From Joseph Prusch:
To my fellow musicians and performers:
The Community School of Music and Art is in dire need of the public’s support at this time. I teach at the CSMA because I believe every human being - of any age, gender, ethnic background, and income level - deserves the opportunity to learn an instrument and to make music with others. My parents bent over backwards to give me the opportunity to play viola, including cooking meals for my private teacher when they could no longer afford to pay cash. But I believe all of us deserve the chance to study music with good teachers and pass on our heritage to future generations, not just those wealthy enough to afford such an education. The utopian society I know us humans can create is one in which all of us have a steady job where we work for 8 hours a day, sleep for 8 hours a day, and spend another 8 hours having fun dancing and writing, playing, and singing songs with and for one another, teaching our children the music of our past and encouraging them to create new music.
The CSMA makes such a future possible, but its mission has been seriously jeopardised by a nasty loophole in New York State law. An unexpected and costly elevator repair almost two years ago has steeply tilted the financial ship of the school, tying up our grants in the state legislature’s bureaucracy and forcing instructors to go over 18 months without steady compensation. This past November’s election handed control of the state senate to the Republicans, who have promised to cut spending on public education and the arts; and with the political hijinx of the past two-year session, we were lucky to see what grants we did.
Thom Baker, a voice teacher at the CSMA, has been managing a chamber music concert series on the first Fridays of each month to help bring in donations. Admission is free, but the faculty and our friends have put on some top-quality performances. But it has been extraordinarily tough to advertise to the public as we have no funds for advertising.
This Friday’s concert will feature two of my groups, Souk and the Fiddlers Three. We will pe playing Egyptian classical music, a new arrangement of a troubadour song (one of the few composed by a woman!) in Middle Eastern style, and then three new suites of fiddle tunes from Armenia, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Germany, France, Holland, and Turkey. To boot, all three of us in the Fiddlers Three have studied the Irish Sligo style with local fiddler Eamon MacGowan, the lead fiddler in local Irish band Traonach. So at the very least, you’ll get to hear Bulgarian oros in Sligo style!
I know this is a difficult time for us all, but if every man, woman, and child residing in Tompkins County came to the CSMA on Friday night and pitched in a quarter, it would more than solve the school’s financial woes. (But how would we fit them all?) If every student at Cornell and Ithaca College were to donate a dollar, it would cover the elevator deficit and give us another $6,000 for the scholarship fund. If each of you can tell a friend, and you all come and make a donation of up to $8 (the suggested donation), we could cover a week’s overhead, which gives the school a little of breathing room. Most importantly, if you can’t make it but at least spread the word to your friends by mouth, we can increase awareness in the commmunity that this incredible resource exists, and that there is a great way for the average citizen to make a difference and keep it alive.
There is yet another way you all can help, even if you can’t show up in person. You can email Jim Catalano at firstname.lastname@example.org and let him know that you support the CSMA’s efforts and would like to see more coverage of the situation in the Ithaca Times. If he gets an overwhelming number of one-line emails with that request, we can persuade him that the issue is important enough to be covered over the next few months. The school belongs to the community, but unless the community helps out, I fear our school will be lost.
Thank you all for reading this, and a Happy New Year to all of you.