Beloved Philanthropist Martin O’Grady Passes at 85

Beloved Philanthropist Martin O’Grady Passes at 85

Last Wednesday, March 23, the Bronx community lost a loving husband, father, and philanthropist.

Martin O’Grady, who operated a respectable plumbing company, leaves behind a legacy of generosity and selflessness through the Woodlawn School of Music, which he opened in 2004.

The school was created as a space for children to access music and dance lessons regardless of their financial situation.

O’Grady purchased a two-story home in Woodlawn at East 236th Street and converted the space to be used for low-cost dance instruction.

Josephine, O’Grady’s daughter, said the school was a product of her father’s upbringing back in Ireland.

“He grew up with nothing” said Josephine, “He had wanted to take music and dance lessons as a kid but wasn’t allowed, there was no money, and I think that inspired the music house.”

She remembers her father taking her then 3-year-old daughter to eurhythmics classes in Mount Vernon.

To take her daughter to accordion classes, the duo drove all the way to Rockland County every Tuesday.

Today the music house provides kids easy access to every imaginable musical instrument or dance they desire.

The non-profit is open seven days a week and serves about 500 local children.

“There was nowhere to go,” recalls Josephine, “The music house now has a little bit of everything.”

Josephine described her father, who passed at the age of 85, as a simple and generous man.

“One of the things he always said to us was to make hay while the sun was shining,” said Josephine, “He was right about that.. and where he came from it probably rains 350 days a year.”

His funeral, held at Farenga Funeral Home in Yonkers, was attended by family, friends, students and parents of students who attend the music house.

Josephine described the wake as a celebration of her father’s life, full of music, love, and Irish dancers.

“He touched a lot of lives, “said an emotional Josephine, “It was evident by how many people were there.”

The Music House is set to stay afloat with the help of Josephine and her family including her mother and brother Paul.

They are currently working to find donors to sponsor the non-profit, so they can continue Martin’s passion.

“It would be a shame not to keep it open, it’s a great thing for the community,” said Josephine, “My father’s ultimate goal was to keep kids off the streets.”

Reach Reporter Madeline Anthony at (718) 260-4591. E-mail her at