By Lori Szepelak
HOLYOKE - The Community Music School of Springfield (CMSS) has a long waiting list of children who want to learn music, and with the generosity of area residents, those dreams may come true for many this year.
More than 225 students from across the valley will entertain area residents at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Holyoke on April 10 and 11, beginning at 9 a.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday. Students will participate in the 21st Annual Concerto Grosso, the major fundraising event of the school which raises funds for its financial aid program. The public is invited to cheer on the students of all ages during the two-day concert recital.
"People should make the effort to come and hear the performances because it is a wonderful weekend, filled with music and the pride of accomplishment," said Jeanie Connor, director of development and communications, CMSS, during an interview with Reminder Publications.
Connor explained that listening to the performances can be a "sampler" of the different instruments and styles of music taught at the school, and the entertainment is free and suitable for family entertainment.
Most of the performances are solo, but there are also small groups of trios and quartets as well as large ensembles such as String City, the children's choruses and a special presentation of "The Magic Flute" by preschoolers from the Prelude Preschool of the Arts on Sunday at 10.
Concerto Grosso is the largest single student concert of the year, as well as the most important fundraising event that CMSS organizes each year. School officials hope to raise $25,000 to provide music scholarships for area children to study music.
"This year CMSS has distributed more than $85,000 in direct financial aid and still has a long waiting list of families waiting to begin lessons," said Connor, adding that financial assistance is available for children up to age 18.
A new feature of Concerto Grosso offers online purchases which is particularly helpful for people out of town who wish to help. Purchases made from April 10 to 17 will count when customers fill in the ID number 10139525 at checkout and CMSS will receive a portion of the sale for its scholarship fund.
All proceeds raised from this event will benefit the financial aid fund which has provided scholarship assistance to more than 138 families this year alone, according to Connor. Instruction is offered for toddlers through senior adults on 30 instruments and voice, as well as special programs for preschoolers, music therapy for children and adults and private and group instruction. CMSS also has an ensemble program for intermediate and advanced musicians.
In addition to Reminder Publications, other media sponsors include The African American Point of View, The Republican and CBS TV3.
Connor noted that CMSS is a private, not-for-profit organization and does not receive funding from the city of Springfield. It is funded in part by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, the Springfield Cultural Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, as well as a number of private foundations and individual donors. The CMSS is a member of the National Guild of Community Schools of the Arts.
For more information on Concerto Grosso or any musical programs, call 732-8428 or visit www.communitymusicschool.com. The school is located at 127 State St., Springfield.
"We know the power of the arts to transform lives and open up all sorts of possibilities," said Connor. "With so little exposure to the arts in the public schools today, and the city schools in particular, some families may not realize what their youngsters are missing."
CMSS has 600 students who attend lessons each week - not only students from the city but also 33 surrounding towns.
"From classical to contemporary music, the school tries to serve every family's request," added Connor.
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