Interview with CMC’s New Executive Director: Julie Rulyak Steinberg

Julie Rulyak Steinberg’s career is one of nonprofit advancement and strategy coupled with a passion for community music education. Prior to joining Community Music Center, Julie served as the Executive Director of Turtle Bay Music School in New York City. Turtle Bay Music School is a founding member of the National Guild for Community Arts Education and one of the oldest and most reputable community music schools in the country. Prior to working with TBMS, Julie was the Managing Director of Cynthia Glacken Associates, a leader in nonprofit communications, strategy, and design.


You started at CMC on September 18. How have your first few weeks been?

Julie: I’m so grateful to be at Community Music Center. It’s an incredible honor and opportunity for me. I am in awe of CMC and its mission and incredible legacy, and by how many people are touched by CMC’s programs each year.

Everyone has been so welcoming and kind in my first few weeks. I’ve loved learning about their hopes and dreams for the Center, and what CMC means to this community. As I’m trying to understand all the ways that CMC touches lives, the perspectives of the people who are closest to the organization have been really helpful. I’ve been trying to take in every facet of CMC like a sponge, and it’s no easy feat. There’s so much going on here and so much to get one’s arms and mind around—but I’m really enjoying the challenge!


What drew you to CMC and a career in community arts education?

Julie: I think what drew me to the field of community arts is the idea that tapping into creativity and making broad connections is essential to thriving communities, and that local organizations like CMC are critical to help make big-picture understanding possible. To me what’s important about community music-making is bringing people together with an instrument (pardon the pun!) to create bonds of acceptance and change. Music connects people, people who might not otherwise meet or share their lives with one another. I believe that making music together helps people find common understanding and common purpose. To me, finding joy in making music is equally as important and valuable as pursuing, say, a rigorous professional career. And at CMC, you can do both!

There is also immeasurable value in the contributions our faculty members make to our mission, and there’s so much that professional musicians can share with students that goes beyond technique and repertoire. Studying music engages people to really listen, and it builds confidence. There is also something essential about challenging yourself, pushing yourself beyond perceived limits to achieve something you might have thought possible. In a community music setting, there’s an incredible amount of teaching and learning that has nothing to do with music.


How does your training as a singer and teacher inform your work?

Julie: As a teacher, you’re always keeping a holistic view in mind as you teach different aspects of your subject, knowing that each element you share with students supports greater overall understanding. As an arts administrator, you have to keep the big picture in mind while tracking how all the day-to-day pieces are working together.

As a singer performing with others, your performance affects everyone, and something unpredictable always happens on stage! Being part of an arts organization, you make room for the unexpected too, and no matter what the show must go on!


What’s on your short list for completing your first month at CMC?

Julie: My most important goal is to speak fluent CMC as quickly as possible. I want to get to know all the people, the different facets and inner workings, the procedures, the finances, and the opportunities that are in front of the organization. I am wide open to learning and feedback. My hope is to also “tend the garden” as I’m learning, building relationships that exist at CMC, and helping to forge new ones. I also hope that, maybe just maybe, I’ll get to make some music with my new colleagues, too.


What do you like to do in your spare time?
Julie: I try to spend lots of time with my family, especially my husband and my two-year-old son. I love choral singing and hope that, in time, I’ll find a new group to sing with – I’m open to suggestions! I also love to run, and I am hoping to get back to triathlon, too. Oh, and I’m in search of the best taco in San Francisco, so I hope CMC friends will point me in the right direction, or better yet, join me for one!

See the press release and Julie’s bio for more information about her career highlights. Also, check out her welcome letter.

Early childhood education at CMC, a faculty profile with Irene Chagall

For more information on all of CMC’s early childhood education offerings and faculty, visit the Youth Group Classes and Ensembles page.


Irene Chagall: Music for Children Instructor

“I give them (the students) each a piece of string.
I say, ‘We’re studying the string family. How do you make an instrument out of a piece of string?
Take this piece of string home and see what you can come up with.”

-Irene Chagall, Music for Children instructor

By Katy Fox, guest writer


CMC violin student Alycia Tam gives Irene’s class a demo

Thus begins the Winter Quarter for students in Irene Chagall’s Music For Children class at the Community Music Center. Over the following weeks, children ages 4-7 will gain direct understanding of how strings create vibration, build their own cuica (Brazilian friction drum), try-out and compare various string instruments. They will dance, they will laugh, and they will play a violin both pizzicato and with a bow. By the time a 12-year old CMC violin student visits their class to give them a demo, they will already know why she first takes out her rosin. And if the children are feeling shy, one of Irene’s puppets will lead the games and songs. By the end of the semester, a certain beloved skunk puppet will have received gifts from many adoring students.

