The Conservatory Mansion celebrates Trenton’s rich musical legacy

June is Black Music Month. During this time, we honor Black singers, musicians, composers, and producers who have greatly contributed to the music industry. Some of these great legends just happen to come out of our city of Trenton—particularly at The Conservatory Mansion.

Like many other businesses, The Conservatory Mansion took a hit during the pandemic. “It’s been challenging because the entire time we were closed, the bills kept coming,” shared owner Jacqui Ivey. “After applying for programs and not receiving anything, I’m just now getting funding to help offset a number of bills and debt.”

Wanting to prevent the spread of Covid, folks were turned away from using the area which serves as a performance venue and rental for public and private space. “The entire time the pandemic was ramping, the phone kept ringing,” Ivey said.

Subscribe to the Trenton Journal newsletter and get our most current content delivered right to your inbox, for free!

Do you value quality local journalism?

The Conservatory Mansion has reopened August 2022. Formerly Trenton Conservatory of Music, the space is well-known in the indie music world. It’s been around since the early 1900s. Ivey took over in 2005 and says the vision remains what it was, a physical space for opportunities for all age groups to engage in the arts, in culture, and arts integration.

“There’s a dire need for programs and services, and very few and far between these days,” she said. “A place for residents and artists in the tri-state area to be able to host, instruct, rehearse, and perform all types of arts and cultural events.”

Ivey herself has been singing since she was 3- or 4-years-old. At the age of 5 she had her first solo in church, the St. Paul African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, which was on North Willow Street and is now in Ewing Township. The Sunday morning services included all genres of music—gospel, spirituals, hymns. “I’ve been singing ever since,” said the native Trentonian who now resides in Lawrence Township.

Giving a bit of history on Conservatory Mansion, Ivey spoke about the late Clifford Adams, an original trombonist for Kool and the Gang. “He taught Saturday morning in the Conservatory,” she said. “He also offered a monthly evening of Smooth Jazz with Clifford Adams and Friends. He filled the hall with jazz lovers and brought a lot of jazz musicians, mostly local.”

Adams and Tommy Grice, of the Trenton Academy of Music were regulars at Conservatory Mansion. “Tommy Grice was a Trenton Legend who taught music for decades to hundreds, maybe thousands, of students in the Trenton area,” said Ivey.

Grice was the brother of Gigi Grice, a famous American jazz saxophonist, flautist, clarinetist, composer, arranger, and educator.

“They were regulars here,” said Ivey. “They lived to tell and share how much the music played a significant role in their lives and they wanted to make sure they gave back the same opportunities to the youth of the city. I know their spirits remain in this building and with me. I can hear them say, ‘Jacqui, keep going.’”

Ivey founded a non-profit entity called Conservatory of Music and Performing Arts Society (aka COMPAS) which is headquartered at Conservatory Mansion. COMPAS ensures funding to assist families in the arts to pay for classes. Ivey said, “Basic food, clothing, shelter comes first. Extracurricular like arts financially can be a strain in our families. Doesn’t mean we don’t have talent.”

The late Doughtery “Doc” Long who taught adult creative classes and English/African studies was committed to COMPAS and the vision. “He was just a tremendous supporter,” said Ivey. “Beth Linnerson-Daly had a cultural resource library in our basement. She passed a week before Doc did. I’ve been grieving these folks I’ve seen on a regular basis. All these folks have been very much one of the reasons I keep going.”

While Ivey awaits everything to fall into place with people waiting in the wings to do what they do to share their skills, their abilities, and their knowledge—and not just for youths, but for adults and seniors—Thursday night is greatly anticipated at Conservatory Mansion. Thursday night is “Cha-Cha Night,” taught by James Ellis who has been a mainstay. “He was the first to resume his class after the pandemic,” said Ivey.

In the near future, Ivey has plans to renovate the Conservatory Mansion and institute new community programs. “That’s what we intend to do,” she said. “Looking to do even greater things.”

Visit The Conservatory Mansion at:

Sign up for the Trenton Journal email newsletter

Get our reporting delivered right to your inbox, for free!

Your support makes independent journalism possible!

Contributions from our readers is a big way that we fund our work — and it’s part of how we stay accountable to our communities.

This site uses cookies to provide you with a great user experience. By continuing to use this website, you consent to the use of cookies in accordance with our privacy policy.

Scroll to Top