CMC Selects Yamaha CFX Piano to Offer Students, Audiences and Artists an Exemplary Experience

SAN FRANCISCO (January 16, 2017) — Founded in 1921, Community Music Center (CMC) makes quality music education accessible to all in the San Francisco Bay Area through classes, tuition free programs and public performances with renowned musicians. They recently acquired a Yamaha CFX Concert Collection Grand Piano for their Mission District concert hall stage, and Canadian virtuoso pianist Marc-André Hamelin presented a “Concert with Conversation” on the instrument in late October through CMC’s partnership with San Francisco Performances.

A search committee comprised of members of the CMC piano faculty, board and staff conducted a thoughtful selection process and considered several pianos before unanimously selecting the superlative nine-foot Yamaha CFX piano.

“We determined this piano was the best option available to accommodate and support the varied requirements and musical interests of our students, faculty and professional pianists,” says Christopher Borg, executive director of CMC. “In short, we’re thrilled and are very happy with our choice.”

The Yamaha CFX concert grand piano possesses a wide palette of tonal colors and the most expressive and subtle nuances which allow it to project over the sound of a symphony orchestra. This skillfully handcrafted instrument is the crowning glory of the Yamaha line of pianos, representing the culmination of numerous refinements in performance and appearance designed to achieve the highest standards of excellence.

The CFX will be used for public concerts in Community Music Center’s 130-seat concert hall and as the centerpiece of a new recording studio. The award-winning Venezuelan pianist and Yamaha Artist, Edward Simon, lives in the Bay Area and is a member of the SFJAZZ Collective. He prefers this CFX for regional concert appearances and recorded his most recent two CDs on it as well. Simon anticipates using it for recording sessions in the new CMC studio once the facility is completed.

The official unveiling ceremony of the Yamaha CFX was held on November 20 during CMC’s annual Field Day celebration honoring their founder, Gertrude Field. Field established the school to be “a provider of music that is not art for art’s sake, but art for life’s sake.” Field Day featured music for everyone with free performances, workshops and lessons at CMC’s Mission District Branch, and the school’s inaugural “Performathon” from noon to 5 p.m. Highlights included performances on the Yamaha CFX with the CMC Field Day Orchestra and CMC Field Day Choir.

“At the time the piano arrived, we knocked on the studio door of a 12-year old student who was having a lesson and invited him to be the first member of our community to play on this beautiful instrument. After hearing him play just a few measures, we felt confident in our decision that we had chosen the right piano, for the way it sounds and grand presence were engaging the full attention, excitement and musical sensitivity of the student,” Borg adds.

Over the past quarter century, all pianos acquired by CMC have been new Yamaha instruments from Piedmont Piano Company in Oakland. CMC has purchased several Yamaha P-22 and U1 upright pianos and a number of digital keyboards for their practice rooms, as well as a Yamaha C2 grand piano. Acquisition of the CFX and a number of other Yamaha pianos was made possible by a generous gift from Piedmont Piano Company’s former CFO, Don Oestreicher, who included the CMC in his will.

For more information about Yamaha pianos in educational and institutional settings, please visit


A Salute to the Joy of Making Music: Taste teaser!

CMC’s annual gala: A Salute to the Joy of Making Music is looking to be not only an entertaining evening of music and festivities, but also a celebration for the taste buds. The event at the Four Season Hotel in San Francisco features headliner Regina Carter, San Francisco Performances Founder and President-Emeritus Ruth A. Felt receiving CMC’s Community Impact Gertrude Field Award, and a three-course menu catered by the Four Seasons.

Not too long ago, the Four Season Hotel gave a first taste of the menu to CMC’s Development Director, Mary Ann Grossman and Development Coordinator, Elenka Refsell. In Elenka’s words the food is “all wonderful!” Mary Ann praised the soubise sauce on the sea bass. Both Elenka and Mary Ann had particularly beaming reviews of the blood orange mousse for its uniquely delicious flavor. The mousse tops a citrus-hazelnut torte.

See for yourself, and read the delicious details below.

Or better yet, taste for yourself!  Tickets are still available.

Salad Course:
Wild arugula, roasted golden beet, shaved radish, strawberry, hazelnut, red wine gastrique

Entrees (guests choose one):
Quinoa risotto, braised endive, arugula, white cheddar, apricot-pistachio relish
Sea bass, soubise, confit potatoes, grilled root vegetables, beurre rouge
Roasted chicken breast, celery root gratin, artichoke, maitake, walnut pesto

Dessert (desserts alternate at each seat so guests can share with table-mates):
Citrus-hazelnut torte, blood orange mousse, Grand Marnier, salted hazelnut toffee, mandarin sorbet
Coffee-mascarpone varrine, vanilla chiffon cake, Kahlúa crème, amoretti cookie

A Salute to the Joy of Making Music

Monday, May 8, 2017 at 6:30 pm
Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco
6:00PM: Exclusive VIP reception with Ruth A. Felt and Regina Carter
6:30PM: Reception, dinner, and performance
The event features a headliner performance by world renowned jazz violinist Regina Carter and pianist Xavier Davis.


