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New life for Music Cellar, thanks to community support

Guest Commentary

I am writing to express my thanks, with deep humility and gratefulness, for all of those who contributed to The Music Cellar gofundme. You’ve allowed us to purchase the building, and thus secure our home-base of 10 years, Millerton, N.Y. In a world where school budgets so often suffer, and the arts are considered extracurricular luxuries rather than the integral piece of humanity that they are, it gives me hope to see so many coming together to show their support and valuation of music education. It makes me proud to live in a community that sees the importance of music and creativity.

Rhythm, melody, musica…whatever we call it (some cultures don’t have separate words for music and dance, but rather one word that encompasses both)…It is a universal human behavior across the planet. Everyone that gave the Music Cellar a gift is also casting a vote for the propagation of an idea: The idea that musical skill-building provides rich benefits for the developing mind. Kids who are encouraged to vocalize, express, drum, strum and otherwise outwardly BE themselves in life, will be connected with humanity and ready to share ideas. Kids that jam together, learn to plan together. Group activity and a practice discipline provide a solid foundation and sense of self. My compatriots and I truly believe the world will be a better place, if we get as many youngsters as we can, playing in time with others.

I’ve seen the benefits first hand, working with the same kids for a decade or more. Kids who are encouraged early on to embrace their creative side, develop into confident/self assured individuals. Be it Lucian, who when I met at age 4 was dancing to Michael Jackson and learning guitar, and now has far surpassed my skills on the instrument, and studied chemistry at a university in St. Petersburg, and is headed off for a full ride at Case Western Reserve. There’s Aerianna, who started on ukulele, who now plays drums, guitar and trumpet and is one of kindest, politest, and most thoughtful young women I know (say hi to her in the tea room at Harney and Son’s cafe). These are just two examples of “case studies” I’ve witnessed with my own eyes, where a child who was taught music at an early age demonstrated a heap of benefits to their maturity and development on their way to adulthood. To know that so many people see the importance of musical activity is heartwarming.

There are truly too many people to thank, it would take up three pages. I need to give props, however, to some key players. Kealan Rooney, this institution would not exist if it wasn’t for your idea a decade ago, to start a camp for teaching music to kids, and I am infinitely grateful for your years of hard work and investment in the space and its mission. Not only did Kealan co-establish our original space, oversee the move to our new location, renovate, teach, and rehearse in the space, he also brought our mission outward, spending early mornings driving all over Region One to teach drumming at the many daycares. This program was started by Charlie Keil, another man we can attribute our existence to. Not only did Charlie spark my interest and early studies into rhythm and ethno-musicology 20 years ago, but he has been a supporter of the music cellar from the beginning, and kept our doors open through thick and thin. Charlie’s mission is to save the world by getting as many kids as we can singing and drumming, and his “born to groove” ethos is the book by which we operate. Lastly, we’d like to thank our landlord, and after all these years, certainly our friend, Victoria Soracco. Torey has rented her beautiful space to us for a decade now, and has always been supportive of our mission and enabling us to provide our services to the community. She was kind enough to accept our somewhat modest offer for the building, in lieu of several higher offers, because she wanted to see the Music Cellar continue its work. She held the building for us as we raised the funds to purchase it. We can’t thank her enough for years of enjoying this space, and for her generosity in prioritizing us as purchasers.

It brings me hope to watch my community come together in support of music education.

With utmost gratitude,

Jonathan Grusauskas (Jonny G)

 

Jonathan Grusauskas aka “Jonny G” is a full time musician who runs The Music Cellar in Millerton, a community music school and studio. He grew up in Falls Village and when not teaching lessons or singing songs at toddler jam, he tours the country in his rock band “lespecial” with his two bandmates Rory Dolan and Luke Bemand from Kent.

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