Making Music, Building Community at Fairmount Center
"Music gives you confidence and lifts you higher." David Fuller
It was the fall of 1995.
The Cleveland Indians had just lost the World Series to the Atlanta Braves. The Tribe’s rival, the Boston Red Sox, were long out of the playoffs, to the dismay of a Bostonian-turned-Clevelander named David Fuller.
To ease his pain, Fuller had just moved to Burton from the East Coast and was out for an autumn drive in rural Russell Township.
After passing by a cream-and-brown building with the phrase “Fairmount Center for the Arts” displayed on the signpost, he hit the brakes, parked and made a visit that changed his life.
Nearly two decades later, Fuller — currently the music department director and a voice instructor — reflected on the importance of Fairmount Center, 8400 Fairmount Road, to the community.
From Boston to a Brand New Environment
Fuller grew up surrounded by music.
His father, the Rev. Clarence Fuller, inspired him, along with other soloists the reverend brought into his church.
Additionally, Fuller’s clarinet teacher and junior choir director inspired him. In 1969, he auditioned and was selected to participate in a TV show choir and orchestra known as the Greater Bostonians.
It was similar to today’s “Glee,” a TV show that involves choreography, singing and dancing, Fuller said.
As he progressed, college teachers noted his baritone-bass voice and cultivated his talent.
He made the finals of the New England Regional Metropolitan Opera audition. Subsequently, he appeared in the Santa Fe Opera Company.
In the 1990s, he and his family — including his wife, Susan, and daughters, Rachael and Sara — found themselves in the rural, settled farmland of Burton, Susan’s hometown.
“After I joined Fairmount, I started a children’s choir and became a voice teacher,” Fuller said, adding his family said they love helping Fairmount succeed by volunteering.
In 2012, Fuller took over as music director, adding another feather to his cap. The center’s music department offers voice, piano and violin lessons.
Additionally, he has served as St. Anselm Church’s music director since 2001.
“Music gives you confidence and lifts you higher,” he said. “Singing gives you closeness with other students and the community.”
Fairmount is more than just music. It offers art, dance and a chance to make a difference, said Executive Director Jessica Leary Allen.
Allen said the center began originally as a dance studio in 1970, but later branched out to host classes in other arts.
Among their well-known instructors is Libby Lubinger, who heads the school’s dance program since its early 1970s start.
“It’s just great for Geauga County,” Allen said of the center.
‘A Place for Performers’
Allen leads a busy life. She is the mother of a 5-year-old and 3-year-old twins, plus she runs the center.
Despite her hectic pace, she said she finds solace in classes and workshops at Fairmount.
“I just took an exercise class here recently,” she said, laughing. “My shins are still sore.”
The executive director grew up in nearby South Russell and her mother found out about Fairmount through a friend.
She enrolled a young Jessica in Kinderdance, a program that teaches ballet and tap to preschoolers.
As Jessica grew up, she dabbled in ceramics, musical theatre, creative writing and various instruments.
Little did she know three decades would pass and she would find herself back in the familiar cream-and-brown environs of 8400 Fairmount Road.
“It was meant to be a place for performers,” she said. “Teachers and students come in here and feel at home. Probably a third of our faculty simply drove by this place, stopped and felt it was where they were meant to be.”
The center has worked hard to become part of the community.
In the past two quarterly sessions, attendance has been up 20 percent, Fuller and Allen said.
The center’s board of directors is very hands-on and has provided “terrific guidance and support” to Fairmount, making its continued growth possible, Fuller said.
Additionally, the array of classes means those as young as 1 years old to 86 years old are able to enjoy what the center has to offer, Allen added.
“We even have a family where four generations taking classes,” she said. “The great-grandma, the grandma, the mother and the daughter. That’s what is so special about this place — we have something for everyone.”
Fuller said the generational bond includes his own family. Both Rachael and Sara took classes, while Rachael teaches music history classes and piano lessons.
Office Manager Sarah Lenk, who joined last year, said she loves the hominess of the institution.
“When you come in, you feel like part of a family and you feel the tradition,” Lenk said. “It’s the type of place where you have a younger child learning alongside an older adult.”
Lisa Dobe started taking classes at Fairmount in January 2012. Most recently, she stopped by for a body sculpting class in mid-February.
Like the others, she spoke about happening upon the center and paying a visit.
“I discovered this treasure in my back yard,” Dobe said. “And I’m glad I did. It’s a gem.”
For more information, visit www.fairmountcenter.org or call 440-338-3171.
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