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Longmeadow resident named new director of Community Music School

Date: 8/27/2014

LONGMEADOW – After two years of searching for an executive director, the Community Music School of Springfield (CMSS) announced on Aug. 12 that town resident and interim director Eileen McCaffery will continue to lead the school in a more permanent capacity.

"Even in my interim position, I stepped in to just continue the good work,” McCaffery. “But now that I have the permanent position, we want to really start building. We want to continue to build to capacity.”

The Community Music School of Springfield’s foundation includes a three-decade history starting with its founder, Eric Bachrach, who assembled a group of 50 musicians and educators beginning in 1983, she said.

“One of the really beautiful things about this place is that the faculty [has been] investing in the community for many years,” McCaffery added.

CMSS offers music lessons for both adults and youth for a total of 33 instruments, as well as voice, she said. These instruments range from more common instruments such as guitar and piano to orchestral instruments such as the French horn and the bassoon.

“If you have babies or if you’re a 100-year-old person, there’s something here for you at every stage,” McCaffery stated.

The classes at CMSS also range from private lessons to group lessons with instruments such as banjo, ukulele, choruses, a variety of ensembles, and music therapy. 

There are roughly 650 students who take classes at CMSS, Anna Pearson, assistant to the executive director, said.  

According to school’s website, approximately 65 percent of students receive some type of financial aid or scholarship.

“There’s a lot of choices in music education, you can go here or you can go here,” McCaffery said. “Why come to the Community Music School? Because we are a community of musicians and you don’t get that when you study at home.”

The school itself is a four-story stone building located at the corner of Main Street and State Street in Springfield that was originally used as a bank. The Robyn Newhouse Hall, where many student and faculty performances take place, was the bank’s lobby. In the basement, the bank vaults have been repurposed as a music library.

“Our Community Music School of Springfield has one of the highest rates of providing financial aid in the country,” she said. “For a school of our size to provide the kind of support that we do, that’s because the community cares.”

As a nonprofit organization, CMSS receives and functions with the help of community grants, McCaffery said.

A technology grant for $27,000 from the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts recently allowed CMSS to update and launch its new website and upgrade its registration software, she said.

Once the registration software is updated, CMSS will be able to offer registration online, she added.

Additionally, the school has also received a general operating grant for $12,500 from the Massachusetts Cultural Council, McCaffery stated.

CMSS also takes part in partnerships with public schools such as Sonido Musica, a program that took place last year at three Springfield middle schools.

“We provided twice a week music instruction during the school day and the outcomings were stunning, the engagement of the children, the experience of ensemble, the community building, and also the sense of pride,” she said.

“And then, we tie it with our professional musicians, so the kids who are taking, who are learning violin, viola, cello, and recorder, were preforming backed up by our faculty,” she added.

Many of the students in that program had never taken music lessons before, she said.

“It’s about music itself,” Mary Ellen Miller, a founding faculty member at CMSS said. “Music is probably one of the most powerful energies. You go back and look at all the creation stories, the world came into being through sound.”

Lessons and classes begin Sept. 2, an open house is taking place on Sept. 6, and String City Orchestra auditions begin Sept. 10, Pearson added.

“Eileen’s demonstrated leadership, her experiences, her passionate commitment to this school, will ensure that CMSS will continue to nurture and foster creativity, diversity, and excellence,” Jean Deliso, president of CMMS’ Board of Directors, stated in a letter to the CMSS community.