For the past 30 years at Church Street School, we have committed to spreading the positive power of music and art to all. To reaffirm that commitment, we will be posting new art & music pieces and resources here every Wednesday. It is our hope that they will lighten your spirit, keep you entertained, and remind you of the power of the arts in these uncertain times.

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*If you want to learn more about our faculty members please click on their names at the top of each post!


Wednesday, May 13th

We are so excited to bring you the first installment of CSSMA Spotlight Collaborations! This week you will meet Music Faculty Member Sam Friend & CSSMA Student, Mukundi Ramaite aka LENKIE.

Mukundi, who is 17 and heading to the University of Southern California for college, has been taking voice and guitar lessons with Sam since Spring 2018 and they’ve done a lot together in that short time!

When asked about the process of working with Sam, Mukundi writes: It has been a really fun adventure. All of it has been collaborating and trying to meet each other in the middle. Sam’s unbridled belief in me as an artist is invaluable and part of what makes it all so fun to do. More importantly, my dream of connecting with people through music has never been more tangible. I’ve learned a lot.

When asked about the process of working with Mukundi, Sam writes: Working with Mukundi has been invigorating. Re-experiencing and re-approaching the journey from early songwriting through recording and releasing music with such a talented young person has further revealed the depths and vast dimensions music can offer.

“Trouble” is Mukundi’s third release as LENKIE and can be heard below. Check her other songs out anywhere you stream your music!

Mukundi writes: I see “Trouble” as a sort of support group for the romantically self-destructive. For me, the song is so much about being able to laugh at myself for my poor romantic decision making skills, being able to dance my way through it and hopefully be able to connect with people.
Sam writes: This is the third one we worked on together. This one really stood out with its brooding framing of an epic hook. That contrast and connective tissue was highlighted through a production palette that emphasized momentum and buoyancy.

Below enjoy some more art and music inspirations from Sam and Mukundi!

Sam’s pick:
“An inspired experience with art occurred recently for me at an exhibit by Diedrick Brackens at New Museum. It struck a profound chord. His use of textile materials and weaving techniques brought to light narratives that resonated with me on both aesthetic and structural levels, and left an impression that continues to evolve in my memory.”
Mukundi’s pick:
‘Skankin’ Sweet’ by Chronixx is my go to song when I’m down in the dumps. Now more than ever with everything that’s going on it rings truer than ever. It’s about dancing and grooving all your problems away. I need that, I think we all do and to me that’s all that music is. Music, specifically songs like this one, have been an important grounding point for me. I may not be able to do anything right now, and the “senioritis” is whooping me, but it doesn’t have to burden me.”

Wednesday, May 6th

Our first contributor today is Phil Stewart. Phil teaches drums, band and guitar at CSSMA. You may have seen skills at our monthly open mic nights! Phil is from Canada and is a huge rock fan. He chose a song from the Canadian prog rock band: Max Webster called Astonish Me off of their 1978 album Mutiny Up My Sleeve.
Phil Says: This is my favorite song of all time! This band captured my heart and soul from the first time I heard them. I was literally playing their albums by age three. This tune takes me to a place that seems otherworldly especially the piano intro and the middle soft breakdown section!

Mother’s Day is coming up and this next piece comes to us from our friend Babsi Loisch. She is an artist who made the ‘lactation room’ at CalArts into an art installation while she was a grad student and new mom!

Of this piece, Babsi writes: “It was about laying bare my experience in the strange, cozy, blurred zone of not being just one, but also not yet being two that is mirrored in this intimate space.” Click here to read more and discover her work.

Wednesday, April 29th

We hope that you are enjoying these Wednesday inspirations as much as we are enjoying putting them together!  Just tuning in?
Here is a quick recap of what these emails are all about:
  • Every week you’ll hear from a faculty/staff member or CSSMA friend about some piece/pieces of music, art or anything that inspires them.
  • These emails hopefully offer a chance to take a break and take a breath and be taken away from it all through the power of the arts, something we deeply value at CSSMA.
  • Contributors will share why these piece(s) are important to them and you will get to experience these works for yourself. Hopefully you will learn a little bit about the person sharing and then hear, see or read something that will also inspire you…and the joy spreads from there!

