After Three Decades, Tribeca's Church Street School Gets a New Director

Piruz Partow with Lisa Ecklund-Flores, who he is replacing as executive director of the Church Street School for Music and Art. Ecklund-Flores founded the school, now in its third location, with Lori Bailey in 1990.

Sep. 13, 2021

For the first time since its founding 31 years ago—in a second-floor walkup and with a teaching staff of four—Church Street School for Music and Art has a new leader.

Piruz Partow, 44, the former head of the Brooklyn Music School, has been named the executive director of the Tribeca institution, at 41 White St., replacing Lisa Ecklund-Flores, 65, who announced her retirement in April.

“Lisa did an amazing job of amalgamating a fantastic team,” Partow said in a phone interview. “It’s like being handed the keys to a sports car in many ways.

Ecklund-Flores, who started the school with Lori Bailey in 1990, praised the board’s pick, calling Partow “the most wonderful thing we could have hoped for.”

“I can imagine feeling a lot more anxious if he hadn’t been the one,” she added.

In announcing his appointment, the school cited Partow’s fundraising success at the Brooklyn school during his eight years there, and the schools “increased community engagement.”

At the Church Street School, Partow said, “I don’t think we’re going to try to change too much.” The current programming, he added, “just needs to be ramped up.” He said he would like to increase ensembles and performance opportunities for older kids, and provide audition prep for middle schoolers looking for acceptance to specialized performing arts high schools. He said he would also like to offer more scholarships and financial aid.

The school experienced a pandemic fueled 16% dip in enrollment, Partow said, but he expects the losses to be temporary. “People are going to want to see their children away from the screen and away from the trials that they had to deal with, learning at home,” he said. The Church Street School will be welcoming, he added, as a place “where kids can spread their wings and be creative and artistic and have fun with other people.”

Partow was a teaching artist for 15 years, and has had a professional career as a classical bassist and jazz musician. The son of Iranian emigres who came to the U.S. in the 1960s, he also plays the tar, a Iranian string instrument with the Persian bluegrass band, Vatan (meaning “homeland” in Farsi).  “I’ve always loved country music,” he said, “and there’s certain modes in Persian music that kind of sound like American country music.”

Coupled with his work as a performer, Partow said, the experience he brings to the school as a teacher and arts administrator, “will add a big balance to fill that void that Lisa has left in her retirement.”