Music Lessons in Centerbrook, CT

Throughout this anniversary year, we highlight aspects of the school’s 40-year history. CMS Music Director and piano, percussion, and jazz instructor Tom Briggs sat down with us recently to reflect.

CMS: Tell us about your association with CMS over these 40 years.

Tom: I joined the faculty in 1984 soon after the school was founded and have taught here throughout its developments over the next 40 years.

CMS: What was it like teaching here in those early days?

Tom: It was just a few of us teaching in a basement—Paddy Hurley, Nancy Thomas, and then me teaching drum lessons primarily to little kids. It was a busy time for me personally: I was also on the road a lot with the Coast Guard Band, but I’d write drum and piano methods and etude books on the bus, and then use them for my teaching at CMS. My wife Gail handled the administrative work for CMS during several of those years.

CMS:  What has motivated you to remain committed to the school for this extended period?

Tom: Throughout my early career as we were raising a family, teaching at CMS allowed me and my family to connect with this local community where we live. The variety of students I teach has kept it interesting all these years—to teach a lesson with a high level jazz piano student immediately followed by a beginning drummer keeps things challenging. I also enjoy the opportunities to organize faculty and student performances, and create musical arrangements for those events.

CMS:  How is the school different now than it was 40 years ago?

Tom: CMS has definitely grown! It was originally fairly localized. Now we have teachers and students that come from everywhere, sometimes an hour or so away. It also seems now that we have fewer high school students taking music lessons while sports and electronics increasingly compete for their time. Instead, we see more younger students, as well as adults/retirees.

CMS:   Any other thoughts as the school celebrates 40 years?

Tom: I’m glad CMS is still here, especially after Covid. We’re so much more visible and stable than we used to be. And I’m excited to play drums with Todd Ellison as part of the 40th Anniversary concert at the Kate in October!  

CMS: Thank you, Tom, for your incredible contributions over these 40 years to the musical life and education of our community. You’ve been key to the success of CMS!

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