly charges, as low as $6. These fees, combined with donations, fund everything the organization does.
Lazar said, "We never turn students away because of financial reasons."
A limited number of students are eligible for scholarships to Rainey based on their families’ income.
"In our world, as a small nonprofit, we try to get as many things donated as we can," Lazar said.
This summer, the institute will partner with Groundworks Dance Theater to bring professional dancers to the summer camp program. The summer camp program costs $350 per child.
For more information about Rainey Institute, go online to www.raineyinstitute.org.
Read more about Rainey in the February 2012 Neighborhood Voice here.