Garrick Ohlsson shares insights and delights during CMC master class

Guest artists lend new perspectives at CMC
Over the years, CMC has invited world-renowned musicians to our school to offer our students their musical wisdom. Artists such as Latin percussionist John Santos, Indian percussionist Rohan Krishnamurthy, classical pianist Emanuel Ax, and ensembles such as the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble have brought free clinics to the CMC community.

On March 25, celebrated classical pianist Garrick Ohlsson gave a free master class at CMC.  He spent 30 minutes with each of the three young students selected to participate: Rebecca Portnoy and Daniel Shin, students of Juliet McComas, and Brenton Lai, a student of Lilia Zheltova.

An extraordinary pianist
Garrick Ohlsson began his piano studies at the age of 8, at the Westchester Conservatory of Music, and entered The Juilliard School in New York City at 13. Since his 1970 triumph at the International Chopin Competition in Warsaw, he has established himself worldwide as a musician of great lyrical interpretation and technical prowess. He is noted for his masterly performances of the works of Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert, as well as the Romantic repertoire.

Insightful instruction
Throughout the master class in CMC’s Concert Hall, Ohlsson was personable, insightful, and instructive. He affirmed how each student played, and showed respect for the students as young musicians taking this journey through their music studies.

Ohlsson was very detailed in his feedback for the students. Here are just a few observations he shared:

Sonata in D, Hob.XVI:24 by Franz Joseph Haydn, performed by Rebecca Portnoy
He gave Rebecca tips for the articulation of fast runs, then worked on the legato areas in contrast. He asked her to almost overlap the notes in her pedal work. Other suggestions were to take more time at the fermata in order to build anticipation, and to add an element of humor.

Arabesque No. 1 by Claude Debussy, performed by Daniel Shin
He recommended that Daniel make his tone project more during softer moments so that the audience can appreciate them. He suggested that the pianist think about dynamics and their relationship to one another. He also made voicing suggestions within a chord.

Fantasy in D minor, K. 397 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, performed by Brenton Lai
He showed Brenton how to make the piece sound more operatic with dramatic dynamic changes. He also offered more ways to practice runs, emphasizing the importance of practicing each hand individually. This way, you can appreciate the role of what each hand has to do.

Said Juliet McComas, “As a faculty member, it is valuable to hear another perspective and opinion on our students’ playing. If you share an opinion with the guest artist, it may be put in another way that reaches the students.”

Lilia Zheltova agreed, and shared her experience as the teacher of one of the participants: “My heart was pounding while Brenton was playing. I think I was much more nervous listening to my student than I would have been if I had been playing for Garrick myself.”

McComas added, “Bravo to the CMC students who put themselves out there in front of Mr. Ohlsson and a rapt audience. All showed extraordinary composure and maturity. There was a lot of happiness all around: the kids knew they did well, and the parents were thrilled and proud.”

Ohlsson delighted the audience at the end with two Chopin Mazurkas and the Rachmaninoff Prelude in C sharp minor, brilliantly showcasing the dynamic range and tone quality of CMC’s new concert grand. We hope for the chance to host him on our stage again soon!

View photos from the March 2017 Master Class by Linda Nakasone

Community Music Center’s new Yamaha CFX concert grand has been donated by the estate of Donald Oestreicher and by Piedmont Piano Company, with additional gifts from Denny Abrams, Robert Dell, Lawrence Dillon, and Larry Russo.

Thanks to Autodesk designer and CMC volunteer, Paul Fortin!

The artist behind Field Day at CMC

Last June, CMC took part in Autodesk’s Month of Impact and hosted a dream team of communications, social media, and branding volunteers for a day. Among them was Paul Fortin, Art Director at Autodesk. Paul has been with Autodesk for 16 years and is experienced in visual brand identity, graphic design, and event design.

As the volunteer team worked on a communications and social media plan for Field Day at CMC, our first-ever Performathon dedicated to our founder Gertrude Field, Paul sketched out a design that would become the event’s logo:

All of our Field Day communications, including posters, postcards, and digital media featured the logo. CMC received countless compliments on this fun, colorful design, which we look forward to sharing for many more Field Days.


Time for a Do Re Mi facelift

Paul’s passion for helping CMC was evident not only in the top-notch design work he did for us, but his continued volunteer support. He was only an email away when we asked him to help us design a logo for our Do Re Mi newsletter redesign. Since CMC doesn’t have a dedicated in-house designer, having a such a skilled volunteer is a huge help. Paul provided us with yet another lively and musical logo:

A big thanks to Paul and every CMC volunteer

A big thanks to Paul Fortin for making us look good! He turned our ideas into reality with logos that we love, and will use for years to come.

