Some Springfield musical schools and venues in financial peril

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — A local venue is finding ways to stay alive, as another music school will close for good.

Businesses that rely on performance arts to survive continue to find themselves struggling stay afloat in what has been a year of empty arenas, theatres, and auditoriums.

Due to decisions made in response to COVID-19; live music, plays, and other events have been virtually impossible to hold.

That has had a dire effect on the live event industry, and right now people are having to either get creative to stay in business, or close their doors. It’s a sad “sink or swim” scenario for people that have built careers on that type of work.

For the historic Gillioz Theatre in Downtown Springfield, 2020 is their 94th year of existence. Associate Director Joy Bilyeu-Steele says they find themselves in a position they never would’ve imagined.

“We lost 100% of our theater revenue. I’m really not sure when we’re going to be able to have live music events. I look at old pictures of the theater full of people and it literally makes me cry, because I think, ‘When is that going to happen again?'”

She says hosting a live show with anything less than a capacity crowd would be pointless, as they would lose money. But recently, the lightbulb went off on how to start generating some revenue.

They have begun showing classic movies in their auditorium. It is something that they can do to adhere to safety guidelines, and still stay profitable. They don’t have to pay cameramen, stage hands, audio engineers, or the other numerous positions required to hold something like a live concert.

They have also taking advantage of their own history – auctioning posters of their past events.

“We have an archive of them. We pulled 99 different posters out of this archive. Most of them are signed,” Bilyeu-Steele says.

Back in the days when they would actually hold live events, she says people would always ask if they could have the posters used for promotions, but they would not give those out. Rather, they were kept by the venue.

Now, people can buy them, or bid on them as a way to help make sure the Gillioz is still around when crowds are allowed to convene once again.

“The arts and entertainment side of things, we were the first to close, we’ll be the last to open. All of our efforts right now are what we can do to keep this place alive,” says Bilyeu-Steele.

Another place that depends on the arts to survive, is Conservatory of the Ozarks: a place that young students can learn music, drama or art. Owner Heather Leverich started this business 12 years ago.

“There were nights I slept here, there were nights I was here until two or three in the morning,” Leverich explains.

Now, after what was expected to be a big year, they will be closing in two weeks, for good. Leverich says it’s because enrollment rates were just too low.

“In the middle of August I just was like doing the budget and I’m like, ‘Next month is going to be six months of this’. Apparently there is no end in sight,” says Leverich.

She says the school normally has a dip in the summer, but most of the year their enrollment numbers have been even below their summer roster. All of the music, drama or art instructors at COTO will now look elsewhere to teach their craft, and they will move out of the building at the end of September.

“We’re the third music school in Springfield to close because of coronavirus. School of Rock and Pellegrinos closed before us,” says Leverich. “Just before Coronavirus, Hoover Music closed. I think it’s important that we find ways to invest in the arts in our community.”

Leverich says she will still be keeping the LLC “Conservatory of the Ozarks” and switching to a solo practice so she can still follow her passion of teaching music to students.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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