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The Community Music School at the Andy Anselmo Center for the Performing Arts

The quote was at the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t remember it verbatim. She was so ardent about this quote that she got up from her seat, walked over to a filing cabinet, and shuffled through papers for her copy of an article from what was once known as The Buffalo Times.

Upon retrieving the article, Jennifer Koch, Executive Director of Buffalo’s Community Music School (CMS), began by saying, “In March of 1931, The Buffalo Times printed a quote from our first president, who stated ‘during the present economical depression, it has been rather difficult to raise money for the school. People say when families need bread and butter, why give them music? The point is that our children are still finding it possible to gather together their little 35 cent fees for their weekly lesson. If music is as important as that to them, isn’t it imperative that we should maintain the school so that music may be theirs for the taking?’”

After pondering the significance of the words, Koch then expressed the importance of music and music therapy, especially in the lives of those who have developmental or physical challenges. “Music therapy is a unique and creative way to help people overcome different challenges. Sometimes, it is the only way you can reach somebody.”

CMS, located on Elmwood Avenue, is the only true community music school in Western New York, being chartered by the NYS Board of Regents. Servicing roughly 320 students, CMS provides guidance via a plethora of instruments, along with vocal instructions. They have a rapidly growing music therapy program that helps people with all different diagnoses, and have partnered with after school programs at local schools.

CMS is planning for a major renovation and expansion. According to Koch, six apartments will be converted into studio spaces, and acoustically engineered for the instruments that will be played in them. The building’s third floor will be transformed into a 150-seat performance venue. There will be an addition of a one-story glass performance space, which will engage the Elmwood community. The school has free monthly recitals that will take place this in the space, as well as their class “Music, My Grownup & Me,” a class for birth-4 year olds.

“People will see us. People will hear us. They will see some music happening,” she said.

This month, CMS received a challenge gift from an anonymous donor of $100,000. All gifts to the capital campaign received from January 1 to July 1, 2017 will be matched dollar to dollar up to $100,000. “We are very excited to kick off our capital campaign with this generous challenge from a true supporter of music education.”

The building which is home to CMS was built in 1904 as a six unit apartment building. You may have overlooked CMS, as it still resembles an apartment building, and the next four apartment buildings over look exactly the same. With the new addition to the building, not only will the school stick out but will also be another avenue for free, sidewalk concerts.


The project also received a generous seven figure donation from former student Andy Anselmo, founder of The Singers Forum Vocal Academy in New York and Boston who is known for coaching celebrities such as Alec Baldwin, Phyllis Diller, Gloria Vanderbilt, to name a few. To show their appreciation, The Community Music School will now be housed inside the “Andy Anselmo Center for the Performing Arts”.

The Community Music School at the Andy Anselmo Center for the Performing Arts | 415 Elmwood Avenue | Buffalo, New York | (716) 884-4887 | Facebook

Written by Sara Ali

Sara Ali

Sara is a freelance writer living on Buffalo's West Side. She works full time in human services, part time in freelance, and is currently working towards her endeavor to create a nonprofit focused on telling the stories of the refugee and immigrant communities.

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