Faculty Spotlight: Caili O’Doherty

Caili O’Doherty is one of a handful of exciting new teachers joining the Church Street School faculty this fall. In the following interview she discusses her approach to teaching piano, as well as her own musical development and blossoming career as one of New York’s most promising young pianists.

Toby Wine (TW): Talk a little about your philosophy and methods as a teacher.

Caili O’Doherty (CO): My approach comes from first, listening to music. Exposing kids to different types of music, then moving on to singing – being able to sing what they hear and connecting what they sing with what they can play on the piano. I teach music as a language, and kids understand that as a way of learning to improvise, and to improve. I ask them if they speak another language, and many of the kids at Church Street do. I’ll ask them “how do you learn?” and they’ll say “my mom speaks to me in French.” Music is the same; you have to listen to it to be able to play it and you have to practice and listen a lot to get better and to build vocabulary. I think it helps to reduce frustration at not being able to play everything right away, when I can get them to think about it that way. I relate playing the piano to vocal qualities, to speaking and communication, which is its purpose in my opinion.      Read more

Annual Appeal 2014

“Freedom of expression is the foundation of self-fulfillment… Church Street School offers us this opportunity.”
Harvey Keitel, Actor, Church Street School Parent.

Dear Friends of Church Street School –

As we embark on our 25th year, we reflect on the many years that music and art have filled this school and extended joyfully into the community around us. It is Church Street School’s mission to facilitate creativity, build community, and assure accessibility to students of all ages and economic means. This is why we:

  • provide free weekly choruses for children and seniors;
  • bring art and music to neighborhood events at no charge;
  • welcome the public to free programs at our open house events;
  • showcase our students in free recitals that are open to the public;
  • offer more than $50,000 annually in scholarships to students in need.

We do all of this through the generosity of our community. We do this because we know that when people come together through the arts, the world is a better place.

Please make a donation to Church Street School today. Help us continue our approach combining renowned and talented teaching artists, visionary leadership, and arts education based in best practices, which together make Church Street School an extraordinary cultural beacon for the next generation.


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If you would like to give at a different level please click here to make a donation now!

Your gift will show that creativity, community building, and access to the arts are important to you too.

Be a part of our future – support Church Street School today.

With Gratitude,

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Creativity…Community …Accessibility
Make more music. Make more art.

Faculty Spotlight: Laura Dreyer

Laura Dreyer teaches piano, saxophone, clarinet, and flute. She sat down with Director of Music Toby Wine recently to discuss her work at Church Street School and beyond.

TW: What was your early experience with music? How did you start playing?
LD: Well, I was adopted, and the story I’ve heard is that the social worker wanted to place me with a family that would appreciate art and music. My parents weren’t musicians, but they had a player piano. When I was a little kid I spent a lot of time looking at the piano rolls, learning melodies, learning about harmony, and about how the piano worked just from watching the player piano. By the time I was 6 they’d signed me up for lessons. The issue was that I had really good ears and could remember things so easily that I sort of breezed past the reading part of things – I was one of those kids. My friends would come over and show me their little Beethoven pieces they’d been working on for months, and I could play them in about a day. That kind of frustrated them. I kept it up and when I was 9, I started playing flute in school. I still wasn’t very good at reading because of my ear; I could just listen to people play and I could grab it. I could grab stuff off the radio and could play it on piano or guitar. I think that experience was good, because it was playful and fun rather than being regimented. I played because I wanted to play. Read more

Adult Open House

Monday, October 27th
6:30pm – 8:30pm

Interested in picking up an instrument again, or getting back into the swing of making music and art? Have you been feeling a lack of creativity but feel like you don’t know where to begin? Come by Church Street School on for a FREE night of art, music, wine, nibbles and fun and learn out about our affordable and flexible schedule adult classes!
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Faculty Spotlight: Z Behl

Z Behl started at CSSMA as a student, but now works as an educator in the Creative Arts Club and 72 Teens programs, as well as adult figure drawing. In this interview with Jason Hoffman (JH), Z shares her art making process along with some incites on teaching art. Read more

Faculty Spotlight: Jacob Pleakis

Jacob Pleakis teaches piano and coaches ensembles in Church Street’s Rock the House program. Energetic and always in demand, Jacob has been on the CSSMA faculty since 2008. For our first interview in a new series with CSSMA teaching artists and faculty, Jacob was interviewed by Director of Music Toby Wine.

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TW: So, you went to Purchase College, is that right?
JP: Yes, I did an undergrad in jazz studies there. I graduated in 2006 and then I went right to NYU where I did a graduate degree in composition and film scoring. I studied with a lot of different teachers, including Justin Dello Joio, who is a very good composer and orchestrator, and Ira Newborn, who did a lot of movies in the 80’s and 90’s, things like The Naked Gun and the Ace Ventura movies, the John Hughes movies – a lot of comedies.

TW: You’re originally from the Buffalo area?
JP: I am, I’m from Olean, about an hour and a half south of Buffalo. Read more

Virtual High Five To Our Supporters

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Our Office Recovery campaign was a success!  We surpassed our goal and raised over $30,000 to repair the flood damages to Church Street Schools Offices. We would like to take this opportunity to thank the people who have made this all possible with their generous donations.   Read more

Open Art in the Park

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Saturdays through the end of June, 11am to 2pm

Join Church Street School teachers for a FREE art project at the picnic tables in Washington Market Park every Saturday until the end of June. All ages welcome, parents or caregivers must accompany children for the duration of the project. In case of bad weather join us at Church Street School, 74 Warren St. We look forward to seeing you there!