Young Local Artist Series: CM School of Fine Arts

Being a local musician at times requires us to take on the responsibility of inspiring others, mentoring young artists while continuing to perform and live our own dreams onstage. That is my personal mission and I recently discovered a local couple who embodies all of this and more. Collette McComb is the owner and director of CM School of Fine Arts in Clifton Park. She and her husband Marshall VanBuren have been helping local young artists for the past thirteen years. It has become their mission.

CM School of Fine Arts

They have both toured nationally, but have been focusing more on the school over the past five years. I recently visited their school and was immensely impressed with the welcoming feeling and the quality of the equipment and instruments.  The school has variously-sized teaching studios, group classrooms, and band rehearsal spaces of a variety of sizes.  There is also a large (~5,000 sq ft) in-house performance hall with twin audience dance floors.  It’s a top-notch facility for private and group sessions of music, dance, art, and acting.

One of the things Collette told me about is how they mentor young artists and have a scholarship fund to help underprivileged kids. They have a ton of success stories over all of these years and it adds to their passion to want to help the local music community.

They recently started the 518 Musicians Guild as an answer to the call by so many local music artists that need that one extra thing to help their music career rise to new heights. The Guild is a resource and support group for like-minded musicians where community and collaboration meet experience and education. They are currently offering free live talks once a month as well as networking mixers, specifically for musicians and supporters of musicians. The speakers are always from some kind of noteworthy background that will resonate with and inspire all the musicians ready to rise. 

This month’s speaker, Aaron Rhodes, is a nationally acclaimed music artist as well as a music producer. He is also the head administrator for The Albany Music Scene, a 7,000-member social media interest group. He will give his free talk on “Musician Mindset” at their next meeting on Sunday, September 11th at 2:00 pm.  Throughout that same day, they will be holding a Fall Wellness and Craft Market (1-5 pm) for local business owners to sell their services and wares. They do these once a month in an effort to do their part to support small businesses in the 518.

Lastly, the event that they hold most dear to their hearts and what inspired this article is the “Benefit Rock Concert for High-Risk Kids’ Scholarship Fund”.  That will also happen on Sunday, September 11th.  They started the scholarship fund nine years ago when a student we’ll call “Susan” came to the music school’s front desk and asked for help. She said her father was in prison, her mom was on drugs, and she was failing all her classes in school. So they put her in all of the art classes her beautiful heart desired, turned around those grades, and sent her to a fine arts college with a full scholarship. There have been many “Susans” since then, and Collette and Marshall feel blessed to say that 100% of them have turned around their grades once they connected them with a creative outlet. And they ALL graduated high school, going on to college or trade school. Though people may disregard them at first glance, the kids who participate in the program truly are the most deserving.

The fund is currently empty due to a long and hard pandemic. There was only once in nine years that they didn’t have funding to sponsor a student. It was the only boy they ever had to turn away, and it was just so heartbreaking to them to turn him away empty-handed,  it is their mission to never let that happen again. So, here’s to “painting the world a brighter shade of beautiful… one student at a time”.  They hope to get as many tickets sold as possible for the three bands performing that day since the proceeds will benefit the scholarship fund.

Fenix Rising

If you would like to contribute to the school or purchase a ticket please contact the school.  The benefit concert takes place at 4:30 pm and will feature performances by Fenix Rising (Collette and Marshall’s own band), Sunset Grin, and Seize Atlantis. Tickets are $15 at the door, and there will be a food truck onsite.

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