Irene’s curriculum begins by encouraging children to imagine how natural sounds could have inspired the development of instruments. “Maybe it happened because the wind blew in the trees and people said ‘what’s that sound?’ That’s so much more basic than what we think of when we think of ‘symphony.’ It connects music to life experience, to awareness.” For the wind family, she will bring in a blade of grass. To introduce horns, Irene will pass around a seashell and a ram’s horn. If she has slightly older students, she will show off a donkey jaw, commonly used in Brazil.

“My point of departure is the same in all my classes: music as a design made of sound in time. I ‘read’ the group and find the material that they can connect with. If I have a more sophisticated group of children, I’ll do more with rhythm, reading and preparedness for what it takes to actually study an instrument. The teachers I’ve gotten to know at CMC say that the kids who have taken my class are great to have as students because they already have a foundation. That’s really wonderful!”

Irene inspires musical curiosity in her students.

Irene emphasizes a joyful ensemble, embodying musical vocabulary as a way of learning it, and breaking down complex concepts into digestible parts. Her primary influences are the Orff Approach and Dalcroze method. She was trained in the latter as a child and attributes this early exposure (“I wasn’t aware that I was learning music, but I was really learning music”) to her lifelong work as a self-described minstrel. In the Dalcroze method, children are taught that the body is their first instrument and are encouraged to interpret rhythm, melody and harmony through both specific and spontaneous movement. As a child, Irene remembers marching in quarter notes, jogging in eighth notes, running fast in sixteenth notes, taking huge steps to “get” whole notes.

The Orff Approach to teaching music is modeled on how we learn our native tongue. It’s focus on immersive, imaginative group learning is what Irene loves most. “To get a group of children laughing and moving their bodies and experimenting and finding their limits—that is what makes this work. It is universally human to respond to rhythm. We synchronize to each other.” (This concept is Irene’s soapbox. As a recent research associate at the Smithsonian, she wrote and co-directed Let’s Get the Rhythm, an acclaimed documentary on hand-clapping games from around the world.)

Irene Chagall has been teaching at CMC for 35 years. Though initially encouraged to pursue a career in the sciences, Irene’s gravitational pull has always been music and the arts. She pursued an independent study of classical guitar in Spain, traveled through Northern Africa and came back to the States to get a teaching degree. “The deal is that CMC felt like home from the beginning…it was a place where I could be myself and grow as well, and I have. The mission of the institute is just something I believe in. The beauty of CMC is that the classes are small enough that you can give individual attention, without making a child feel like they’re being singled out…Now too, with the new director, it’s rejuvenating. It’s warm and welcoming, it’s a sanctuary.”


Thank you to Katy Fox the guest writer for this article. The article is part of an interview and article series about early childhood education faculty at CMC.

Early childhood education at CMC, a faculty profile with Susan Peña

For more information on all of CMC’s early childhood education offerings and faculty, visit the Youth Group Classes and Ensembles page.

Susan Peña: CMC Chiquitos Instructor

By Katy Fox, guest writer

“Playing music together, that’s what people want to do.”

Susan Peña, CMC Chiquitos Instructor


When audiences watch La Familia Peña-Govea play music together, something Susan Peña, her husband and two daughters have done for over twenty years in the Bay Area, they often become overwhelmed with longing and excitement. “It’s something that we really would have taken for granted, except people kept saying ‘How did you get that? How can we get our kids to play with us like that?”

Susan’s passionate about making music an enriching part of her student’s lives—something that they’ll continue to do for fun, socially. At Community Music Center (CMC) Peña teaches the CMC Chiquitos class, a Spanish-English bilingual family music class for infants to three-year-olds. She also co-teaches a children’s violin class and a guitar class for older artists at CMC’s partner organization Mission Neighborhood Center (MNC), as well as at César Chávez Elementary School as part of of CMC’s partnership with SFUSD in the Mariachi music program.