We truly appreciate the many volunteers who contribute to Community Music Center. Find out how you can get involved at CMC through our volunteer program.

CMC chamber group to perform at San Francisco Civic Music Association concert

A CMC chamber ensemble, coached by Coordinator Rachel Condry, was chosen by audition to perform at the San Francisco Civic Music Association’s “An Afternoon of Chamber Music” on Saturday, April 22. The musicians are all between the ages of 12-14, and are the only group in the Civic Chamber Concert Series featuring performers under 18 years old. In addition to Rachel’s coaching, they received coaching from a string player from SFCMA in preparation for their performance.

Saturday, April 22 at 3:00pm
An Afternoon of Chamber Music
Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez in San Francisco
Free (donations accepted)
Facebook event page

Samantha Friedland, flute
Alessandra Richardson-Beatty, violin
Sophia Lazara, cello

On the program:
Joseph Haydn – Hob IV:6 – Trio Op. 100 No. 1 in D major
Lucie Vellere – String Quartet 3
Felix Mendelssohn – String Octet, Op. 20


Participation in this concert series is such an honor, that I visited the group’s rehearsal last week to ask them a few questions about their work together and their upcoming performance. I’ve pulled some of my favorite answers from the group in the short interview below.


What drew you to chamber music?

“When I first heard chamber music, I loved hearing the different parts. I noticed that you could hear the individual parts more than you can when you’re listening to an orchestra.”

“I really like hearing other instruments. I like soloing, but I like hearing other instruments and the sounds blending together.”

“I like how the parts all come together so that what we produce is much bigger than an individual sound.”


How long have you all been playing together?

“Rachel put our group together in January of 2017. This is only our second performance together!”

“Now I know what to practice after hearing a recording of the last concert (our first ever).”


Any thoughts on the Haydn piece you’ll perform?

“We meet on Friday afternoons, and we all get this song stuck in our heads for the entire weekend!”

The group also shared that they like the conversational nature of the music and think it is cool to be able to connect to feelings in music that is over 250 years old.


Any last words to share?

“We highly recommend coming to this concert!”

“We also recommend the chamber music program at CMC!”

To learn more about CMC’s Chamber Music Program, visit our website:
Chamber Music for Youth
Chamber Music for Adults

CMC Presents the Premiere of “7×7,” a New Work by Rohan Krishnamurthy

Solo percussion piece inspired by the diverse and changing soundscapes of San Francisco

Sonia Caltvedt
Marketing Director, Community Music Center
415-647-6015 x75

SAN FRANCISCO, April 4, 2017 – On Saturday, April 29, San Francisco Community Music Center will premiere new work by Indian percussionist, educator, and composer, Rohan Krishnamurthy in its Mission District Concert Hall. “7 x 7” is a rhythmic composition for solo mridangam and is one of the first socially-inspired, programmatic works for south Indian percussion. The piece will be followed by new, cross-genre ideas that Krishnamurthy has developed with Prasant Radhakrishnan (saxophone), Colin Hogan (piano), and Ryan Andrews (drums).

The April 29 performance follows a series of free Indian Rhythm and Hand Drumming Workshops at CMC (see below for event details). The workshops and performance are a collaboration between Community Music Center and Rohan Krishnamurthy and are generously supported by a San Francisco Arts Commission Individual Artist Grant.

About “7×7”
“7×7,” scored for solo mridangam, is inspired by the diverse and changing soundscapes of San Francisco. The piece draws on Krishnamurthy’s field recordings of the city’s diverse natural environments and neighborhoods, and conversations with San Francisco-based artists. An array of sounds from nature, the built environment, and people are evoked in three continuous movements. The soloist is challenged to push the boundaries of traditional, mathematical repertoire, strict timing, and conventional aesthetics, and explore new, experimental capacities, in both composed and improvised parts. The piece is composed so future performances can feature other percussion instruments and performers of different skill levels.

“7×7” combines representational depictions of soundscapes with musical development. Listeners might be reminded of the wind, waves, rain, cable cars, BART, footsteps, or construction sites. The sounds and the energy of The Women’s March also inspired the composer. On its own, “7×7” presents a spectrum of rhythms and textures that at times sound familiar and unfamiliar. Delve deeper into the soundscapes and you may hear layers of symbolism reflecting an undercurrent of tension and the relentless change that shapes our diverse society.

