Faculty Spotlight: Abby Payne

Abby Payne is an active musician and performer around NYC, and 2015 marks her tenth year teaching at Church Street School.  This fall, you will find her teaching private piano and voice lessons. In the following interview, she discusses her training, unique projects, and her approach to teaching. Also, check out her videos below!

954770_10151593762948155_734406791_nGrace Rezendes (GR): What was your early experience with music? How did you start playing/singing?

Abby Payne (AP): I grew up in a very musical household, where music was part of our daily lives.  There was always someone singing, playing piano, or practicing some other instrument.  My older sister and I would harmonize on old hymns and pop tunes just for fun, and plinking around on our old upright piano was always a source of amusement.  We also often sang as a family at church events or at special holiday programs.  I played flute in school and sang in chorus, and our seasonal concerts were always an exciting highlight for me.

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Student Spotlight: Rosa Burke

Rosa Burke is 17 years old and studies piano at Church Street School with Tereza Lee Kirkhum. She recently sat down with Director of Music Toby Wine for an informal interview.

TW: Tell me about your earliest musical experiences.

RB: My father always played Irish music in the house, and his brother gave me an Irish flute, so that was the first instrument I picked up, when I was seven. My father played lots of records but also played the guitar. His whole side of the family makes it their purpose to be musical.

TW: Were you taking lessons or just playing informally?

RB: No – the first time I took music lessons was about six months later, when I started playing violin, which I studied for about three years. Ultimately I just wanted to focus on piano. I had studied with (current Church Street School violin instructor) Rosi Hertlein when she was at the JCC (Jewish Community Center) on Staten Island. I also studied piano at Snug Harbor Cultural Center.

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Faculty Spotlight: Alexis Kandra

Alexis Kandra has been a beloved and talented art teacher at Church Street School since 2013. This fall, you will find her teaching Afterschool Creative Arts Club and Toddler Visual Art. In the following interview, she discusses her unique training, exciting upcoming projects, and how her students inspire her.

Kandra-HeadshotGrace Rezendes (GR): When did you first get interested in art? Were you influenced by a certain person or experience?

Alexis Kandra (AK): I was first interested in art- well I guess it was for as long as I can remember. My mom says that when I was two years old, I was drawing, and I could understand the concept of layering things, like where you draw something behind another object. So because I was interested so early, I took a lot of art classes when I was little and continued to stay interested in it.

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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

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

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