Sarah Cooley: the Value of Musical Friendships


There are certain familiar elements on any given afternoon when classes are in session at Concord Community Music School. Parents navigating the Fayette Street lot to drop off or pick up their kids, students ducking into practice rooms to prepare for an upcoming lesson, and a unique blend of melodies emanating from the hallways. Familiar faces are a key part of this fabric as well, and one of the most familiar is that of singer/songwriter Sarah Cooley. Along with being a music therapy student since 2015, Cooley has performed her music at multiple CCMS-sponsored events, started taking piano lessons this past fall, and has been a constant voice for disability awareness in the community. She also regularly volunteers her time to assist in the Music School’s community outreach and is joined in her efforts by her parents Seddon Savage and current CCMS trustee Carl Cooley, who have been CCMS supporters for years.  

Music Therapist Tony Varga started working with Cooley in the fall of 2023 and immediately took note of her artistic sense and passion for writing lyrics. While he takes the lead on developing melodies and chord progressions for their co-authored songs, Cooley crafts the lyrics, which she often uses as an outlet for emotional release, self-advocacy, and to promote disability awareness. “Sarah is always appreciative of the time and work that we put into her music, and it is gratifying to witness those special moments when she feels totally empowered by the art that she has created,” says Varga. Piano department co-chair Kathy Southworth notes that “(Sarah) understands the power of music for self-expression and for sharing with others. It’s always a happy moment to see her walk through the door!”   

Sarah was inspired to share her thoughts about her music, her lessons, and her time at CCMS in a piece she titles, “My Experience.”

My Experience

by Sarah Cooley

It has been great being a part of the Concord Community Music School. I have been going there for nine years as a student and have gotten to know the faculty and staff. I have had some traumatic experiences in my life including bullying when I was young and several complicated hospital experiences, so music therapy has been a great way for me to work through my feelings about those experiences. I like to write song lyrics, and my music therapists have helped me set those lyrics to music and occasionally perform. My first music therapists were Julieann Hartley and Matt Roy, and I went on to work with Katy Gibney and Keady Kanelos. I am currently studying with another music therapist named Tony Varga. He’s an amazing guy, and I am enjoying my time with him. Tony has been helping me address my feelings through music including singing, rapping, and recording.

For a long time, I had been wanting to take piano lessons in addition to music therapy. Fortunately, I was able to begin lessons this fall with Alex Tkaczevski, a new teacher at the Music School whom I met at the CCMS open house in September.

I also enjoy volunteering at Music School events and helping the staff with special projects. Finally, I am proud to be a donor to the school. I love being a part of this organization and sharing my love of music with others who love music.

Within the next few months, Sarah will be starting what she calls “a new chapter” in her life: moving to Sarasota, Florida.  Although Sarah has lived mostly independently in her Concord apartment for years, this will be the first time she’s living so far from her family and friends.  She admits to being equal parts excited and nervous at the prospect. She hopes that her current NH employer will allow her to transfer to its Sarasota store; otherwise, she’ll look for a job elsewhere.  Sarah looks forward to staying in touch with her CCMS musical family.