Hello. My name is Jonathon Conant and I am the President and Co-Founder of Trapeze School New York. I would like to share the school's history and a bit about the people who have committed their lives to TSNY. The school is here today because of the cooperative efforts, shared vision and well-aligned goals of our co-founders (myself, Dave & Anne Brown) and others who've pitched in along the way.
In 1998 I visited a Club Med while on vacation. There I had my first flying experience, and saw that the flying trapeze was an amazing tool for helping people (re)discover what they might be capable of. Back home, I looked for a place to train and put my energy toward progressing the sport of flying. But I found that trapeze, while popular at resorts, was so far from the mainstream that it barely touched the consciousness of the American public.
With the help of a few folks in upstate New York, I purchased and then retrofitted a flying trapeze rig, cleared a piece of suitable land, hired a modest crew and purchased an insurance policy. After two years we had the confidence to offer a first class. It wasn't long before people were coming out of the woodwork to take a swing on the flying trapeze. While the classes I offered on that antique steel rig at the end of a dusty dirt road were filling up, the operation was far from being a viable business.
Building a School
In the second year of our upstate NY operation, a couple who had been flying on a regular basis showed interest in a partnership. Dave and Anne Brown inspired confidence and clearly had the work ethic required to create a real business with the untried model of selling flying trapeze classes.
Anne and Dave Brown
To give our business the best chance at success, it had to be in a place where everyone could see it -- the magic of flying would sell itself. New York City was an obvious but challenging choice. Dave and Anne put heroic effort into working with me to create the systems & processes for our first true school. In the meantime, we had to find a place to build in NYC.
For two years we searched for the right Manhattan location. We were tired, running out of time and money, and beginning to believe that the space simply didn't exist, when something wonderful happened. I received a call from the Hudson River Park Trust, a private park on Manhattan's West Side. They were inspired by our vision and wanted to hear more about our ideas. But still the right space eluded us. After seeing what was described as the last option, our hopes sank and we agreed to take one last look at the drawing board. The next day, we received another call. They had something new. They didn't think we would like it, but why not take a look? It was perfect: just big enough for our rig, near the metro and with spectacular views of the Hudson, lower Manhattan and the Statue of Liberty.
Through unbelievable efforts (and a bit of help form our new friends at the park) we managed to get the permitting approved -- a miracle considering the difficulty of that in NYC, combined with the completely mysterious activity we wanted to bring right into the heart of the city. 9/11 had occurred the year before, and I think our inspired enthusiasm was just the kind of vitalizing energy people needed. We resolved to give back more good energy than anyone could have ever hoped for.
By the summer of 2002, we were flying classes. Old and new crew joined us, all drawn to the crazy possibility of setting up a flying trapeze in Manhattan. By the end of that summer, we knew we were onto something that could be huge. Now it was up to us to figure out how to expand our programs and our school in a way that would keep it healthy. Our staff kept things running smoothly while we wrestled with the challenges of building a school. Then, more magic.
Sex and the City built an episode around our Manhattan school. This was a huge boon in a year when the cost of doing business was becoming a challenge.
Expanding Our School
In 2004 we received an offer from the Department of Recreation and Parks in Baltimore. They gave us our second home in a beautiful spot by Baltimore's Inner Harbor, with views of the waterfront and downtown.
In 2004 we also opened a school outside Boston, located in an amazing entertainment complex with light shows and music.
Meanwhile, our original NYC location was forced to move, then move again, but we always stayed open and kept the dream alive of flying in Manhattan. In fall 2007 we added a second location in midtown NYC. We now have a year-round indoor rig plus a seasonal outdoor rig overlooking the Hudson (we still have our views!)
In spring 2008 we landed an amazing space on the Santa Monica Pier. The view couldn't be better: students take off facing Santa Monica Bay, with the mountains ahead, the beach to the right and open ocean to the left. Flying into the sunset is literally possible at our school!
By the summer of 2008, we had 5 schools operating in four cities, over 50 employees, a world-class website, health insurance for trapeze instructors (a feat unheard of in our industry), shows for the public and a reputation for bringing joy to the world.
All along the way, huge efforts were offered by folks like Brian McVicker, Arlie Hart, CJ, Carol Haynes, Steve Hammes and others. Pulling together to do the impossible, time and time again. Many people have contributed to the evolution of the school, not least our students who put their faith in us. You are part of an effort that is nothing short of revolutionary.