Event Information:

April 29, 2017 at 8:00 pm
Acclaimed Indian Percussionist, Rohan Krishnamurthy in Concert
CMC Concert Hall: 544 Capp St., San Francisco, CA 94110
$15/$10 students and seniors

April 29, 2017 from 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm
Indian Rhythm and Hand Drumming Workshop with Rohan Krishnamurthy
CMC Concert Hall: 544 Capp St., San Francisco, CA 94110

About Community Music Center
Founded in 1921, San Francisco’s Community Music Center (CMC) is one of the oldest and largest community arts organizations on the West Coast. CMC makes high quality music accessible to all people, regardless of financial means. Last year, CMC served more than 2,400 students of all ages, ethnicities and income levels with music lessons, classes and other programs. Thousands enjoyed performances at CMC and out in the community. Learn more at and follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.


Artist Bios

Rohan Krishnamurthy 
Acclaimed an “international mridangam performer” by USA Today and “pride of India” by India’s leading newspaper, The Times of India, Rohan Krishnamurthy is considered a musical ambassador. Having initially received mridangam training with Damodaran Srinivasan in the U.S., he continued advanced training from maestro, Guruvayur Dorai, in India. Rohan has performed hundreds of concerts internationally since the age of nine as a distinguished soloist and collaborator in diverse music and dance ensembles. His prodigious, cross-genre artistry draws from his formal study of Indian classical music, at once propagating the ancient tradition and expanding it in new artistic directions.

Rohan has shared the stage with the leading artists of Indian classical music, including M. Balamuralikrishna, T.N. Krishnan, T.N. Seshagopalan, Chitravina N. Ravikiran, S. Shashank, T. M. Krishna, and Ranjani and Gayatri. Having intensely studied many styles of music, he has also spearheaded new cross-musical collaborations with eminent symphony orchestras, jazz ensembles, and musicians including Grammy Award-winners Glen Velez and Vishwa Mohan Bhatt, Anoushka Shankar, Jamey Haddad, and Ayano Ninomiya. He premiered Rohan, a concerto for South Indian percussion and Western percussion ensemble written for him by composer and percussionist, Payton Macdonald. The concerto was premiered on both coasts at The Juilliard School in New York City and San Francisco Conservatory of Music in San Francisco.

An acclaimed educator, Rohan has presented Indian percussion institutes and summer camps, clinics, workshops, and master classes, and academic courses at world-renowned institutions, including the Eastman School of Music, Harvard University, Berklee College of Music, University of Madras (India), A.R. Rehman’s K.M. Conservatory of Music (India), Society for Ethnomusicology, Percussive Arts Society International Convention, Interlochen Arts Academy, and National Institute of Design (India). He teaches in the Music Department at Ohlone College and directs the award-winning RohanRhythm Percussion Studio, both in-person and online, which has attracted dozens of students of all ages from around the globe. Rohan is the recipient of several prestigious awards, including USA Today “All-College Academic Second Team,” “Young Artist of India” by Bharat Kalachar (India), Thomas Siwe Scholarship from the Percussive Arts Society, and “Prodigy in Performing Arts” by the Indo-American Center in New York City.

An innovator, Rohan designed and patented a new drumhead tuning system. His work resulted in a publication in the premier music journal, Percussive Notes, and was supported by the Eastman School of Music’s Institute for Music Leadership. Rohan conducted acoustical research on his new design and has been regularly invited to present his work at the Acoustical Society of America’s international conferences. His design is now available worldwide. Committed to community service and outreach, Rohan has conducted and organized concerts and workshops for almost two decades at prominent centers, including the San Francisco Community Music Center, Oakland Roots International Academy, Chinmaya Mission, The Banyan (India), Sankara Nethralaya, Sankara Eye Foundation, and the Indo-American Cultural
Center and Temple.

Rohan’s multifaceted accomplishments as a performer, composer, educator, researcher, and entrepreneur earned him a one-on-one meeting and performance for the President of India, Dr. Abdul Kalam, at the presidential office and estate in New Delhi. Based in San Francisco, Rohan earned a Ph.D. in musicology from the Eastman School of Music as a Provost Fellow, where he founded and directed a popular Indian percussion ensemble and summer institutes. He is excited to partner with the San Francisco Community Music Center on the new Hand Drumming and Indian Rhythm institutes for the Bay Area community. Learn more at

Ryan Andrews is a composer, producer, sound designer and performer based in Los Angeles. His work has been featured in the marketing campaigns of major blockbuster movies and video games such as Geostorm, Independence Day: Resurgence, Avengers: Age Of Ultron, Furious 7 and the Call Of Duty series. A versatile performer, Ryan has worked internationally with stars across genres, including pop star Aloe Blacc, Iranian icon Dariush, jazz legend Fred Hersch and country phenom Frankie Ballard.

