The blaze at the New School of Music badly damaged the roof. (Photo courtesy of Rick Smith)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

2 years after fire at music school, the songs play on

As fire tore through the building in Dunwoody Village, Rick Smith saw decades of hard work going up in flames. His beloved music school, along with almost all of the instruments inside, was destroyed.

That was two years ago. Since the fire on April 2, 2017, Dunwoody’s New School of Music has played on, overcoming stiff hurdles to find a new location and new instruments shortly after the blaze. Business has dropped slightly, but Smith is thankful to continue renting out instruments and teaching students out of a space at Temple Emanu-El in Sandy Springs.

“It was a struggle to make the move … but the experience has really taught us how to be better business owners,” he said, “and has made us stronger.”

Part of the resurgence is thanks to quick action by Smith and his business partner, Robert Trocina. In the week after the fire, Smith looked up pianos for sale on Facebook Marketplace, and drove around the state to pick up six pianos in one day, he said. The school had nine pianos, six of which were lost in the fire.

In addition to giving private music lessons to hundreds of students at the Dunwoody location since 1997, the school rented out equipment to about 150 students. After the fire, they lost some teachers and students.

“We’re still working on getting up to our numbers that we were two years ago,” Trocina said. “We’re not quite there yet.”

The fire in Dunwoody Village was caused by a defective air conditioning unit on the roof, Smith said. An employee of the music school called him and told him about the fire.

“Obviously, I dropped what I was doing,” Smith said. “We spent the rest of the night just watching the fire trucks douse the entire location with water. … It was pretty devastating.”

They also got the help of a Dunwoody resident who works for Goodman-Gable-Gould/Adjusters International, a firm that assisted the music school in negotiating with their insurance company.

“I’m at Dunwoody Village, where the fire was, probably twice if not three times a week,” said Scott Greenwald, a senior vice president at GGG/AI. “My son actually took a couple classes.”

Greenwald said he helped the school get a fair insurance claim, accounting for everything it lost in the blaze.

The synagogue was intially supposed to be a temporary location. But as repairs on the Dunwoody location lagged, “we began slowly to see that the temple was probably going to become our permanent home,” Smith said. They now have a lease to be there through next June.

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In other news:

A pickup truck took the brunt of the impact. The driver lost control and spun out when the tree came down across the southbound lanes south of U.S. 78 at Church Street.

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