More than 2,400 years ago Plato wrote: “Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything.”
In talking with Sarah Prusasky, the new music teacher at Carmel Middle School, one gets the impression that she has been greatly influenced by the classical Greek philosopher.
“I think music is really important to our well-being,” says Ms. Prusasky.
Ms. Prusasky embodies many facets of music. She is not only an experienced teacher, but she is also a musician who plays numerous instruments well.
At Carmel Middle School she is teaching Advanced Band, Advanced String, the Cougar Cub Band and Cougar Cub Strings. In all, that totals about 120 students.
Ms. Prusasky can proficiently play flute, clarinet, saxophones, trumpet, euphonium, percussion, guitar and string instruments. That depth and breadth allow her to nurture her students and develop their skills as musicians.
After seven years of teaching in New York City she relocated to the Monterey Peninsula last August.
On September 10, Nancy Fowler, the popular and longtime music teacher at Carmel Middle School tragically died in a traffic accident in Castroville. Mrs. Fowler had been at the school since 2004. Her passing was a shock to the entire school community – fellow teachers, other staff members, students and parents.
Debbie Cirimele temporarily filled in for about a month, but a full-time replacement was needed.
“We received applications from 11 candidates, all of whom were qualified,” says Principal Ken Griest. Among them was Ms. Prusasky, who brought with her a stellar resume.
“She is very forward thinking, very organized and very meticulous,” Mr. Griest says of Ms. Prusasky, who started in mid-October.
Ms. Prusasky says her transition was “seamless” and she expresses appreciation for Debbie Cirimele for easing her arrival.
“She helped the kids through the hard times,” says Ms. Prusasky. “She helped me navigate the sensitive nature” of the circumstances.
“The kids are really nice, sweet and helpful,” Ms. Prusasky says. “They are receptive and caring and have adjusted well. I really enjoy getting to know them.”
Although she traded the East Coast for the West Coast, in the classroom Ms. Prusasky is on familiar terrain.
“Teaching wise, it was what I already knew,” she says. “I like to develop musicians through repertoire. I will pick pieces that I want them to learn.” That may consist of ballads, traditional pieces and classical works.
“My consistent aim as a music educator is to build a trusting, inquisitive musical community that guides each student to explore and engage with the musical canon. Under my guidance, musicians gain the tools and confidence to express themselves creatively, both within the learning context and via performance.”
Ms. Prusasky spent the prior four years as music co-director of The Anderson School, a public school in Manhattan that draws gifted and talented children, grades K-8, from throughout New York City’s five boroughs.
At the Anderson School she was the creative force behind and director of a
full-scale musical theatre program and also led the concert and symphonic bands, advanced orchestra and guitar ensembles. Ms. Prusasky also created and led a lunch period composition club in which students arranged and performed their own music.
Prior to The Anderson School she taught music for three years at an intermediate school, similar to a middle school, in Brooklyn, N.Y. There, she also developed curricula for English Language Learners, who made up about 35 percent of the student body.
Ms. Prusasky received a Bachelor’s of Arts degree with a double major in music and French in 2006 from Hamilton College, a small, prestigious liberal arts college in central New York State. She spent her junior year studying at the Sorbonne in Paris.
Ms. Prusasky earned a Master’s of Arts degree in 2008 in Music and Music Education from Teachers College at Columbia University in New York City, simultaneously working as a teaching assistant in conducting.
Ms. Prusasky says music first became a key part of her life when she was in the fourth grade and began playing the clarinet. She credits a devoted teacher in developing her love of music and inspiring her to make it part of her life.
In deciding what she wanted to do as an adult, Ms. Prusasky followed sage advice: “Make your career out of your passion.”
Music is that passion.
Her own tastes in music are diverse. She likes Indie Rock, in particular Wilco, an alternative rock band with roots in Chicago. Other influences include the blues, reggae, jazz and classical.
At Carmel Middle School, she has already started an after-school rock band made up of students.
Back east, Ms. Prusasky was a member of the Grand Street Community Band and the Brooklyn Wind Symphony. Locally, she has played in the City of Monterey’s Community Band and she says she is always on the lookout for additional performance opportunities.
Ms. Prusasky is becoming increasingly comfortable at Carmel Middle School and on the Monterey Peninsula.
“I plan on staying for awhile. I am really starting to feel at home here.”
… Lewis Leader