Born in Chicago and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan, Ryan and Rohan Krishnamurthy first collaborated in high school, culminating in several performances and the recording of the album Layopasana 2: Rhythmic Exploration. Ryan then received his Bachelor’s degree in jazz performance and Spanish from Western Michigan University and his Master’s in the prestigious Studio Jazz Writing program at the University of Miami, during which time he was mentored in composition by Lyle Mays of the Pat Metheny Group. While a student, Ryan was the recipient of eleven Downbeat Student Awards for his composition, performance, and production, and in 2012 was awarded the ASCAP Foundation Young Jazz Composer Award. Ryan currently maintains a schedule balancing composition, performance and managing production at the boutique trailer music library Pitch Hammer Music, based in Los Angeles and Iceland.

Colin Hogan was born in San Francisco, CA. He was a member of the world-renowned Berkeley High School Jazz Ensemble while also studying with the Jazzschool’s founder, Susan Muscarella. He then attended Cal State East Bay (Hayward) where he earned a BA in piano performance.

Colin has performed on five continents and has performed with many legendary jazz musicians including James Moody, Peter Erskine, Bob Brookmeyer, Roy Ayers, and Maria Schneider. In 2004 he performed with electric bass revolutionary Larry Graham of Sly and the Family Stone at the California Music Awards. Colin is currently involved in many projects including The Tommy Igoe Groove Conspiracy, Dynamic, The Jazz Mafia, Trio Zincalo and The Hogan Brothers with brothers Steve and Julian. He has worked as a music educator at SFJAZZ, Longfellow Middle School, and The Community School of the East Bay, and is currently an instructor at Cal State East Bay and the California Jazz Conservatory.

Prasant Radhakrishnan is a versatile saxophonist steeped in both South Indian Classical (Carnatic) and jazz disciplines. The unique vocal texture of his sound on saxophone, noted for its expressive complexity and rhythmic ingenuity, reflects Prasant’s continued study of tradition, constant innovation, and vast concert experience over the past fifteen years. The foremost disciple of Carnatic saxophone pioneer, Kadri Gopalnath, Prasant’s collaborations with Rohan date back almost two decades when they met at music festivals and subsequently performed across the country and India. In parallel with his development as a Carnatic artist, Radhakrishnan immersed himself in American jazz, playing in the all-star bands in high school and going on to study jazz at the University of Southern California (2000-2004). After Prasant’s move to the Bay Area in 2005, he founded VidyA. VidyA has emerged with a soulful, penetrating sound that pushes the labels of “fusion” or “world music” by merging the virtuosity of jazz with the melodic and rhythmic nuance of Carnatic music. Named among the top jazz acts by the San Francisco Chronicle, VidyA’s style has been heralded as “..madly percussive and sparkling with…a saxophone that switches idioms from second to second, and a warm, quickly picked string bass. The result combines jazz’s sweet dreaminess with the Indian form’s insistent rhythmic and tonal changes…” (San Francisco Weekly).

Radhakrishnan has established himself as an exciting Bay Area artist known for blurring musical boundaries while steeped in traditional roots. His six year relationship with the San Francisco art space, Red Poppy Art House, has resulted in two artist residencies in 2007 and 2010 and groundbreaking musical collaborations such as Nefasha Ayer: The Space of In Between (with Ethiopian vocalist Meklit Hadero, guitarist and painter Todd Brown, jazz artists Marcus Shelby, Howard Wiley and poet Michael Warr among others) and Teobi’s Dream (a multi disciplinary project with Todd Brown at the de Young Museum). He has received grants from National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), Sparkplug Foundation and SF Friends of Chamber Music for his
original work.

CMC’s 14th Annual Faculty Keyboard Marathon: Night Music

By Suzanne Korey

Last year the theme of our very successful Keyboard Marathon was Water Music, and one may wonder if all that beautiful music – from the Tempest Sonata to the Rains of Oregon – helped bring us all the rain, hail, and snow that we’ve received this year!

Our theme this year is Night Music, possibly a quieter, yet equally beautiful offering of music for our audience. We have a wide range of performers playing solo pieces, duets, and even a two piano, eight hands performance that will cap off the concert. The selections of music ranges from classical to jazz to original compositions.

The Keyboard Marathon is a beloved CMC institution, now in its 14th year. It is one of the few opportunities we have to gather members of the piano faculty and listen to the richness of the music, the diversity of taste and styles, and the quality of performance. It is a special afternoon that brings friends and family together in the CMC auditorium for music and celebration.

The Keyboard Marathon takes place on Sunday, April 23 at 3:00 pm in the CMC recital hall, at 544 Capp Street in San Francisco. Admission is $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors, with tickets available at the door. A champagne reception follows the performance – we are fortunate to have a courtyard and often beautiful weather, that allows us to take the reception outside and celebrate the day.

