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Creative Music Center Honors Owner’s Legacy

Published: February 09, 2019 at 07:00 am

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After more than 15 years as owner of Creative Music Center in Monroe, Elizabeth “Liz” Reisman passed away on January 9, 2019, at the age of 55, from brain cancer.

Ms Reisman had grown up with a passion for music, playing flute in her high school band, and went on to have an accomplished career in journalism, writing for several well-known sports publications.

However, when her daughter Samantha began taking piano lessons at Creative Music Center and the owner at the time, Ellen Ballard, announced it would be closing, Ms Reisman did not hesitate to save the business.

Her husband, Mike Reisman, says his wife had a determination and decisiveness that was consistent throughout her life — like buying the first wedding dress she tried on — so purchasing Creative Music Center was no different.

“Liz and I were driving down the coast of Highway One in Mendocino, Calif., one day in 2002. She had brought our mail with her and was opening some of it up when she came across a letter from Ellen Ballard… [that she] was closing the store,” Mr Reisman recalled.

“Liz was sad about that — not only for Samantha, but because she had a very firm conviction that young people who grew up with music education were more likely to have happy and successful lives,” he said. “She didn’t want the community to lose this business.”

About an hour after opening the letter, Mr Reisman said his wife had already decided to buy the store. A week later, she drew up the contracts to sign and the transaction was final.

“Before I knew it, she was a proud owner of this retail gem, and the rest is history!” Mr Reisman said.

Creating Change

When Ms Reisman purchased the shop, it was primarily a lessons studio, but under her direction, the business expanded tenfold. She created a customized 5,000-square-foot facility, located at 701 Main Street in Monroe, and grew the center to include a retail store, office space, a band and orchestral repair shop, and ten individual studios for music lessons.

Kate Rich, vice president of Creative Music Center, says that today, the company offers instruments, accessories, and music for everyone from students to professionals and has representatives that work with local school districts, including Newtown. The business also proudly supports music education by offering workshops, scholarships, and summer camps available to Newtown residents.

Since Ms Rich joined the staff eight years ago, she has seen how passionate Ms Reisman was for crafting the business to best serve the local music community’s needs.

“Liz was very involved at the national level, too,” Ms Rich said.

According to Ms Reisman’s obituary, she “was elected to the Board of Directors of both the National Association of School Music Dealers (NASMD) and the National Association of Music Merchants (NAMM). She relished lobbying on behalf of those organizations in Washington, DC to support public funding for music education.”

Her advocacy led her to work with Congressman Jim Himes and delight in discovering a side that not everyone knew about him.

“During one of her trips to Washington, DC to lobby congress for favorable funding for music education, she invited Congressman Himes into the store, where we learned he was a skilled piano player,” Mr Reisman said. “And she even got him to play a rendition of ‘Free Bird’ by Lynyrd Skynyrd.”

Under Ms Reisman’s guidance, Creative Music Center also was named one of the top 100 music retailers in North America by NAMM, seven out of the last eight years.

An Engaging Leader

“She had that commitment to have that stamp in the community, so that music was available. She put in a lot of effort, a lot of energy — and she was just fun. A lot of fun,” Ms Rich said.

The two worked very closely with one another, even during the last two and a half years while Ms Reisman was out on medical leave.

“I’m a walker, and she was a birder, so we sort of merged those by taking meetings together walking... It was such a great thing for us to do that.” Ms Rich remembered. “We worked in the car running errands — it didn’t have to be just here in the building. I think she approached all the staff in that way [by being] very personable, engaging, and funny.”

Many of the music teachers, Ms Rich says, have been with Creative Music Center for more than ten years now, proving to be a testament to the environment Ms Reisman created.

Her positive reach also was seen in how she interacted with others visiting the center.

“She was driven to be outstanding and to have people feel welcomed and taken care of in the store,” Ms Rich said. “Her interest was to have a good environment for musicians and lessons and for families to be able to come in and have that music store in the community.”

Moving Forward

Even though Ms Reisman’s passing was untimely, Mr Reisman said that his wife lived a very full life and was always able to light up a room.

“Liz lived her final 30 months after being diagnosed with cancer with incredible levity, determination, and grace,” Mr Reisman said. “She woke up every morning determined to have a good day and was an incredible inspiration to all of us who were around her.”

To honor Ms Reisman’s legacy, the Creative Music Center in Monroe will remain running and support her desire to give everyone the opportunity to experience having music in their life.

“Liz wanted me to let everyone know that her passion for music education here in Monroe and Newtown should be reflected in our ongoing commitment to the community,” Mr Reisman said.

Her husband will be personally ensuring that happens, along with Ms Rich, as he takes on his wife’s role as president at Creative Music Center.

“What I’ve learned most over the past three weeks since she passed away is that her warmth, kindness, and zest for life was felt by so many people…” Mr Reisman said. “She left behind a wonderful legacy of compassion for others, adventure, and accomplishment.”

For more information about Creative Music Center and the life of Elizabeth “Liz” Reisman, visit thecreativemusiccenter.com or call 203-261-7301.

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