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CSSMA COMMUNITY VOICES: featuring Remi & Julie (Support our 2023 Annual Appeal!)

Updated: Jan 17

This year’s Annual Appeal is all about shining a light on powerful voices in our community. Over the next few weeks, you will hear stories from CSSMA students, parents, and performers of all ages and disciplines. It is our hope that their words and experiences will inspire you to support the future of our Downtown haven for artistic expression, and illustrate the vital service this accessible, creative, communal space provides for people across NYC and beyond.

With this in mind, we sat down with two CSSMA community members, 7- year-old violin student Remi and his mother Julie. We discussed his musical journey, passion for the violin, being awarded the Harry Lookofsky Memorial Scholarship, and more! Keep reading to get to know Remi and learn more about how your generous support of this year’s Annual Appeal can help us continue to be a space for high-quality, accessible, and essential arts education for ALL.

Remi started playing the violin at 5 years old after his mother Julie, a pianist herself, tried, unsuccessfully, to teach him the piano at home. “We started during the COVID lockdown” said mom Julie “but he lost interest and wanted to try something different” also mentioning, with a laugh, the well-known phenomena of parents having difficulty teaching their own children. Together they set out to find a new instrument for Remi that he was passionate about pursuing. They came to the violin after being inspired by violinists they saw playing online including Ray Chen, Augustin Hadelich, Karolina Protsenko and Two Set Violin. These artists remain on Remi’s list of favorite violinists to this day!

The family came to Church Street School through their friends and neighbors. “CSSMA is the perfect place for us. We know other families here and it is close by, right in the community!” Eager to get started, Remi and his mom tried their hand at learning ‘Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star’ on their own the same day they rented his first violin. Remi recalls feeling a little nervous and out of place during his first violin lesson, but also curious and excited about learning to play.

Through his lessons with CSSMA Faculty Member Dr. Yu-Wei Hsiao (Dr. Yoyo), Remi has been able to build more confidence with the violin and have fun exploring this new instrument. Mom Julie credits a lot of Remi’s continued passion for the violin to his bond with Dr. Yoyo and his unique teaching style. “Dr. Yoyo is very encouraging and connects with Remi during lessons. We like that he caters lessons and materials to each student and focuses on building strong fundamentals.”

Remi demonstrated his love for the instrument when he shared: "I practice everyday [...] I completed my first ever 100 day practice challenge on May 25th. I am very proud of myself. When I practice, I like to pretend that I am a soloist giving a concert." Remi’s current favorite piece to play is ‘Rieding Concerto in B Minor, 1st Movement’. His favorite composition to listen to is ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’ which he hopes to be able to play himself someday!

At the end of last year, Remi was awarded the Harry Lookofsky Memorial Scholarship, a merit-based violin scholarship offered annually at CSSMA. Created by the Lookofsky Family in memory of world-renowned violinist Harry Lookofsky, this scholarship aims to support students ages 5 – 18 years with a demonstrated skill level and commitment to the study of the violin.

Upon finding out about being awarded the scholarship, Remi and Julie both remember feeling shocked, grateful, and excited. Although Remi was quick to point out his nerves at that moment as well. Mostly they felt honored to have been selected. During the application process, Remi became very inspired by the scholarships' namesake, his story of overcoming adversity, his dedication to the violin, and his long and fruitful career. Remi hopes to one day release his own violin album titled ‘The Most Exquisite 40 Minutes of Your Life’.

"I like the violin because it only has four strings but you can get very creative and make over 100 notes." - Remi discussing his passion for the violin in his Harry Lookofsky Scholarship Application.

Thank you to Remi and Julie for taking the time to sit down and chat with us about their experiences at CSSMA! It is an honor to be able to support and showcase students and families on their journey of lifelong creation and love for the arts.

Church Street School is and always has been a community, ethos, and space crafted by and for the people it serves. As we all continue to live through increasingly difficult and polarizing times, it is more important than ever that we take action to ensure accessible, communal spaces facilitating free expression and healing through the arts remain available to ALL.

This year for our Annual Appeal fundraiser, we are hoping to raise $75,000 by the end of the year to secure the future of CSSMA as a vital resource for years to come. Will you help us reach our goal with a tax-deducible donation? We cannot get there without your support. Click the button below to contribute today!

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