As a (now retired) high-school Spanish teacher, Susan was introduced to a language acquisitions method called Total Physical Response Storytelling. Modeled on how infants pick up their native language, the method is based on immersion and play. Susan used folk songs and games of Latin America and Mexico to teach grammar and vocabulary. Now she uses the same method to expose small children to basic skills like hand-eye coordination and absorbing different rhythms. She feels this method creates a lasting relationship with music, in conjunction with acquiring a skill. “I know so many people who ‘took flute’ in school or ‘took trumpet’ only to put it down and never play it again.”

In the CMC Chiquitos class, which provides a “musical bonding experience” through group song and and musical play, Susan spends as much time making music as she can—not talking, not explaining. This immersive experience includes parents and caregivers. Imagine an hour of clapping, call and response, hand gestures and playing with instruments. “I think that the most important thing is modeling for the kids, that it’s something their parents love to do with them.”

Music and education have been conjoined in Susan’s work over the last thirty years. She has taught for Guitars in the Classroom, recorded a bilingual CD of children’s songs accompanied by a teacher’s manual, and shared music-making for all ages at multiple camp and festivals. She and her family are as well-known in the Bay Area for La Familia Peña-Govea’s performances as for their Latino cultural presentations, often at public libraries. Susan has been singing since she was a child and began collecting songs, mostly folk, when she was twelve. Such a rich career, and she didn’t even begin to teach professionally until after she ended a twenty year career as a lawyer.

Law was never a passion for Susan. But not wanting to follow in her parents footsteps—both were teachers—she held on to “a sense of rebellion” for many years. She had been volunteer teaching in her daughters’ classes at Buena Vista Alternative Elementary School (now Buena Vista/Horace Mann, K-8), a Spanish immersion school in the Mission, when she heard that a high school in Pacifica was looking for someone to teach Spanish. They were using a new method that combined song, stories and art. “It turned into [another] 20 year career that I really loved. And I found out it wasn’t just my parents who were teachers, but my dad’s entire family that I hadn’t really grown up with. I was like, ‘Ok, should’ve done this a long time ago!’

Having lived in the Mission, Bernal Heights and Potrero Hill for decades, Susan continues to be impressed with the support and outreach that CMC extends to the Mission community. She sites CMC’s partnership with the MNC, CMC’s Mariachi program with SFUSD, numerous musical collaboration opportunities, and the dedication of CMC’s administrative staff. Peña also appreciates the accessibility of CMC’s Young Musicians Program that provides youth an opportunity to play in ensembles and take lessons free of charge. “Now those kids are likely to have music in their lives forever…playing music together, that’s what people want to do.”

What is on offer in Susan’s CMC Chiquitos class—what is offered at CMC in general—is a way to enter into a life that cannot be imagined without music.

Thank you to Katy Fox the guest writer for this article. The article is part of an interview and article series about early childhood education faculty at CMC.

Early childhood education at CMC, a faculty profile with Diane Aurelius

For more information on all of CMC’s early childhood education offerings and faculty, visit the Youth Group Classes and Ensembles page.


Diane Aurelius: CMC Family Music and Music for Children Instructor

By Katy Fox, guest writer

“They (families) are brought together for music, but it’s really community that we’re going for.”
—Diane Aurelius Family Music and Music for Children Instructor


The Family Music class at CMC is described as “… a musical bonding experience and an introduction to singing, rhythmic activities, movement and musical play.” To illustrate the role that these activities play in child development and bonding, instructor Diane Aurelius describes an activity she uses in her classes. She’ll turn on a recording of Fur Elise, give each child a scarf and from there, the journey begins:

Diane: I give them the idea that there’s a ‘home’ in this piece of music and play with the concept that we are going on a journey. Coming back home means we come back to the theme. Then there’s the storm in the music—the tension—and then there’s the way back…So we frolic out, away from home on an adventure, into fields of flowers and butterflies, and then we end up in a place we don’t know that is scary and we have to find our way back home. In that reenactment the children feel this [specific] beginning/middle/end but also a very life-like, artistic process that they’re going to live a million times over.


Diane completed her 3-year Waldorf teacher certification in 2004 and has worked in Waldorf-inspired preschools since 2001. Diane joined the faculty of CMC in 2015. Of the many Waldorf principles that inform her teaching, she discussed the importance of melody and the Pentatonic Scale.

D: In terms of musical education, the notion of melody is where the children experience continuous flow and levity. With the young child, I feel that our culture emphasizes percussion—stomping and shaking and drumming and beating—which is great, but melody is also important in order for them to experience the dreamlike, imaginative, almost trance-like act of listening. They listen to melody and then they express it through their movement; it can elicit a completely different movement than with percussion.

