Congratulations 2016-2017 Merit Scholars!

Each May, juries of CMC faculty and staff listen to scores of students to select full scholarship recipients for the coming year, based on need and merit. The following young people are the recipients for the fiscal year beginning July 1, 2016 and ending June 30, 2017.

Charlotte Ackerly Memorial Scholarship
Ying Chen

Chevron Scholarship
Ryan Nguyen

Bella and P.P. Chiu Memorial Scholarship Fund at CMC
Kirby Leo
Murali Meyer
Leo Safir
Phuong Dang

Ruth and Martin Elsner Memorial Scholarships
Megan Ma
Qiao Ying Chen

Gertrude Field Memorial Scholarship
Dinh Tran

Marian N. Ford Memorial Scholarship in Strings
Gabriella Mendoza-Gorska

Tyler Guge Memorial Scholarship
Addison Kuang

Harold Haber Memorial Scholarship
Maritza Bautista

Hilda Haber Memorial Scholarship
Hannah Kim

Koret Scholarship
Susanna Lau

Ross McKee Memorial Scholarships in Piano
Luis Lazaro
Trinity Lee
Rosa Zhang
Journey Rae Moore-Prewitt
Tiffany Ian

Alice Morini Memorial Scholarship
Sophia Manodori

Maurice, Helen, and Carl Shapiro Memorial Scholarship
Sunnie Lee

The Shenson Foundation Scholarship
Brenton Lai

Shorr Memorial Scholarship in Chamber Music
Kelly Lee

Gioia Taber Piano Scholarship
Alexander Lee

Mrs. Paul L. Wattis Memorial Scholarship
Amy G. Li

Joan Wild Memorial Scholarships
Vanessa Lopez
Devin King-Roberts

Peter F. Ostwald M.D. Memorial Scholarship
Nora Milyak

Rhea Sadowski Memorial Scholarship
(sponsored by Women’s Musicians Club of SF)

Jennifer Lee

Isabel Hesselberg Memorial Scholarship
Karen Domingo

James Hunt Scholarship
Priscilla Guan

Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship
Leo Austin-Muehlec

Meet CMC’s new Campaign Director, Carolyn Charlton Squeri

Last month, Carolyn Charlton Squeri joined CMC’s development team as our Campaign Director. Carolyn has successfully completed capital campaigns in the Bay Area ranging in scope from $4 million to $120 million and has joined CMC at the just the right time.

I hear you are a fourth generation San Franciscan! What neighborhood did you grow up in?

I grew up in St. Francis Wood. My husband Jim and I moved onto the same block and raised our three sons there, five doors from my parents. My mom, who is 95, still lives in her house. Until recently I could walk up to her house and hear her playing In the Mood or Aloha ‘Oe on the piano. I took piano lessons for years, but wasn’t a natural.

One of our sons and his wife just had a baby, a daughter and a sixth-generation San Franciscan!

My interest in fundraising actually began when our sons went to school. I started with volunteering and planning events, and would help out with fundraising campaigns at Cathedral School for Boys, Lick-Wilmerding High School, and St. Ignatius College Prep. My “master class” training in fundraising and campaigns came at Stanford University, where I was an active alum and served on the Parent Advisory Board while our sons were there . . . and where they really know how to raise money! I became very involved and found that I really enjoyed it.

What do you like about fundraising work?

The mission is what it’s all about. Fundraising enables everything else. It’s very aspirational. You enable dreams and visions of the future to come to fruition.

Building a strategy to help a place get to the next level is challenging, but so rewarding. I’ve found that fundraising is all about relationships and connections. You meet people along the way and find common interests that enrich the community around you. Events are great because they are fun and also serve as “friend-raisers.” It is really very satisfying to introduce friends to a place you love and then watch their engagement grow.

I like to engage as many people as possible. It takes everyone pulling in the same direction to get the best results. In our case, here at CMC, that means everyone: students and faculty, musicians and singers, alums and families, the board and committees, staff and volunteers, young and old, foundations and corporations, the local neighborhood and greater Bay Area community, longstanding supporters and new friends – all working together to ensure that CMC will continue to provide high quality music instruction to everyone . . . for generations to come!

