Unterföhring – new start for the music school – district of Munich

The Unterföhringen music school only moved into the new joint house with the adult education center in 2019.

(Photo: Stephan Rumpf)

When it became known in the June meeting of the local council that the Unterföhringen music school was as good as bankrupt, Second Mayor Manuel Prieler of the party-free electorate (PWU) formulated drastically that “every stone has to be turned over” to save the facility. This is exactly what should happen now. In their most recent meeting, the local politicians unanimously agreed that Wolfgang Greth, Managing Director of the Association of Bavarian Singing and Music Schools, should pave the way for a viable future for the institute, which is in dire financial straits.

Greth has been the head of the successful music school in Unterhaching with its more than 2500 students for 30 years and has been managing director of the association and head of the advice center for music schools since 2012. In this function he will try together with the local sponsoring association to save the Unterföhringen music school. According to the decision of the municipal council, a reliable concept of how things can continue must be in place by October, and from January next year the music school will then – if everything goes well – be on “professional feet”, as Greth told the SZ.

According to the expert, there is still a great deal to be done before then. He is now waiting for the music school to provide him with all documents such as bills and contracts. After a thorough examination by the Music School Association, the Unterföhringen Institute can submit an application to be accepted as a member, and for this purpose it has to meet numerous requirements.

Third Mayor Johannes Mecke from the Greens is also chairman of the music school association. There is criticism of this dual role.

(Photo: Robert Haas)

According to Greth, the Bavarian Music School Ordinance stipulates that an institute must have a music education director and permanent teaching staff, i.e. not employ any freelance staff. This is to rule out that they could be considered self-employed. In addition, a good and varied range of instrumental courses and ensemble subjects for choirs, orchestras or chamber music groups, for example, is required. The social component is also firmly anchored in the Music School Ordinance: Less well-off families must also be able to afford music lessons for their children, including sibling discounts.

If the admission is successful, the requirements do not decrease: You need an annual budget, a complete list of income and expenditure. Both are strictly controlled by the association. Schools that can become members of the Bavarian Music School Association and thus also their German counterpart at the same time must also work out a resilient budget beforehand, have statutes and be able to present a coherent school and fee schedule.

All of this is to be prepared for the Unterföhring facility in the next few weeks before a decision is made about membership. According to Greth, the regulations are so strict because the association supports its members with grants from the Free State. Especially in the Corona crisis, when most institutes lost their income due to the lockdown or only received it in a very slimmed-down form, this was vital for many.

Wolfgang Greth is the managing director of the Association of Bavarian Singing and Music Schools, head of the advice center for music schools and head of the Unterhachingen music school.

(Photo: Claus Schunk)

The Unterföhringen music school could not benefit from this because it did not belong to the association. Because of this loss of income, but not only because of this, the institution was on the verge of insolvency. According to information from the town hall, the deficit for the current year is just under 168,000 euros.

According to the music school, the minus has added up due to a loss of income due to the pandemic and because no early musical education could take place due to the corona. After a tax audit from 2016 to 2019, the school also has to pay 31,000 euros in social security contributions for its lecturers. Although they were contractually treated like independent contractors, they obviously acted like employees. In such cases, the law speaks of bogus self-employment.

In June, the Unterföhringen local council agreed by a majority to bail out the music school with grants for the months of June, July, August and September. According to Mayor Andreas Kemmelmeyer (PWU), there is a sum of more than 80,000 euros in the room. Initially, there was talk of a loan of EUR 168,000, which should be converted into a grant if it is legally possible.

Kemmelmeyer assured the SZ at the time that the community would compensate for the complete minus, as was initially the impression. The music school itself has to pay for the rest, he said. The grants should flow monthly; and a tax advisor must provide a monthly statement that is audited by an expert.

“I pretend that the music school never even existed.”

Association chief Wolfgang Greth knows about the problems of the Unterföhringen facility. But he will not look backwards, just look ahead, he emphasized: “I pretend that the music school hadn’t even existed yet.” It is about the future legally secure alignment and a coherent concept for the continuation. In the course of his time as a consultant, Greth has already professionalized eleven music schools. For him it was noticeable in the preliminary briefing for the latest municipal council meeting, “that Unterföhring stands by his music school”.

According to Greth, the fact that such educational institutions are always a subsidy business cannot be dismissed out of hand. Culture costs. In his experience, “every properly organized music school has a deficit that is compensated for by the respective municipality”. Not only in the district of Munich, but throughout Bavaria and Germany. The facilities are financed to 40 percent each through parental fees and municipal grants, 15 percent come from the state and five percent are generated through donations or events, according to Greth.

Greth, who is responsible for 220 institutions in more than a thousand municipalities in the Free State, knows that music schools are organized as a registered association. This may not have to change in Unterföhring either. However, whether third mayor Johannes Mecke (Greens) can continue to hold the office of chairman of the association is controversial, at least among some in the local council.

One or the other from the CSU, SPD and FDP sees the personal amalgamations as at least partially the cause of the enormous financial misery of the music school. The fact that this is kept afloat by tax money at least until September is already a concern of the legal supervision in the district office.


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