Let’s take a break now and watch this beautiful Ted Talk from Conductor Benjamin Zander, currently of Musical Director of The Boston Philharmonic & The Boston Philharmonic Youth Orchestra. He takes a packed audience on wonderful journey to describe the transformational power of music. Enjoy:

Wednesday, April 22nd

This week, Michael Eaton is offering several pieces from two of his inspirations: Steve Reich & Marc Copeland. Take a listen to these incredible pieces of music and read about what has moved Michael to share them!
Steve Reich, Six Marimbas from “Sextet/Six Marimbas” (Nonesuch)
Michael says: Steve Reich has been one of my core inspirations in writing for my own band, Individuation. “Six Marimbas” is a re-scoring of “Six Pianos”, completed a few years prior. I prefer this version for the warmer and more sustained sound of the marimba and what it does to the character of the piece. The beautiful field of Six Marimbas brings to mind for me what Sigmund Freud called “the oceanic feeling”, almost like a religious ecstasy or vibrant, timeless serenity; picture gentle ocean waves crashing against a beach or leaves blowing in the wind.

Michael continues: The primary emphasis here is on slowly shifting textures, with parts of rhythms distributed among each of the six players that together form a composite whole. It might sound lulling or relaxing, but pulling this off in performance would require a lot of rehearsal and familiarity to make it work. Often in the score Reich does not indicate a definite number of repeats for a given passage; he leaves it up to the ensemble to determine what feels right in the moment, but the paradox is that this is otherwise a highly controlled work. The chords change so slowly and quietly you may not notice if you are not actively listening.

Marc Copland & Greg Osby,
Round She Goes and Whatever the Moon from “Round and Round” (Nagel Heyer)

Michael says: Copland inhabits a very elegant post-impressionist harmonic universe. Although he often records and concertizes in piano trio settings, he made a number of duo albums in the early 2000s, including this one from 2003, which pairs him with saxophonist Greg Osby. Copland and Osby make natural duo partners; Copland’s glassy and austere touch set offset against Osby’s warm, full bodied alto sound that tapers to a razor point. Their writing and improvising is filled with subtlety and relaxed artistic mastery.  Copland’s style exploits a murky lyricism, while Osby plays with fluid geometry. For example, I love the subtle bitonality (two keys at once) in the first four measures of “Round She Goes”, or the way Osby’s jagged chromaticism suddenly shifts from the inside to the margins of the chords. Jazz can often be joyous and high energy music, but the mood here is introspective; hauntingly grey and yearning, but pulsating and alive.

And of course, we have to wish everyone a Happy Earth Day! Perhaps you have been making earth-inspired art at home today….If you’re looking for more art prompts…please check out our social media posts! We will always have a project for you and the fam on Wednesdays so give us a follow and stay inspired!
Please join our online community and share!
Connect with us on Facebook and Instagram for even more content. #CSSMA #CSSMAathome
Have something you think might inspire others and would fit in this newsletter? Email:
Stay well everyone!

Wednesday, April 15th

Today’s opening selections show some love for NYC and come from another amazing Church Street School Music Faculty Member Jane Irving:
Jane, (originally from Australia), writes: I have felt a heightened sense of solidarity for New York amidst this dark time. I am glad to be here now – it never occurred to me to return to Australia. Glenn Close recently posted a short video on Instagram sharing memories of her early days in New York. Here is an excerpt from that post:
“…The city that nurtured me has always brought me huge comfort. Comfort in the crowds in the subways, comfort walking along the streets -comfort in my neighborhood. People just let you be who you are. It’s about the absolute thrill, the joy of being able to do what you want most in the world. To do and what you feel is why you’re here. To have that chance, that’s New York for me. The city of endless adventure and endless possibility. It challenges you, you gotta live up to it. You gotta learn your way.” -Actress Glenn Close