It’s important that people feel like the institution is their place, that they have a sense of ownership, that they bring friends so that they can experience it, too. As their engagement increases, the community grows.

Tell me what it’s like to see facility expansion campaigns through.

I was able to experience the effects of facility renovations at Lick-Wilmerding and Cathedral School for Boys and both raised the level of enjoyment and function for students and teachers. The additions added so much more than space. They created areas that are conducive to quiet conversation and collaborations, social interaction and activities, contemplation, and inspiration.

The $120M Campaign for the Cathedral of Christ the Light on Lake Merritt in Oakland had a profound impact on the community. First of all everyone had to truly came together to raise that amount. Skidmore, Owings and Merrill did an amazing job with the engineering (ball bearings for earthquake safety) and their use of symbolism and light to create a beautiful spiritual space that glows at night.

All the hard work of a campaign pales in comparison to the pride you feel when a project is completed and you see people enjoying it.

What drew you to CMC’s capital campaign?

I have known people who I highly respect who have been involved with CMC and I see so much potential here. I find it surprising that CMC isn’t better known given the impact it’s had on our community for 95 years. The fact that CMC’s mission is so worthy also drew me to the campaign.

It was fortunate that 552 Capp Street became available, and that CMC’s long history and presence here on Capp Street will continue in the new expanded, improved, and re-imagined campus.

I was mostly drawn to CMC and the campaign because I felt I could make a difference. I would like to be a part of bringing the buildings and facilities up to the high quality of the musical experiences that CMC offers and the beautiful music that permeates the place.

Truth be known, it was Chris’ invitation to be a “thought partner” that I found irresistible and made me want to join CMC’s development team and the capital campaign.

I look forward to helping more people fall in love with CMC.

Will you perform in our Performathon?

My husband sings; he’ll perform in the Field Day Choir at the Performathon.

I will be participating as a “virtual performer,” raising funds, which comes more naturally to me!

Welcome CMC’s new Older Adult Choir Coordinator, Maria Cora!

CMC is thrilled to have María Cora on staff as our new Older Adult Choir Coordinator. She replaces CMC’s first Older Adult Choir Coordinator, Marissa Balonon-Rosen, who is now off at law school. María is no stranger to CMC’s Older Adult Choir Program. Before joining us, she worked as a Clinical Research Coordinator Associate with the UCSF Institute for Health & Aging on the Community of Voices study.

CMC has ten older adult choirs in partnership with senior centers throughout San Francisco. The choir program has grown as choirs have cycled out of the Community of Voices research study, which is a partnership between UCSF, Community Music Center and the Department of Aging and Adult Services.

Tell me what inspired you to keep working with choir members at CMC?

Because I’m as old as some of the singers in the choir, I can relate to them when it comes to our challenges and our sources of resilience.

I’m also a singer. I started singing in public in college, when I sang in a rock/jazz band. I can relate to the singers who feel anxious about performing on stage and those who feel lifted up by the applause. That experience is truly priceless.

I joined the Community of Voices team a few years ago because I agreed with the hypothesis of the study, that singing in community is beneficial to your health. The choirs were an excellent idea, and I worked diligently to help prove it. I got to see them get started, and I recruited in the different neighborhoods we work in. I got to know many of the participants because I conducted their individual assessments.

To me, the fact that the senior centers and members all wanted the choirs to continue speaks volumes. Of course, CMC has a great reputation in the community as well. I feel privileged to be part of it.

Has anything changed now that ten of the choirs have transitioned from the study to CMC’s program?

Not much, but I do get to see the conductors in their comfort zones after having led more than a year of rehearsals. What has changed is the way I work. I was part of a large team at UCSF and now I’m working as an individual on one of CMC’s many programs.

Tell me about your career before the Community of Voices Study.

