An Open Letter to CCSD Regarding Proposed Music Education Cuts

An Open Letter to Superintendent Matt Reilly and the Cazenovia Central School District Board,

Although it is hard for me to believe, it has been nearly ten years since I’ve left the familiar, comforting halls of Cazenovia High School and ventured off into the ‘real world.’ Over these past ten years, I have pursued a career as a professional musician. In that time, I have toured South America with a college choir, worked as an arts administrator with one of the leading classical music publishers, and have held artist residencies in New York, Pennsylvania, and Portugal, among other places. Music I’ve composed has been performed on stages and screens throughout the world, most recently at the prestigious Symphony Hall in Birmingham, England, widely considered to be one of the finest concert halls in the world.

I know I am not alone in this success, friends and fellow classmates of mine from Cazenovia have continued to pursue music in a variety of professional contexts. Scott McCreary, Class of ’07, recently completed a run as Robbie Gould in the national tour of the musical, Dirty Dancing, and performed on NBC’s The Sing-Off, Season 2, as a member of the internationally renown Yale Whiffenpoofs. Matthew Abernathy, Class of ‘09, is finishing up his Masters in Conducting at the internationally known University of Michigan. Countless others have dedicated themselves to music education, becoming teachers in Central New York and beyond, educating the next generation of young musicians.

The foundation of this success has been our time in the music programs at Cazenovia schools. I worked closely with Ellen Dougherty and Kathy Dinardo as a student. While I wish them nothing but the best in their retirement, their leaving represents a tremendous loss to Cazenovia’s musical community. I strongly urge the board to find worthwhile replacements for both positions to continue Cazenovia’s strong tradition of music education.

As a student at Cazenovia, I was blessed with the opportunity to participate in the concert band, middle school band, fifth and sixth grade band, middle school choir, concert choir, orchestra, and the middle school and high school musicals. I wrote and performed my own songs at Common Grounds cafe and participated in a variety other musical groups. I spent my Saturdays in the bleachers cheering on our football team with the pep band and spent my holiday seasons singing around Cazenovia and Central New York with the chamber choir. Since leaving Cazenovia, I have watched with great pride, as the music program, under the leadership of Teresa Campbell, has not only maintained this level of opportunity but has continued to grow, with the creation of an audition only wind ensemble and the construction of new music facilities. This investment in music education should be celebrated and honored.

When I was a student, I took these experiences for granted. It wasn’t until I left Cazenovia that I realized how unique my time there was. I’ve worked as teaching artist in schools in the United States and England without strong music programs and have seen students adrift, desperate for that special spark that music education can provide. Cazenovia must continue the investment in our own young people’s music educational experience to prevent this from happening in our own schools. By Superintendent Reilly’s own admission, as quoted in the Cazenovia Republican, proposed budget cuts “will effect” the music programs in Cazenovia. (Cazenovia Republican, 3/28/16)

We mustn’t take for granted the truly special place that we’ve created in Cazenovia. I understand that taxes are always too high and the need to save money is always present. I understand that economic times are tough and difficult decisions need to be made in order to balance budgets and ensure the sustainability of Cazenovia Central School District. However, I implore you to run towards, not away, from what makes growing up in Cazenovia, NY a wonderfully unique experience. The depth and diversity of the music program in Cazenovia is something to be cherished and nurtured, something that all Cazenovians should be proud of. I strongly urge you to reconsider proposed cuts to the music program and to maintain the current level of investment for future generations of young Cazenovian musicians.


Christopher Cresswell
Composer/Sound Artist/Teaching Artist
Cazenovia High School
Class of 2006


Matt Reilly, Superintendent, Cazenovia Central School District
Jason Emerson, Editor, Cazenovia Republican
Eric Knuth, Principal, Cazenovia High School
Dr. Jean Regan, Principal, Cazenovia Middle School
Teresa Campbell, Fine Arts Director, Cazenovia High School
Kevin Johnson, Band Director, Cazenovia High School