At the Eastman Community Music School, teachers were beginning to become more and more frustrated by the fact that there were only a few students who were being exposed to old-fashioned folk songs.

“We’ve all but lost that simple frame of reference that can help kids learn more complicated music,” piano department chair Howard Spindler said. He continued to comment on the fact that songs such as “O, Susanna!” and “Frre Jacques” both contain some of the basic elements of such music, while they are both fun and easy to remember.

ECMS opened in 1921, which was the same time that the Eastman School of Music opened its doors. George Eastman wanted to create both a professional music conservatory and a music school for area residents.

With such issues regarding the lack of these old-fashioned folk songs at hand, six teachers at the Eastman Community Music School took it upon themselves to take care of this musical gap that existed between generations. Together they recorded “Eastman Folk Sing” a CD that contains 30 traditional folk songs that the six teachers enjoyed playing together.

The group’s members consist of Spindler on the piano and recorder as well, voice teachers Cecile Saine and Derrick Smith, Peter Kodzas on the guitar and the school’s coordinator of the music theory program Adam Foley who sings as well as plays guitar.

Eastman Community Music School’s former teacher Naomi Foley also sings and plays the recorder for the CD.

“It was great to get together with musician friends – we’re all people who tend to ‘obsess’ about details of phrasing, articulation, style etc. in high-brow music – and we just relaxed and had fun with some simple tunes. Our students now have these songs as a basis for learning to play by ear and improvise,” Spindler said. “Not only children, but adult students as well are really enjoying this work.”

“Eastman Folk Sing” features only acoustic instruments and was recorded right at the Eastman School of Music this past summer.

Lewis can be reached at

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