November 2013 Issue
Best Hometowns 2013–2014: Aurora
Aurora focuses on education and the importance of natural spaces.
: Portage County, 29 miles southeast of Cleveland
: 25 square miles
: In the 1880s a full-sized steamboat circled Picnic Lake (which
is now known as Geauga Lake), pulling a large flat-bottom boat with a
dance floor on top for residents and visitors to enjoy.
A little boy about 4 years old runs to “Miss Vera” and hands her a purple flower, somewhat droopy from being held so tightly.
“I picked it just for you,” he says, glancing up in admiration for Vera
Holczer, founder and director of the Aurora School of Music
Holczer gives the boy a big hug before sending him down the hall to
watch his big sister’s music lesson. Parents, grandparents and siblings
are all encouraged to be part of the school.
“Music should be for everyone and everywhere,” says Holczer, a
Hungarian-born pianist, who opened her then-modest music school in
Aurora 10 years ago. Today, it boasts more than 800 students and a
teaching staff of 35 who represent a range of nationalities.
“I fell in love with Aurora when I first saw it,” says Holczer. “There
are so many trees and lovely old historic homes. It was always my dream
to open a music school. Aurora is the perfect place.”
Residents have supported the growth of Holczer’s school by enrolling
their children in lessons and backing her efforts to make music
education an integral part of the community.
Those who live here value a well-rounded education, as evidenced by the
fact that the Aurora City School District
has been rated “excellent with
distinction” for 12 consecutive years by the Ohio Department of
Education. The school excels in many Division III sports and around 50
percent of students participate in school athletics programs.
The Aurora School of Music does its part by strengthening curriculum and
opportunities for students in both public and private music programs.
The Aurora Chamber of Commerce
and the fiscally sound local government
have provided support to the music school in the form of economic
development advice and exposure. But the entire community pitched in to
make sure the beautiful music continued during a financially rough time
for the school. In 2009, the company that supplied instruments on
commission asked for more money upfront or the school’s practice pianos
would be loaded into trucks and hauled away.
“The community raised more than $15,000 in four weeks to help us,” says
Christophe Waroquet, Holczer’s husband. “Every big and little business
in town donated something.”
The school “uses music like currency,” explains Holczer. The upscale
Barrington Golf Club
provide recital space for the music
students. In return, the school sends students specializing in chamber
music, rock or jazz to play for clients and residents at community
parties and business functions throughout the city.
Aurora has experienced a 60 percent boom in population since 1990, but
it still bears the hallmarks of its rural past. Visitors find homesteads
with split-rail fences across the street from new, upscale housing
developments. City leaders have also smartly preserved open spaces as
Aurora has grown.
Once a center of cheese production and a farming community into the
1960s, the city now owns more than 1,750 acres of parks and rural land.
Included in that total are the recently acquired 196-acre conservation
area, Aurora Golf Property and an active community garden area. The
463-acre Sunny Lake Park
— well known for its 68-acre lake and boathouse
— is becoming a regional destination.
The Moebius Nature Center
reflects Aurora’s commitment to education with
its preservation and nature programming for all ages. In addition, the
Audubon Society of Greater Cleveland owns a wooded wetland that’s home
to 58 nesting bird species.
“Our green areas are very important to our residents and those who come
to the city to work,” says Mayor James M. Fisher. “There isn’t anything I
would change about the city, except maybe adding more value in the form
of more walking or biking paths.”