Decades of Service
Founded in 1989 in Grafton, Massachusetts, Apple Tree Arts is a non-profit community school for the arts serving people of all ages throughout south central Worcester County. The organization began as The Apple Tree, with two early-childhood music classes for parents and toddlers taught by Donna Blanchard at a historic church facing Grafton Common. The program grew out of the belief that music and the arts enhance and expand the human experience.
Over the years, the program has expanded tremendously to include private instrumental and voice instruction, theatre productions and classes, student instrumental concerts, summer programs, faculty concerts and a community concert series.
The mission of Apple Tree Arts is to enrich our communities through the arts by providing high-quality performing arts education and experiences for all ages, identities, and abilities.
We believe music and theatre arts experiences can transform lives in profound and meaningful ways. Throughout history, humans have benefited from making music and participating in theatre as both a means of self-expression and self-discipline. Music and theatre education enriches lives and brings people together. We believe it should start as early as possible and continue throughout one’s life.
The vision of Apple Tree Arts is:
- To offer high-quality, impassioned music & theatre arts education that supports lifelong learning.
- To be a tireless advocate for early childhood music education in Central Massachusetts.
- To offer educational programs that extend music and theatre into a broader artistic experience.
- To offer outreach programs to under-served populations throughout Central Massachusetts.
- To bring talented musicians and other performers to the community to educate and entertain.
- To create partnerships with area organizations to broaden awareness of the importance of music in the human artistic experience.
- To build a strong music community in Central Massachusetts through the continuous personal and artistic development of students, faculty, staff, and volunteers.
Founded by Donna Blanchard in 1989 in Grafton, Massachusetts, Apple Tree Arts is a non-profit community music school serving people of all ages throughout south central Worcester County.
The organization began as The Apple Tree, with two early childhood music classes for parents and toddlers taught by Donna at an historic church facing Grafton Common. The program grew out of the belief that music and the arts enhance and expand the human experience.
Over the years, the program expanded tremendously to include education programs in music and movement for children from birth on up, private instrumental and voice instruction, student instrumental concerts, summer music and theater programs, year-round theater productions, faculty concerts, and a community concert series. Under the direction of staff member Jan Barlow, we began offering music as an enrichment component of area preschools and daycare centers, and theater director Lisa Scarlett began offering multiple theater productions for all ages.
In 1995, through the efforts of an expanding board of directors, The Apple Tree was legally incorporated as Apple Tree Arts and included articles of organization and by-laws, formal policies and procedures, and established bookkeeping practices and office management under the direction of Kathy Vandenengel. At that time, we also became an official non-profit organization.
In 2016, we moved our offices and teaching studios to the second and third floor of the Grafton Townhouse at One Grafton Common. After working with the Town of Grafton to secure the necessary funding, this historic space has been beautifully restored, and the Great Hall can again serve the purpose for which it was originally intended: a central gathering place for the community. We are most grateful to our many friends in the community who supported us to make this historic opportunity become a reality.
Currently, Apple Tree Arts is a vibrant non-profit community arts organization serving over 3,000 people each year. Our ten-member board of directors, currently chaired by Aaron Chaisson of Grafton, is comprised of highly educated, community-minded professionals who have brought us to new levels in advertising, grant-writing, budgeting, and strategic planning. The board’s initiatives include the formation of an Advisory Council, whose focus is intended to leverage the talents and resources of successful individuals within the community who have demonstrated an interest in and support of the mission of Apple Tree Arts.
Donna Blanchard retired as the organization’s long-time executive director in 2020, and Jan Barlow also retired in 2020 as early childhood director. Alaina Calloway Bolton was named as the new executive director in June 2020. Kathy Vandenengel also retired as our long-time business director in 2022. Current staff members include business director Brandon Lewis (full-time), theatre arts director Lisa Scarlett, music director Tom Hojnacki, finance director Julie Davis, communications director Liz Colognesi, and early childhood outreach coordinator Jessica Gelineau (all part-time). We are also served by an ever-growing corps of willing volunteers.
Apple Tree Arts is supported solely through tuition, grants, private support, and corporate sponsorships.
Our Board of Directors
Apple Tree Arts Board of Directors
Aaron Chaisson, President
Elizabeth Spinney, Vice President
Anjali Paranjape, Treasurer
Alan Baker, Clerk
Apple Tree Arts Staff Members
Theater Arts Director – Lisa Scarlett
Music Director – Tom Hojnacki
Finance Director – Julie Davis
Communications Director – Liz Colognesi