Another Waldorf principle is the use of the Pentatonic scale for early childhood education. The young child’s ear is developing so it is appropriate to begin classes with this scale. It is important to use the best instruments we can afford, and use instruments that stay in perfect tune. I love my little glockenspiel which has a very subtle tone. Then the children’s ear gets used to hearing an A—really an A, not ‘kind of’ an A.


In November 2017, Diane wrote and was awarded a CMC partnership grant which funded the addition of five ukuleles to her Saturday class.

D: Being awarded this grant is great! I can now teach ukulele in my classes which adds to my curriculum and my work can benefit other teachers and students well beyond me, I love that.


What else supports you as a teacher?

D: Walking into the CMC and hearing the sound of everyone practicing: that’s a way of supporting my dream. To hear people really work on their music, I recognize something in that that makes me so happy…The more I play (music) the more I can hear it. Learning how to read music was like being given a key to a book— you unlock it, you open it, and it just keeps opening into new places. So continued learning supports me.


As a choreographer and dancer in the 90’s, Diane improvised with instruments and musicians for years. She began learning to read music during her Waldorf training—on a recorder. But it wasn’t until the age of 45, when she was given a saxophone, that she began music lessons with CMC instructor Bill Fiege. After that it seems instruments began collecting her: a beautiful mountain dulcimer, an accordion, a clarinet, “many, many” recorders, a guitar. Now she plays in the CMC Woodwind Ensemble and enjoys offering the odd street performance. But she’s always been a singer.

D: I feel that singing, as our first instrument, is the original bond to music. As a singer I literally try to make my voice warm and I imagine the child surrounded by warmth. I started singing in choirs when I was going to church with my mother…My mother loved to sing around the house—both she and my father have great voices. My father started collecting jazz albums when he was 12, so I grew up with jazz just in the background, a lot of 1950’s, 1940’s, even 1930’s music.

My own journey as a musician is also part of my Waldorf training. My journey is concurrent with their [the children’s] learning; I’m also struggling with practice, with my not wanting to push myself to learn a new mode or new scale—I understand their (students) struggles first-hand…As an adult I know the benefit of what it brings, so I get to pass that to them and be inspiring them all the time.


…Which brings us back to the Community Music Center.
D: In this (Family Music) ensemble class, my most heartwarming moments are after the class when these children go play with a new family, go check out the garden, go even make plan to have lunch, I just love that. They are brought together for music, but it’s really community that we’re going for.

When I see ‘Music For Everyone since 1921’ and I look at the photograph of Gertrude Field who started it all, I think ‘I’m in the right place.’ When I hear people playing, I think ‘I’m in the right place.’ When I see all the kids and all the adults, I think ‘we’re doing it!’ CMC is totally created out all of us who are striving to get better at our instruments, striving to get better as teachers, striving to get better in the world, to do something that is everlasting.


Thank you to Katy Fox the guest writer for this article. The article is an excerpt of a longer piece, and is part of an interview and article series about early childhood education faculty at CMC. The entire piece can be viewed here.

Partner spotlight: Jazz in the Neighborhood

CMC is proud to partner with Jazz in the Neighborhood to host Jazz in the Neighborhood Concerts.  We invite you to learn more about their great work!


Article by Jazz in the Neighborhood staff writer

Jazz in the Neighborhood has been making its presence known all across the Bay Area. It’s been part of Community Music Center’s neighborhood in the Mission since 2015. They have brought performances to CMC’s Concert Hall that include Jon Jang and Francis Wong, Montclair Women’s Big Band, the Alison Miller Trio, and TrumpetSuperGroup. Audiences have found that it’s a great place to enjoy top Bay Area jazz musicians in a comfortable, great-sounding environment, and at affordable prices.

Founded in 2013, Jazz in the Neighborhood is a nonprofit that works to improve the economics of jazz performance in the Bay Area by presenting affordable concerts, paying musicians a guaranteed wage, and supporting the work of established and aspiring jazz artists.

The idea was born when Mario Guarneri, a trumpet player at home in both the classical and jazz idioms, set up a casual gig in a bookstore near his home in Fairfax. Having played professionally for decades, Mario felt that putting out a tip jar seemed demeaning, so he paid the band out of his own pocket. Within a few years, he decided to expand the concept so that other jazz ensembles could be paid up front, too. Joined by Jon Herbst, who is a composer, audio engineer, and jazz pianist, they formed Jazz in the Neighborhood to support the profession of being a jazz musician. It works on the model of public radio, where members and other donors contribute to help fund the production of live jazz events that are affordable for audiences, but at the same time, pay musicians a fair wage.