I worked for the San Francisco Department of Public Health for 16 years. For a lot of that time, I was focused on adolescents, their parents, and schools. In the last four years I was there, I became the Coordinator of the Office of Women’s Health. I loved that work, and I only left due to a move to Miami. There, I was coordinating the Aqua Foundation for Women, and writing grants as their first paid staff. My partner and I missed our community in the Bay Area, and came back after three years away to a great big hug from the Bay community.

I’ve been in the Bay Area and part of the musical community here since 1981. I’m originally from Puerto Rico, but I’ve lived in California longer now, so I’m a “Calirican.” I came to the US and earned a BA from Harvard. From there, I went to film school in New York, lived in Arizona for a while, then moved to California.. I was interested in a salsa orchestra headed by the late timbalera Mala Maña (which translates to “bad habits” or “street savvy” in Spanish), “Orquestra Sabrosita,” and became their lead singer two weeks after I got here! I earned an MA in Ethnic Studies from San Francisco State University. I’m also a graduate of the Queer Women of Color Media Arts Project, and completed the short, “Negra Linda” in 2004.

Tell me about your musical life.

I am the lead vocalist and also play hand percussion in a band called “Azúcar Con Aché,” a female septet that has been playing Latin jazz and salsa since 2008. Some of us have been playing together for almost 25 years. If you’d like to hear us live, I invite you to come to our show at Rhythmix Cultural Works in Alameda this September 24.

How did you start singing and playing music?

If you grow up in Puerto Rico, it is generally assumed that all children should learn to sing, play music and dance. In elementary school, we were taught folkloric dance and music from Puerto Rico and the rest of Latin America. I come from a family with musicians in it, and a lot of our friends would bring live music to our home. Music was just part of growing up.

Do you have any thoughts or tips for older adults considering participating in a choir or studying at CMC?

I would definitely encourage them, especially if they haven’t explored music before. I guarantee that they will find a positive experience in it and that it will impact their life in ways they’ll be forever grateful for. It is joy-provoking and it balances out many other things in life. It’s just good for you! Grounded in community, your energy contributes to a global harmonious sound, replicated by people all over our planet. Come sing with us!

Announcing “Field Day at CMC,” a 95th Birthday Extravaganza and Performathon in Honor of its Founder, Gertrude Field

Kevin Herglotz
HPA Strategic Communications

For Immediate Release

Community Music Center Announces “Field Day at CMC,” a 95th Birthday Extravaganza and Performathon in Honor of its Founder, Gertrude Field

SAN FRANCISCO, August 18, 2016 – Music enthusiasts young and old are invited to help San Francisco’s Community Music Center celebrate its 95th birthday by participating in “Field Day at CMC” – a five-hour Performathon and birthday extravaganza that will feature a “Field Day Choir and Orchestra” of CMC students and alumni, workshops, lesson demonstrations, faculty and student performances, an instrument petting zoo, food, and more.

“It’s not every day you can celebrate making a difference in your community for three generations,” said Christopher Borg, executive director, Community Music Center.  “Field Day at CMC celebrates our founder, Gertrude Field, and 95 years of music for everyone with free performances, workshops, and lessons.”

Field Day at CMC” takes place on Sunday, November 20 from noon to 5:00 p.m. at 544 Capp Street in the heart of the Mission.  The Field Day extravaganza will feature CMC’s first-ever “Performathon” – where students, guest artists and music enthusiasts at all levels can help raise money for CMC scholarships by performing throughout the day. The event will be free and open to the public. For additional information or to support the event with a donation, please visit the “Field Day at CMC” website at or visit .

Beginning today, 95 days before the Field Day extravaganza, CMC is launching a social media campaign of Happy Birthday videos from CMC students, alumni, community leaders, notable performers, music lovers and the general public, in addition to archival photograph social media posts chronicling CMC’s rich history. Happy Birthday videos can be viewed and uploaded on YouTube.

One of the first video birthday wishes comes from 96-year-old CMC violin student Remo del Tredici, who said, “I’m wishing a happy birthday to Community Music Center! It’s been a little over 20 years that I’ve been here. I’m still enjoying it and everyone I’ve been involved with. I love the school and hope to keep going on and on. I wish everyone in the school good luck!”