Take a look at the full video here:

Jane says: And so, to continue the theme of my bond with New York, here is the track ‘Manhattan’ from George Russell’s 1959 album New York N.Y. Narrated by the John Hendricks. American jazz singer, lyricist and the most prolific exponent of the art of vocalese. “It may seem like a cold town, but man, let me tell you, it’s a soul town.” -Jon Hendricks

And here is a final touch from Keith Haring, an artist who is known for coming into his own in the streets of NYC. You see a lot of bold hearts and animated figures in his work and this image just seems to say…”it’s ok, I got you”. If you haven’t yet opened your windows at 7 pm to salute our frontline workers…it is a powerful way to say “thank you and we got you too”.
We hope you are staying healthy and well and continue to express yourselves through whatever creative channels suit you best. We are here for you at CSSMA and sending love to you and yours!

Wednesday, April 8th

Today’s first of several sonic selections is from
Church Street SchoolMusic Faculty Member Abby Payne:
Abby chose the song “I Concentrate on You” as sung by great American Jazz Singer, Ella Fitsgerald. The tune was written by Cole Porter for the 1940 film Broadway Melody of 1940. In 1956, Ella put out a studio album called Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Songbook. This was the first studio album ever released by the famed jazz label, Verve Records. Abby is particularly struck by the songs’ “sophisticated songwriting, poetic lyrics and a reminder to focus on those we love in times of difficulty.” Please enjoy the tune!

Our second selection comes on the heels of losing one of America’s most beloved folk singer-songwriters, John Prine. John got his start in the 1970’s at a Chicago music club while still working days as a mail man. He was beloved for his expertly and simply crafted songs that chronicled the human condition and he was known for his humility and humor. Take a look at this interview from 2016 where Prine speaks with inCommon & Mike Leonard about the creative process…magic words for Church Street Schoolers.

Finally, we must give a huge bow to the incredible Bill Withers…another music legend we lost too soon. Like the artists above, his words, music and soul resonate profoundly for so many right now. In the spirit of togetherness…please take a watch and a listen to this beautiful version of Lean On Me from 1973. For all who are celebrating today and through the weekend, we send you lots of warmth and love to you and your family near and far.

Wednesday, April 1

Today’s selections come from Church Street School
Teaching Artist Natalie Casagran Lopez:

Natalie writes: “I wanted to include these images of Mary Nohl’s house in Wisconsin. Nohl was never concerned with reaching commercial fame, but she was an incredibly invested artist and literally turned her home– and the land it occupied– into an entire artwork. As we navigate tapping into creative sources within us and our individual homes, let’s look to Nohl’s resourcefulness and commitment to her fantastical art-world.”

But Wait! There’s More!

Natalie continues: “In hopes of sharing some beauty and calm, I would like to offer this enactment of a score by Pauline Oliveros’, The Seminal Experimental Composer, at the Met Cloisters from 2017.
Oliveros’ ‘Sonic Meditations’ proposed an awareness of environment, sound, and self and pushed forward the idea that deep listening is a grounding technique which can encourage deliberate collaboration and presence of thought. Also, it’s so comforting seeing one of the most beautiful spaces in NYC activated!”

Wednesday, March 25th

Music by Styx

“My student Cooper and I have been working on this song together. It has a simple but very effective piano intro and a hilarious but powerful transition. We stumbled upon these lyrics: But we’ll try best that we can. To carry on…’ Yes we will”

Jung Sun Kang

Monday, March 23rd

Art by Susan Duncan, Music by Chopin

“I believe in the therapeutic power of the arts; I go to music and art to help ground me in a time of stress. Today I am sharing the artwork of our beloved Susan Duncan, along with one of my favorite pieces of piano music, the exquisite Chopin Nocturne No. 1 in B flat minor. Make more music. Make more art.”

-Lisa Ecklund-Flores

Friday, March 20th

Art from our Church Street School Community