Since its inception, Jazz in the Neighborhood has presented over 200 jazz concerts at neighborhood venues from Santa Rosa to San Jose. Many of these events have been free, and no one is ever turned away for lack of funds. The work has been supported by grants from the Zellerbach Foundation, San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music, and the Music Performance Trust Fund, as well as through generous donations by individuals and corporate sponsors. There are over 350 Jazz in the Neighborhood members. For information about becoming a member visit


Guaranteed Fair Wage Fund

The most recent Jazz in the Neighborhood initiative is its Guaranteed Fair Wage Fund, which has been created to encourage venues to pay musicians a minimum guaranteed amount, regardless of ticket sales. When event revenue doesn’t cover the cost of the guaranteed compensation, Jazz in the Neighborhood can step in to help make up the difference. The inaugural event took place last month at Bird & Beckett Books and Records. Said store-owner Eric Whittington, “The trick is to provide our musicians with good venues and appreciative, informed audiences so that being a professional jazz player in San Francisco is a viable way to make a living. The bookstore’s music series is our way way of offering support to the musicians, ensuring that the cultural legacy they safeguard isn’t squandered and lost.” The California Jazz Conservatory has joined as a participating venue, too.

The economics of paying musicians a decent wage can be daunting. Through fundraising, Jazz in the Neighborhood is working to make the Guaranteed Fair Wage Fund sustainable with the ultimate goal of raising standards for all musicians. With limited funds, however, the focus is on supporting groups in a way that emphasizes the diversity of jazz performance across the Bay Area. For more information about the program, visit


Emerging Artists Program

In addition to supporting professional musicians, Jazz in the Neighborhood works to build the bridge between classroom and stage by giving pre-professional musicians an opportunity to play with the pros. It’s called the Emerging Artists program, and since 2013, over 100 aspiring jazz students have taken part in the time-honored tradition of “learning on the bandstand.” Starting with the 2017-18 season, musicians are selected through an open competition process, and those working towards a dedicated career in jazz are encouraged to apply. In addition to coaching and performance experience, Emerging Artists receive on-going mentorship to help advance their careers. Serving as the Emerging Artist coordinator is trumpeter and educator Erik Jekabson.

Emerging Artists who have been selected for 2017/18 include William Berg, sax; Dante Billeci, sax; Isaac Coyle, bass; Shana Dinha, vocals; Tyler Harlow, bass; Justis Jones, vibes; Gio Mendez, sax; Dan Neville, vibes; Zack Shubert, piano; and Kate Williams, trumpet.


Jazz in the Neighborhood Concerts at CMC

As Jazz in the Neighborhood presents its concerts at Community Music Center, each musician will receive $150 up front regardless of ticket sales. Please come support the musicians and the organization and to hear some great music. There will be six concerts in the winter/spring series, all on Fridays at 8pm. For tickets, go to

Jan 19 — Ben Goldberg School
Feb 16 — Power of Five: Ian Faquini – Erika Oba – Dillon Vado
Mar 16 — Jeff Denson Quartet
Apr 20 — Montclair Women’s Big Band
May 18 — Edward Simon Trio
Jun 15 — Cabanijazz Project

For more information, email or leave a message at 415-737-JITN (5486)

Experience the joy, Older Adult Choirs concerts in December

If you want to bring a smile to your face and a spring to your step, check out the free Older Adult Choir concerts throughout San Francisco this December. These events feature the spirited singers from 10 of CMC’s Older Adult Choirs. The vast array of musical genres these choirs perform includes Latin, jazz, show tunes, gospel, oldies, and popular. Some of the choirs perform music in Spanish and Tagalog, as well. Don’t miss a chance to experience the joy of these choirs first-hand. It’s contagious!

