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Music In Our Schools Month

For 33 years, the National Association of Music Education has designated March as “Music In Our Schools Month” to raise awareness of the importance of music education for all children – and to remind citizens that schools is where all children should have access to music. In March 2018, the CSO will join with local educators and organizations and celebrate music in Chattanooga schools.


Read Across America Celebration

As a part of MIOSM, the CSO will celebrate music through story. CSO volunteers will read the story of Ketzel the Cat who Composed by Lesléa Newman and present the book to the music teacher or school library.

Readers will be available March 1 & 2. Please fill out the reservation form below to have someone visit your school to read and present the book.

Want to volunteer to visit a school to read? Please fill out the form below.

This story would be an excellent follow-up to the CSO’s Young People’s Concerts Compose Yourself!

Make your school's reading reservation

Volunteer to be a reader

MIOSM Readers

  • We'll partner with schools on March 1 & 2. Please let us know which days would work best in your schedule and if you would be available multiple days.
  • We'll ask readers to be available between 9a and 3p. We'll work around your schedules, but you'll be at a school for about an hour each and may read to several groups while at the school.
  • *subject to school's participation and scheduling availability
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

More information about Ketzel, the Cat Who Composed

Moshe Cotel was a composer who lived in a noisy building on a noisy street in a noisy city. But Moshe didn’t mind. Everything he heard was music to his ears. One day, while out for a walk, he heard a small, sad sound that he’d never heard before. It was a tiny kitten! “Come on, little Ketzel,” Moshe said, “I will take you home and we will make beautiful music together.” And they did—in a most surprising way. Inspired by a true story, Lesléa Newman and Amy June Bates craft an engaging tale of a creative man and the beloved cat who brings unexpected sweet notes his way.


Lesléa (pronounced “Lez-LEE-uh”) Newman was born in Brooklyn, NY and grew up there and on Long Island, graduating from Jericho High School in 1973. Right after graduation, she became a published author for the first time; several of her poems were published in Seventeen Magazine. Lesléa attended the University of Vermont and graduated in 1977 with a B.S. in Education. After graduation, she moved to Boulder, Co to attend Naropa Institute. In 1980,  Lesléa  received a  Certificate of Poetics from Naropa Institute, where she had the great honor of being Allen Ginsberg’s apprentice. Before moving to Western Massachusetts in 1983, Leslea lived in Boston and New York and had a variety of jobs including preschool teacher, secretary, waitress, freelance reporter, and sales clerk. She now lives in western Massachusetts, and from 2008-2010 served as the poet laureate of Northampton, MA. Currently she teaches writing for children and young adults at Spalding University’s brief-residency MFA in Writing program.

Lesléa always knew she wanted to be a writer and has always worked hard towards that goal. She writes in many different forms: picture books, poems, short stories and novels. She has published many books and won many awards. She says this to anyone who wants to be a writer: “Writing is hard work. It is also lots of fun and very rewarding. If you want to be a writer, you must practice your art. Try to do it every day. Do other things that support the writing life: read as much as you can, visit the library, go to readings at bookstores, join or start a writer’s group. Everyone has interesting and important stories to tell. Allow your writing to take you on a journey. Don’t try to control it–let your writing lead you to new and exciting places. The wonderful thing about writing is, you don’t need much: just a pen, a piece of paper, and your own imagination.” For more info on Lesléa Newman visit:

Ketzel, the cat (Ketzel means “Kitten” in Yiddish)

Why I wrote this book
I first learned of Ketzel’s story in a note that my Rabbi wrote for our synagogue’s monthly newsletter. Curious, I researched Ketzel’s story and found out many interesting things about her: she had six toes on each foot, and lived to be nineteen years old. She attended a performance of her composition and even received a royalty check! I am a cat-lover and a music-lover and as soon as I learned Ketzel’s story, I knew I would write a children’s book about her.

