The History of the State Street Academy of Music


The State Street Academy of Music officially opened its doors to students in the spring of 2006, but the process started three years earlier.

In 2003, community members, businesses, religious affiliations and other organizations in the Harrisburg area joined together to create what would become the SSA. The goal of the new academy was to provide high-quality music instruction and activities primarily to the children and youth of Harrisburg who have shown talent and promise in the field of classical music, regardless of ability to pay. 

In August 2003, the academy took a large step toward that goal when it opened a two-week, all-day summer program titled State Street Klassical Kids. This successful program was attended by more than 40 children in grades 2 through 8 in the Harrisburg area and introduced them to many music-making activities. The program was housed in the St. Lawrence Chapel on State Street in Harrisburg, which was then largely unused due to the discontinuance of regular religious services at the site.

The Foundation for the Preservation of Historic St. Lawrence Chapel was formed to receive tax deductible donations of cash and in-kind services for use in renovating and maintaining the St. Lawrence Chapel, including the conversion of the Chapel's basement into space for music education and practice.

In Fall 2004 the Academy launched the Sundays on State Street concert series at St. Lawrence Chapel.

A year later, in Fall 2005, the SSA took the next step by offering its first opportunities for students: piano lessons and a children’s choir.

With construction of the Ortenzio Music Suite completed, the school celebrated a grand opening in April 2006. By this time, voice lessons had been added to the curriculum and SSA had enrolled 30 students.

Today, SSA has over 150 students taking applied music lessons on a variety of instruments and participating in performance class and a variety of ensembles. To date, approximately 450 students have participated in the program. Most are from the following school districts: Central Dauphin, Cumberland Valley, East Pennsboro, Halifax, Harrisburg, Mechanicsburg, Northern York, Camp Hill, Perry, Steelton/Highspire, and West Shore. In addition, SSA has students who are homeschooled and cyberschooled.

SSA music events include student recitals, given twice a year in the St. Lawrence Chapel, as well as a spring Honors Recital.  Students are chosen for the Honors Recital through an audition process.  In addition to student recitals, faculty and guest performers also offer recitals throughout the year.