This year’s performers are faculty members Lauren Cony, John Kyrk, Juliet McComas, Jennifer Peringer, Lilia Zheltova, Paul Dab, Erik Ian Walker, Betty Wong, Shirley Wong Frentzel, Jacqueline Chew, Allison Lovejoy, Christian Bonvin, Joe Willcockson, Paula Dreyer, and guest artists Grace Huenemann, Esther Chan and Annie Nalezny. Suzanne Korey, CMC piano student of Lauren Cony, is producing the performance.

Community Music Center’s new Yamaha CFX concert grand has been donated by the estate of Donald Oestreicher and by Piedmont Piano Company, with additional gifts from Denny Abrams, Robert Dell, Lawrence Dillon, and Larry Russo.

CMC Boosts Tuition Assistance Programs to $1.9 Million

Approaching nearly a Century of Service, CMC continues to touch thousands of lives each year with the joy of music; Founder Gertrude Field to be honored during November 20 community celebration

SAN FRANCISCO, November 14, 2016 –
Operating from a bustling Victorian home on Capp Street in the Mission District, bursting at the seams with music students and faculty, Community Music Center has remained faithful to its 95-year-old mission: To make high quality music programs available to San Francisco residents of all ages, regardless of their financial means.The organization is taking that commitment to higher levels, announcing it will provide nearly $2 million for tuition assistance this school year to bring music study within reach for more people. That figure is up from $1.1 million just three years ago.According to Christopher Borg, Executive Director, “the growth in tuition assistance is due in large part to an increased need and a higher demand for quality, affordable music programs for people of all ages in our community. By boosting our tuition assistance, we hope to touch more lives and introduce students young and old to the joys of music, which is exactly what our founder, Gertrude Field, was passionate about nearly one hundred years ago.”

Gertrude Field’s legacy remains very much alive at Community Music Center. She will be honored at Field Day at CMC on November 20, a celebration expected to attract hundreds of current and former students, families and community supporters for a fun-filled day of musical performances, demonstration classes, entertainment and food.

Field, who started the organization in 1921, was a former nurse, violin teacher and settlement house worker. She directed CMC’s programs until 1946, guided by a straightforward educational philosophy that still resonates today to create a musical atmosphere in the home by giving children the means of expression. Her vision was to be a provider of music that was not art for art’s sake, but art for life’s sake, once saying, “how beautiful, rather than how well played or sung, is the comment one hears oftenest in our classes.”

Over the years, this powerful mission has touched countless lives as CMC continues to grow, thrive and serve an increasingly diverse constituency. Last year, more than 2,400 students studied music at CMC in a wide array of programs, classes, workshops, and community events. Thousands more attended free concerts, performances by acclaimed visiting artists, instrument “petting zoos,” and many other events. CMC offers lessons on over 30 instruments to its students, who range in age from infants to nearly 100 years old. Their musical growth is guided by a faculty of 130 noted professional artists, Grammy Award-winning musicians and nationally recognized teachers. Many are bilingual, and teach in a wide range of styles including jazz, blues, Latin, pop, folk, rock, and classical.

“Through my connection at Community Music Center and my music teachers, I found a new kind of joy in my life,” says Nena Aldaz, a 20-year-old singer who now studies music at UC Irvine. Aldaz was a scholarship recipient during her six years of study at CMC, participating in the Mission District Young Musicians Program. “CMC’s teachers and staff helped nurture my dreams to sing and with the scholarships I received, they gave me the tools to pursue a career that I love.” Nena will return to CMC to sing at the Field Day celebration, along with her two aunts who perform in CMC’s Older Adult Choir program.

Remo del Tredici, a 96-year-old CMC violin student added, “CMC is one of San Francisco’s greatest gems. CMC has so many programs and opportunities; they will work with you to make sure you experience the highest quality of music available. CMC’s community spirit and mission keeps all of us coming back.”

Tuition assistance at CMC consists of sliding scale fee reductions, free programs for youth and for older adults, merit scholarships, family and senior discounts, group class discounts for private lesson students, and a work study program. Free programs include CMC’s Older Adult Choir Program, the CMC Children’s Chorus, Teen Jazz Orchestra, and the award-winning Young Musicians Program.

Students from many of these programs, along with other current and former students, will be featured during Field Day on Sunday, November 20 from noon to 5:00 p.m. Community Music Center is located at 544 Capp Street in the heart of the Mission. The birthday extravaganza will feature CMC’s first-ever “Performathon,” where more than 200 students, guest artists and music enthusiasts at all levels will help raise money for CMC scholarships with more than 70 performances throughout the day.