Podcast about Ketzel NYTimes article on KetzelBiography of Composer Moshe Cotel, Ketzel’s OwnerAbout the Sydney Taylor Book Award from AJL


Moment for Music

Celebrate Music in your school every day with Moment for Music. Developed by the CSO and tested by several Hamilton County music teachers last year, this includes a CD of musical samples curated for each school day and a corresponding book of information and other activities. Share these musical moments over your school’s PA system during announcements, at a morning assembly, or to kick off each music class for a short, fun way to put Music in Your School. Email for more information or to request a hard copy. Click here to access the online version!

PostludeMusic Educator Concert Night • Thursday, March 1, 2018 • Tivoli Theatre

Join the CSO for a celebration of music educators and music education on our Sibelius Symphony No. 5 concert. Teachers are invited to attend the VIP Lounge as celebrated guests of the CSO during intermission for free hors d’oeuvres and wine. Please mention the music educator discount when purchasing your ticket to ensure your RSVP.

During this concert, we’ll also highlight CSO Education programs and partners, including UNUM.  Audience members will have the opportunity to write a letter thanking their music teacher or take a selfie and share why music education is important – join us!

Music Teacher Professional Learning Community

You are also invited to attend the next Music Teacher Professional Learning Community event. Free to all teachers; non-music teachers are welcome to attend!

Being Your Program’s Best Advocate
March 1, 2018 • 4:30pm to 6:00pm • Tivoli Theatre Dance Studio
*Teachers invited to take dinner break, then return for CSO’s Music Education Night at the Sibeluis Symphony No. 5 concert (ticket purchase required)

Music Teacher Professional Learning Community RSVP

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Support Music In Schools

An easy way to show your support for music in local schools is to share your support with elected officials who, every year, make important decisions regarding music and arts in the schools.

Write a letter to your elected officials.

One of the best ways to show your support is to write a letter to your particular official.  Download these sample letters, change the appropriate information, and mail them to your City Councilperson, County Commissioner, or School Board Representative.  Consider including a short, handwritten note at the bottom describing how music has played a role in your life.

General letter of support:
Sample Letter 1
Letter encouraging County to adopt a District wide Music Supervisor:
Sample Letter 2

Stay up-to-date on current Music Education legislation.

In December, 2015, the U.S. House of Representatives passed, by overwhelming majority, the Every Child Succeeds Act (ESSA), an education bill that clearly articulates that music should be a part of every child’s education, no matter their personal circumstance and demonstrates clear intent to support the inclusion of the music and other art forms in a well-rounded education.

Read up on this important legislation and how it will affect music in our schools.

National Association for Music Education ESSA Info ESSA Fact Sheet for Music Education

Not sure who your elected official is?

Find your Chattanooga City Councilperson
Find your Hamilton County Commissioner, School Board Member, and other Tennessee elected officials
Email Federal and State Officials

Mailing Addresses:

Chattanooga City Council
100 Lindsay Street
Chattanooga, TN 37402

Hamilton County Commission
625 Georgia Avenue, #401
Chattanooga, TN 37402

Hamilton County School Board
3074 Hickory Valley Road
Chattanooga, TN 37421


Music Educators

CSO Musicians can be seen on the stage, but many can also be found in K-12 classrooms and universities.  Here, we spotlight three who regularly perform with the CSO.

Mary Benno, 2nd ViolinMary Benno

  •  I am currently teaching at Chattanooga School for the Liberal Arts.  I teach general music to grades K-4, 5th Grade beginning strings (violin, viola, cello, bass), 6-8th grade string orchestra, and 6-8th grade general music/music appreciation.
  • Music has always been a part of my life.  My mother was a pianist and organist and my father played cornet in grade school.  Mom and Dad insisted that I play an instrument of some sort.  I began with piano at age 5, then in 3rd grade was introduced to flute (but  braces kind of made playing flute tough), and then began playing the violin in 4th Most of my violin and orchestra experience was as a result of public school string programs.  Unfortunately, only 4 thriving public school string programs still exist in Hamilton County (most were cut due to budget).  I played violin in class and orchestra at Bess T. Shepherd Elementary, Tyner Junior High, Tyner High School, the Chattanooga Youth Orchestra, and UTC.   I’m definitely a product of our local community!
  •  I always tell my colleagues.  I teach music, not to produce virtuosic  prodigies, I teach music so that my students will one day become music consumers.  That is what I am training them to be.  I want them to listen to all kinds of music, to be able to express in words why they like the music they do, to make a voluntary effort to attend concerts as adults, and to be advocates for music in schools and the world around them.  When I see my students “grow-up” to be music consumers, that is my biggest reward.