Older Adult Choir December Concerts

CMC 30th Street Older Adult Choir – Holiday concert – Monday, 12/4 (10:15-11:15am), 30th Street Senior Center, 225 30th Street

CMC Western Addition Older Adult Choir – Holiday concert – Wednesday, 12/6 (10:15-11:00am); Western Addition Senior Center, 1390 ½ Turk Street

CMC Bayview Older Adult Choir – Holiday concert – Wednesday, 12/6 (2:30-3:30pm), Dr. George W. Davis Senior Center, 1753 Carroll Avenue

Coro CMC del Centro Latino de San Francisco – Holiday Concert – Thursday, 12/7 (1:45-2:30pm); Centro Latino de San Francisco, 1656 15th Street

CMC OMI Senior Center Choir – Holiday concert – Friday, 12/8 (12:45-1:30pm), OMI Senior Center, 65 Beverly Street

CMC IT Bookman Older Adult Choir – Holiday concert with invited guest choirs (CMC Bayview Older Adult Choir and CMC Western Addition Older Adult Choir) – Monday, 12/11 (11:45-12:30pm), IT Bookman Community Center, 446 Randolph Street

CMC Bernal Heights Older Adult Choir – Holiday concert – Monday, 12/11 (1:15-2:15pm), Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, 515 Cortland Avenue

CMC Older Adult Choir at Castro Senior Center – Holiday concert – Tuesday, 12/12 (1:15-2:15pm); Castro Senior Center, 110 Diamond Street

CMC Aquatic Park Older Adult Choir – Aquatic Park Center Holiday Concert – Thursday, 12/14 (1:00-2:30pm); Aquatic Park Center, 890 Beach Street

CMC Veterans Equity Center Older Adult Choir – Holiday concert – Monday, 12/18 (1:45-2:30pm); Veterans Equity Center, 1010 Mission Street (confirmed)

Student profile: Greg Kehret bass player for CMC’s Cuban Charanga Ensemble

If you are around CMC’s Mission Branch during lunchtime, chances are you’ve heard someone hammering out scales on double bass. Chances are it’s Greg Kehret. Greg is the bass player for CMC’s Cuban Charanga Ensemble. He often jumps on Bart from his downtown work office at Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, spending his precious lunch breaks practicing. Like many musicians, Greg heard about CMC through word of mouth. A guitar teacher he know mentioned former CMC faculty Chus Alonso and the Latin-Flamenco ensemble he directed.

“Chus put me on a path of diving into Afro-Cuban music…The skills Chus taught me really prepared me for playing in the Cuban Charanga Ensemble,” says Greg.

Greg has been with CMC Cuban Charanga Ensemble since it formed three years ago. One of the things he loves about the ensemble is the music. “The music is great, it compels you to dance!”

On Wednesday nights, he meets with other ensemble members and Director Tregar Otton to rehearse and fine tune the arrangements that Tregar creates for the group. The ensemble is a regular installment with performances at the Mission Arts and Performance Project every other month in CMC’s concert hall. These free events are vibrant and well-attended, with a dance lesson and two sets of music.

One of the other things that Greg enjoys about the ensemble is the “community spirit.”

“The ensemble practice on Wednesdays is the high point of many people’s weeks. Everyone is friendly and down to participate. There is a spirit there.” He adds, “Everyone bring the best they have to offer. It’s light and fresh and free of pressures of a gigging band.”

Keep your eyes on the CMC event calendar for the next Afro-Cuban Dance Party featuring CMC’s Cuban Charanga Ensemble!

Welcoming Aron and David to CMC staff!

Meet Aron Kidane, CMC Senior Accountant

Aron started at the beginning of October and has been getting up to speed on the many systems that keep CMC running!

What do you think of CMC so far?

I’m still learning. I am enjoying the people I work with. It’s a very cooperative atmosphere. I am impressed by CMC’s mission and like seeing the students and hearing the music. I am still new here, but I think CMC is an amazing organization.

What’s your background?

I was born Asmara, Eritrea but lived in South Africa for college. I did a masters in financial management in Pretoria, South Africa and came to the United States in 2005. I’ve been an accountant for 10 years, seven of those years for nonprofits. I worked for ConnectEd an organization in Berkeley that helps young underprivileged high school student with college and career readiness. I worked with an organization in San Rafael that provides direct services to people with disabilities. I prefer working for nonprofits, because I love the different missions. I like working with people who are passionate and visionary about helping people and I’m impressed at how people work hard to help people in the community and state.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I consider myself a sports junky! I love playing soccer. I’m into all kinds of sports. I love watching Arsenal Football Club from England. I like local teams; the Warriors and Raiders.  I like traveling and have traveled to different countries.

Are you a music lover?

I love music of all types. A couple favorite artists are John Meyer and “The Boss.”
I always wanted to play the guitar. I’ll need a very patient teacher!