About Community Music Center: Founded in 1921, San Francisco’s Community Music Center (CMC), a Bay Area nonprofit, is one of the oldest and largest community arts organizations on the West Coast making high quality music accessible to all people, regardless of financial means. CMC, based in the Mission District, was established to “be a provider of music that is not art for art’s sake, but art for life’s sake.” CMC serves more than 23,000 people each year, including more than 2,400 students of all ages, ethnicities and income levels who enjoy music lessons, programs and concerts at no or low cost.  Learn more about CMC at and follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.


Media Contact: Kevin Herglotz

HPA Strategic Communications


Interview with Tregar Otton, CMC Faculty Member

Tregar Otton began teaching at CMC in 2000, and in the 17 years he’s been here, has become more and more involved as a CMC faculty member. Tregar now teaches fiddle and violin at both branches, leads CMC’s Cuban Salsa Ensemble, and teaches and arranges for CMC’s Mission District Young Musicians Program, Camp CMC, and our new Mariachi Program in the San Francisco public schools.

Tregar began his classical training at age four. At sixteen, he was the youngest member of the Berkeley Symphony and played under Maestro Kent Nagano. Tregar has been performing professionally since then. He is now musical director of Orquesta la Moderna Tradición (a Cuban “orquesta”) and The Shams Eire (an Irish trad/rock group). Tregar performed for decades with Potaje (Flamenco/Latin ensemble), and Los Cenzontles (Mexican trad and modern music). Tregar has performed and toured with various Flamenco dance troupes in including La Tania and Theatre Flamenco. He has also worked in New York with Chocolate Armenteros, Patato Valdes, Juan Carlos Formel, and Orquesta Broadway.

Tell me about your musical life. What’s led you here?

I grew up in Corpus Christi, Texas, where I would guess that about 50% of the population had Tejano or Mexican roots. There was a lot of Mariachi music there, and a group practiced in the garage beneath our apartment for a spell. I listened to a lot of country and folk music at that time – we played it around the fire. I started playing violin early, at four years old, but I studied only classical music then. We moved to Laguna Beach when I was in junior high, then to San Francisco for high school, where I went to School of the Arts (SOTA).

As I started to learn Spanish in high school, I began listening to salsa more seriously. But I really loved classical music as a teenager. I was heavily into the opera. I would buy standing room tickets at least ten times a year and I’d bring the scores. Mozart and Italian opera were my favorites. I met Kent Nagano when I was in the Oakland Youth Symphony (OYS). He took me under his wing and became my mentor. I wrote a concerto for drum set and string orchestra for the OYS when I was 16. It was after that that Nagano asked me to join the Berkeley Symphony.

The Berkeley Symphony played a lot of new music, and I think this made me more more curious about other styles of music. For example, we once played a “Zappa ballet” with Frank Zappa and his family. I ended up spending the next summer at the Zappa household in LA. After practicing my violin for hours every day for weeks, Frank finally brought me into his studio to show me a few things.

The first time I played dance music, I got hooked. Most of the music I really like is dance music. Even the jazz music I like is swing. The audience is taking part in the music and you know if you are doing a good job. I started playing Cuban Music in a class led by Guillermo Céspedes at La Peña Cultural Center, then I played in Conjunto Céspedes.

What draws you to Irish and American traditional music you play? And to Latin music?

Well, I do have some Welsh and Irish in my background, but I don’t know if that’s why I’m drawn to the music. I have always looked elsewhere for my musical influences.

When it comes to Latin music, I love how music of the Americas is so inter-connected. Salsa music in the 70s in New York was sung in Spanish by immigrants but there were always gringos involved, too. They came together through common musical interests and I was drawn to that. The music was different from that of my heritage, but I have come to call it my own.

Also, Cuban music is one of the only musics that uses violin like a percussion instrument. It’s part of the rhythm section. I always wanted to be a percussionist, so this music really resonated with me.

Tell me about your teaching style.

I believe that you have to teach the instrument first (in my case, the violin), then dive into genres. That said, I often use traditional American music as exercises in which students can learn technique. Fiddle music was really made for the fiddle, but it is also sometimes good music for classically oriented students to start with. Using a classical method, I can draw from trad repertoire. I like to say, “Fiddle music sounds hard, but is easy to play. Classical music sounds easy, but is hard to play.”

Also, my style of teaching prioritizes having fun from the start. I like to get people playing songs as soon as possible, especially kids.

We know that your oldest student, Remo del Tredeci, is now 97. He’s been in the news several times! Tell me about what it’s like to teach students of different ages.

I love working with a variety of ages. My students range from 7 – 97 years old, and I find that each one has something unique to work on.  I try to tailor the lessons to each student’s needs, and often write out exercises or pieces that address them. The physical limitations that some older adults face can make them as challenging to work with as youngsters. For example, they may have arthritis. But my older adults are more willing to do the work in order to accomplish a goal, especially students in their 80s and up. Young children may not have developed motor skills yet, but a wonderful thing about teaching children is that they don’t have expectations that get in their way like adults sometimes do. I think teens like the real-ness of playing of instrument, which is nice to be around.