Anthony Henderson, percussion

  • I am currently the band director at Soddy Daisy Middle School, grades 6-8.
  • Growing up I was exposed to a lot of music at home, although it was mainly pop. I was one of those kids who beat on tables, pots, and pans, so when the opportunity to join the school band came around I jumped at the chance to play a real percussion instrument. Being a performer always gave me a goal to work for growing up and that has shaped my attitudes toward many aspects of my life.
  • By my junior year of high school I had decided on a career as a music educator. I had excellent teachers in band and chorus going back to 5th grade and I knew I wanted to bring those experiences to the next generation.
  • The most rewarding aspect of my job is seeing young people continue in music even after leaving 8th grade. It means that their love for music is going to stay with them.
  • We are advocates every time the band performs in our community. It also requires constant promotion of the importance of our band and music program in our school and community. Parents need to understand the critical role music education plays in the development of their children.

Jessica Peck, 2nd ViolinIMG_3537

  • I currently teach at Chattanooga Center for Creative Arts; it is an arts magnet school in Chattanooga. I teach music theory and strings, grades 6-12. I also teach a Music Composition class and an AP theory class.
  • Music shapes my life in almost every aspect. Professionally, my life completely revolves around music. I have three jobs: Full time public school music teacher, CSO violin section player, and a part time job as a church pianist. In my “free time” I stay busy with additional gigs. Personally, since I spend so much time in music, many of my friends are musicians.Music has been a huge part of my life since I was 6. I began taking piano lessons from Ms. Francis Bondranko. At first I was terrified because she would hit my hands when I made mistakes; the tough love approach worked and eventually I fell in love with music. Around 8, I begged my mother to let me begin taking violin lessons. I loved my first teacher, Carry, and taking lessons from her for the first few years really solidified my love for violin. These early teachers of mine are no doubt the inspiration for forming my own career in music education.
  • Teaching is such a satisfying profession. We hear a lot in the news about how underpaid teachers are. This is true, but the rewards far outweigh the low pay.  The most rewarding aspect of the job is being able to watch my students succeed and know that I was part of that. Watching a program come together from the first rehearsal sight reading to the successful concert, getting Superior rating at festival, finding out students were accepted to Sr. Clinic or Governors school: these are all moments that make teaching so worth the long hours. Being able to watch as students gain confidence and joy in their lives through music is very rewarding.

Music Programs


Would you like to shine a light on your music program?

Email with a short paragraph.

photo credit: Mary Lauren Rethorn

photo credit: Mary Lauren Rethorn

Fifth Grade students from across Hamilton County came together on October 24, 2017 to make beautiful music in the inagural Hamilton Sings! music event.  Approximately 130 students participated; this is 4 percent of the fifth grade students from across the county.   Students were selected by their school’s music teacher because they exhibited a natural ability and interest in music performance.

Prior to attending Hamilton Sings! the students and their teachers prepared to sing six selections.  When they arrived at Hamilton Sings! they joined with all the other students for vocal rehearsals, instruction in recorder,  drumming ,mallet percussion skills, May pole dancing and even learned a “barbershop quartet” style song.    Instructors were Hamilton County elementary music teachers.

They learned to make music with lots of people, follow a very tight rehearsal schedule and met other students from across the county.   They closed the day with a public performance that included all they had learned.

The event would not have been possible without the support of the Public Education Foundation, 1st Baptist Church, Chattanooga and the Hamilton County Department of Education.