Essay: Participants at City Music Center make beautiful music together

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I push open the doors of the Mary Pappert School of Music and step in, welcomed by the familiar sight of the foyer I have seen every Saturday morning for almost 10 years. The smell of coffee and Oakmont Bakery doughnuts beckons me from around the corner, but I will be late to class if I stop. With my sister Izzy behind me, carrying her violin, I hurry up the two flights of steps to the second floor.

Even in the stairwell I can hear it: Music, produced by instruments and voices above a multitude of other sounds. Feet tap above me on the stairs; the elevator dings and slides open to reveal a bassist with a huge, heavy case. As I ascend the stairwell the noise grows even louder. The click of doors shutting behind students, the voices rising and falling and floating through the air in English, Russian, French and Spanish, the rumble of our favorite janitor George's trash can, the shrieks and squawks of children zipping through the hallways. And above all the tones of the piano and violin and trumpet and cello and saxophone and tuba and viola -- the notes of a thousand songs mingle together as one.

I am at City Music Center, a comprehensive music school at Duquesne University. Co-founded by Sally Stone Worsing and Natasha Snitkovsky in 1989 and currently directed by Christopher Bromley, the school allows students of all ages and musical abilities to receive a stellar music education.

The curriculum includes private instruction on a specific instrument, core music theory lessons, group and ensemble classes, and multiple opportunities to perform in recitals for family and friends. Students progress through several levels, usually parallel with their grade in school, and receive a diploma upon completion. As a high school junior, I am on the verge of graduating from CMC curriculum as well.

My first class of the day is chamber music with Freya Samuels and my sister. Izzy plays her violin, Mrs. Samuels plays the cello, and I play the piano. Our trio has been together for 11/2 years -- one of many emsembles at the center.

Next I have music history, then a music theory class. Our teacher Brian Buckley discusses Gregorian chants and then explains the notation of figured bass.

Last is my private lesson with my teacher of four years, Kazumi Petinaux. She greets me as warmly as ever. I sit at one piano and she sits at another, ready to demonstrate a technique or sound she wants me to learn. I begin by playing the third movement of a Beethoven concerto.

I haven't practiced as much as I should have, and I'm forced to go much slower than the written tempo. But Mrs. Petinaux patiently coaches me through the notes, reminding me to play with dynamics so when I know the piece better, the louds and softs will already be ingrained in my head.

Next is an Impromptu by Schumann. I've been playing it for several months, and it's my favorite. The complexity of the melody and notes is incredible, considering he improvised it on the spot -- the enormity of that feat might be why I love it so much. I think I'm close to mastering it, but Mrs. Petinaux always points out something small I can improve upon. Quite the opposite of discouraging me, her attention to detail is inspiring. The slightest improvement truly makes quite a difference.

The CMC faculty never ceases to amaze me. It seems as though there is a teacher for every aspect of music: private instructors, group instructors, music theory instructors, music technology instructors. And each is highly qualified. Pittsburgh Symphony members and university and freelance teachers make up the staff.

Our hour is over and I wish Mrs. Petinaux a good weekend as I leave. I head downstairs to settle into one of the comfy chairs conveniently scattered around the building and wait for my sister to be done with her private lesson. As I wait, I wave goodbye to various people: Joseph Petron, a former teacher of my sister's; my classmate Roman; Jayne McDonald, the eurhythmics teacher who always brings to mind memories of solfege and singing.

To me this is the best part about City Music Center. The community might grow, but I still know almost every teacher and student by name and definitely by sight. Seeing each other bright and early every Saturday morning does have a way of building a bond.


Marisa Acevedo, 16, is a junior at Fox Chapel Area High School. This essay was written during last fall's Allegheny Intermediate Unit gifted and talented journalistic writing and reporting apprenticeship taught by professor Helen Fallon at Point Park University.


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