For local private music teachers, the recession came early: enrollment at the Ann Arbor School for the Performing Arts peaked in 2005, at 600 students. Then came the departure of Pfizer and its highly paid, highly cultured employees–and the number of children signing up for classes plunged 25 percent, to about 450 students.
The school had just begun to recover from that when the economy collapsed. “I’m down 25 percent,” says Dan Ripke, a guitarist who’s taught at the school for eight years.
It’s not just AASPA that’s been hit. “My class size is usually seventeen to twenty a year, and I’m down to twelve,” says Eric Van De Vort, an independent piano teacher since 1971. Heidi Cowan, head of the Ann Arbor Piano Teachers Guild and a teacher since 1975, says her business is down, too. But she quickly adds that her profession “isn’t going away. I don’t see it dissolving into nothingness. I don’t think we are extinct.”
AASPA director Stephanie Weaver also takes comfort in how her school has dodged disaster. When the recession hit, enrollment dropped another 11 percent, to around 400 students. But after the Pfizer experience, “I thought it’d be much worse,” Weaver admits. “I was expecting 20 percent.”