Back to Remo, I feel honored to be in the same room with him. We’ve had a weekly lesson for at least 15 years now. I love hearing his opinions and his stories. We have a pretty good friendship now.

What is the essential ingredient for making a CMC education powerful?

It’s hard to reduce it to one, but if I had to, it would be the love of music. Having a love of music yourself, and instilling a love of music in our students is really important.

CMC Expands Successful Older Adult Choir Program

Innovative program now offers ten choirs in partnership with senior centers across the city with the inclusion of choirs in Bernal Heights, Castro and Marina neighborhoods

SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 13, 2016) Community Music Center (CMC) is expanding its successful Older Adult Choir Program in San Francisco by including three new choirs at senior centers in the Bernal Heights, Castro and Marina neighborhoods. With a total of ten choirs, this innovative program brings the many personal, social and quality of life benefits of making music to hundreds of seniors in the city each week.“We’re excited to expand this wonderful program and bring the joy of music into the lives of more seniors in our community,” said Chris Borg, executive director, Community Music Center. “It’s amazing to see the positive impact singing and rehearsal time can have on the well-being of choir members.”The Older Adult Choir Program began five years ago when CMC began to partner with senior centers to provide music opportunities for older adults. It has grown to include ten choirs and serves a diversity of communities throughout San Francisco. The program is free for any older adult ages 55 and up, regardless of musical background or experience. The choirs provide a unique way for seniors to learn about singing, form new friendships, perform in community concerts, exercise, and improve their quality of life. The choirs perform at various community concerts throughout the year touching the lives of thousands of attendees.

“Working with our senior choirs has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my sixteen years at Community Music Center,” said Martha Rodríguez-Salazar, director of three of the CMC choirs. “You can see the immediate benefit in their lives as choir members learn how to sing, meet new friends, exercise and learn new breathing techniques and take better care of themselves.”

The senior centers participating in the program include: The 30th Street Senior Center, Bayview Senior Services, Mission Neighborhood Center, the Western Addition Senior Center, el Centro Latino de San Francisco, the Richmond Senior Center, OMI-Catholic Charities Senior Center, the San Francisco Senior Center at Aquatic Park, the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and the Castro Senior Center.

“I used to be introverted, always trying to avoid people. Music helps me release a lot of emotions,” said Francisco Sanchez of the CMC Solera Singers of the Mission Neighborhood Center. “All my life I dreamed of being a singer. Now I have my dream come true at my age, showing it’s never too late.”

The music sung in the program reflects the interests of each community and is chosen by the individual choirs. It includes Gospel, jazz, Latin American, show tunes, folk songs, oldies and Americana, among others. Two of the ten choirs are taught bilingually in Spanish and English, and one also sings in Tagalog.

Maxine Jones, who sings with the Bayview Older Adult Choir said, “It’s nice to get together as a group and sing. As seasoned adults we all get along so great and we really all enjoy performing in our community; it gives us a sense of purpose and we feel really good seeing the happiness it brings to others.”

“It’s gotten me out of the house more and helped me form new relationships and friendships which have just really added to my life” said Estela Moreno, who sings with the CMC 30th Street Chorus of 30th Street Senior Center.

CMC’s Older Adult Choir Program has grown as choirs have cycled out of the Community of Voices research study, a three way partnership between UCSF, Community Music Center, and the Department of Aging and Adult Services, supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging. The study examines whether singing in a community choir is a cost-effective way to promote health and well-being among culturally diverse older adults.

“These choirs give seniors something to look forward to. They bring people together in their community,” said Shireen McSpadden, executive director of the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services.

“The transformative power of that is truly amazing.”

“These seniors find a community within the choir, they find a place to belong, a place where there’s love,” added CMC Older Adult Choir co-director Nola Curtis. “I’ve had singers tell me this is the reason they get up in the morning because when you come to choir, you are part of something bigger than yourself and there is something very healing that takes place through singing and performing together.”

The Older Adults Choirs are directed and accompanied by CMC faculty in partnership with the participating senior centers. A complete list of schedules, locations and sign-up instructions, along with a video documentary about the program, can be found online.

The Community Music Center was founded in 1921 with the mission of making music accessible to all people, regardless of their financial means. Celebrating 95 years as one of the oldest and largest community arts organizations on the West Coast, CMC offers classes for people of all ages, abilities and interests and financial aid to all who need it. CMC serves more than 23,000 people each year, including more than 2,400 students of all ages, ethnicities and income levels who enjoy music lessons, programs and concerts at no or low cost.  Learn more about CMC at and follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

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Media Contact:    Kevin Herglotz
HPA Strategic Communications