Introducing David Dezern, CMC Associate Registrar Mission Branch

David’s first day was October 24. He has been learning all about the registration processes and systems, as Winter Quarter approaches.

How have your first couple of weeks been? What do you think of CMC?

I don’t like to judge a book by its cover, but I have a good feeling so far! People seem nice and upbeat, as you would expect from a place that has music as the focus. It’s hard to be anything but happy when you’ve got a song in your head.

I hear that you come to CMC with a background in administration at other educational institutions. Tell me about some of the other work you’ve done.

I worked for many years at a progressive seminary called Starr King School for the Ministry. First as the Executive Assistant to the Dean of the Faculty and then as Director of Faculty Services. It was similar to CMC in the sense that it was very student-centered, and intentional about wanting to form “whole” people, with the arts as a major component of that.

I worked in a lot of different areas while I was there, which gave me a good overview of how a school works from different angles and perspectives. I built calendars, procedure manuals and course catalogs. I worked with faculty schedules and contracts and everyday office duties. I helped register students and was always looking for new ways to streamline the process to make it easier and more understandable. I taught classes and assisted with faculty hiring and training around pedagogies. I co-chaired the school’s accreditation committee and worked on their comprehensive strategic plan.

There was always a new program or event that they were trying to establish, so I got to see how those got built from scratch, from just an idea through to implementation, and then hopefully folding it into the regular routine and procedures so that it would be institutionalized and administered into the future. I learned that calling something a “special project” was a good way to get an idea started, but if you wanted it to last you had to incorporate it into the regular order — not leave it hanging as separate thing.

What do you like about this kind of work?

I think music and the arts are very important for both personal well-being and for society as a whole. Just imagine how much better we’d be if world leaders spent more time getting in touch with beauty and the arts!

I find that my administrative skills are the best way that I’m able to support that goal. My mind has always been attuned to thinking about systems, structures, holistic processes. I’m still learning my way around, but my hope would be to help the registrar’s office work as efficiently and painlessly as possible, so that our students and faculty could focus on the music.

Any other interests or hobbies you’d care to share? Have you studied music?

I also love watching movies. Blockbusters are ok, but it’s usually the smaller independent and foreign films that I find most interesting. I like things that give me a different perspective and challenge the norms.

I started playing the tuba in sixth grade, and continued for eleven years until I graduated from college. I was very active in the concert and marching bands. It kept me out of trouble (most of the time!), and marching around with a sousaphone strapped on me was good exercise. It also allowed me to travel since the bands would go on concert tours and performances. My high school marching band won the state marching championship one year. We were in several different bowl game parades, and I got to visit Ireland when my college band visited there.

New CMC ensemble explores rhythm as a universal language

Photo by Julie Sparenberg


On the heels of a six-city concert tour of India, internationally acclaimed instructor Dr. Rohan Krishnamurthy is back in San Francisco to teach an Indian Rhythm Ensemble class at Community Music Center. This no experience necessary ensemble is open to all ages and explores a variety of traditional Indian percussion instruments as well as an exciting form of Indian vocal percussion (konnakol) similar to beatboxing. In the ensemble, participants learn universal techniques and approaches to Indian rhythm with a focus on the ancient South Indian Carnatic tradition.

How was the tour?
Rohan: It was a great experience touring all over India most of September in The Park’s New Festival. I toured with a wonderful singer (Roopa Mahadevan), violinist (Anjna Swaminathan), and pianist (Guy Mintus) friends of mine, playing cross-genre repertoire, drawing on the Indian Classical tradition along with jazz, soul, and spoken word. The pieces we played were newly composed or arranged exploring how the quartet could interpret sounds in a cross-genre framework. During the tour, I performed on a hybrid kit that I’ve been developing that explores the boundaries between hand drumming and stick drumming on drum set.

How did you conceive of the Indian Rhythm Ensemble at CMC?
Rohan: I have had this idea since I moved to San Francisco in 2013. I wanted to create an artistic and cultural offering to San Francisco–something accessible to all people in the city. I wanted to bring in people of different ages, backgrounds, and musical levels to explore the universal language of rhythm. I was aware of Community Music Center’s devotion to making music accessible to all people. I love this idea of access and thought that CMC would be a fitting place to create this rhythm class.
I received a San Francisco Arts Commission grant to compose a piece about San Francisco’s rhythmscapes and to start this new class. Thanks to the San Francisco Arts Commission we were able to buy really wonderful traditional Indian instruments for the ensemble, and I premiered the work in progress 7X7 last April 2017.

Tell me about the ensemble?
Rohan: The rhythm ensemble is open to all ages, backgrounds, and levels. You don’t have to be a drummer. You don’t need a musical background. The ensemble explores rhythm as a universal process. It’s not genre specific. We use simple exercises to clap and speak the rhythms. It’s a very accessible and natural way of engaging in learning rhythm. These type of exercises are foundational in Indian rhythm studies. One unique thing about this ensemble is CMC has a full set of traditional Indian drums, thanks to the grant. There are very few places either colleges or music schools that have a collection like this one.

What are your hopes and aspirations for the ensemble?
Rohan: I try my best to not predict the future but, I’d love to see the ensemble become a nexus for all types of people (musicians and non-musicians alike), to connect and explore different concepts of rhythm. Rhythm is a unifying concept. It’s the thing that ties music together as well as many of life’s processes. I see the ensemble as a place for understanding and experientially exploring rhythm. I hope it benefits and brings together many types of people in our community. I’d love to see the students apply the concepts in creative ways that are meaningful to them.

Register now for CMC’s Indian Rhythm Ensemble!

Congratulations 2018 Shenson Series Grant Recipients!

Each year, The Shenson Foundation sponsors four free community concerts for CMC faculty music projects. The faculty members and their ensembles are selected by a committee of musicians from CMC’s Board of Directors. It’s truly a difficult decision for the Board Committee–there are indeed many wonderful proposals.

The following faculty were selected for the 2018 Shenson Faculty Concert Series. Stay tuned for concert announcements for these projects!


Cecilia Pena-Govea: trumpet, guira, vocals

Cecilia Peña-Govea and group

Cecilia Pena-Govea and her musical collaborators have chosen repertoire that encompasses five different continents and countless countries. With an interest in the diasporic nature of music, they will perform songs that have traveled thousands of miles, music of people who have traversed the world through enslavement, or who have sought political and economic refuge. Their musical performance will present music from the traditions of the Romani people of Hindustan, songs Santeria religious practices, and Mexican rancheras valseadas. Their musical themes are transborder existing and thriving across borders and in borderlands. The group’s material is concerned with remembering ancient tribulations of migration, labor, nation building, love, and promoting cultural healing through musical traditions. As a group comprised of young musicians native to District 9 in San Francisco, it is important for them to use traditional music as well as original pieces to maintain their cultural ground in a rapidly changing San Francisco.

Miguel Leon-Cajon, bata, tapan, vocals
Aya Davidson-Violin, oud, charango, vocals
Mireya Leon-Bass, percussion, vocals

Paul Dab, piano and Abigail Shiman, violin

Paul Dab

Their concert celebrates the 136th birthday of Igor Stravinsky. The program includes compositions from throughout his life, representing three stylistic periods: early Russian period, Neoclassical period, and Serial period. This concert is part of a series that celebrates composers through performance and discussion. The musicians will present program notes about their pieces during the concert and afterward, engage with the audience while enjoying a reception of wine, cheese, and dessert. Stravinsky’s music was highly controversial in its time and its influence shaped the trajectory of music in the 20th Century. This birthday party concert will share his legacy with our community.

Anne Hepburn Smith, coloratura soprano
James Pytko, clarinet
Joseph Colombo, composer

Omar Ledezma, voice and percussion

Omar Ledezma and Javier Cabanillas

Drawing on a Pan-American array of rhythms, the high-energy ensemble will share the astounding versatility of the humble cajon: a simple wooden box usually played by a percussionist seated atop it. Repertoire will a feature a traditional Afro-Venezuelan chant, original songs that highlight Brazilian, Caribbean, and Colombian rhythms, in addition to other musical selections.

Javier Cabanillas: voice, percussion
Pedro Rosales: voice, percussion
Jose Roberto Hernandez: guitar, voice, percussion
Braulio Barrera: voice, percussion

Jennifer Peringer, piano and Martha Rodriguez-Salazar, flute and voice

Jennifer Peringer and Martha Rodriguez Salazar

The theme of the concert will be “A Listening Quilt: Contemporary Chamber Music by Women Composers from North and South America.” The music will feature diversity on multiple levels: cultural, geographical and stylistic. The program focuses on the work of women composers, historically underrepresented on the global stage.

Rachel Condry, clarinet (CMC faculty member)
Jill Brindel, cello (SFSO member)