Gertrude Field, a violinist and nurse, came to San Francisco in 1912 from the Mannes School of Music in New York to become the first director of the music department of the Dolores Street Girls Club settlement house.  In 1921, Field established the music club of the Girls Club as an independent organization, the Community Music School, and moved it into its current home at 544 Capp St. in the Mission District.

Today, CMC offers music instruction to students from ages 2 to 96, not only in classical music but also in jazz, Latin, popular music, and many other styles. CMC enrolls students of all financial backgrounds, and offers one of the most generous tuition assistance programs in the country. Last school year, CMC awarded nearly $1.7M in tuition assistance to its students. For more information about “Field Day at CMC,” CMC’s educational programs, events and activities, visit

About San Francisco’s 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.


We are thankful for our amazing volunteers!

This year Community Music Center has welcomed volunteer groups from Salesforce, Dropbox, Google, and Autodesk to our Mission Branch. These teams provided valuable support on a range of impactful projects including customizing our donor database (Salesforce), archiving and framing historical photos (Dropbox), and streamlining our online presence (Google). A Dropbox team also made a short video for CMC’s young musicians about the connection between music and their careers in the tech industry.

In particular, Field Day at CMC has been given a huge boost by volunteer teams from Autodesk, and will be greatly supported by volunteers from Wells Fargo. Autodesk volunteers had a crucial role in the pre-production of Field Day through branding, communications, and designing an historical installation. Wells Fargo volunteers will be helping at Field Day on November 20 with set up, greeting, and registering.

We also want to thank our many student and parent volunteers who regularly contribute to our work. The work of all our volunteers truly makes a difference in supporting and furthering CMC’s programs, events, and mission.

For more information about CMC’s volunteer program, please visit our volunteer opportunities page.

Sold out “El Son de la Misión” celebrated our community

“El Son de la Misión,” a musical suite commissioned by Community Music Center, brought down the house with two sold-out shows at Brava Theater Center in March. Four generations of artists filled the stage taking the audience on a musical journey that rejoiced in the powerful cultural history of the Mission.

The evening evoked musical memories for the audience. They sang along, and cheered the performers on, completely captivated by the music.

Community Music Center was awarded a Creative Work Fund grant, a coveted award that invites artists and nonprofit organizations to create new art works through collaborations. CMC collaborated with multi-instrumentalist, composer, arranger and educator, John Calloway, to compose a musical history of the Mission District. The music is linked together by a conversation between a veteran resident Don Rafa, played by Co-Theatrical Director Carlos Barón, and a young Rosa Maria, played by actress, musician and MDYMP alumna Araceli Leon.

Special thanks to the amazing creative collaborators John Calloway and Carlos Barón and to CMC’s Program Director and Producer extraordinaire Sylvia Sherman.

Look out for a possible encore performance at Brava this fall!

Excellent show….music was great…Brought back great memories of many good times…Very well done. – Angela L., audience member

View more photos
Read El Tecolote article “New Production Brings Mission History to Life Through Music
Listen to KQED’s Cy Musiker previewing “El Son de la Misión”

el son-musicians

el son-actors

el son - mdymp

CMC’s 2016 Spring Gala hit every high note!

A Salute to the Joy of Making Music, Community Music Center’s annual Spring Gala, was a wonderful evening of community, stellar performances, and support for continuing CMC’s founder Gertrude Field’s vision of a quality music education for all. One of our most successful galas to date, the event exceeded our goal by more than ten percent. One of the most exciting things we saw was a 60% increase in paddles raised during the scholarship auction. Bravo! And thank you. This school year, CMC will offer nearly $1.7M in tuition assistance to its students. We can’t do this without the support of our donors.

View photo highlights on photographer Drew Altizer’s site.
View CMC’s full photo album for the event.

Mary Commanday
CMC’s Executive Director Christopher Borg, Board President Patricia Taylor Lee, and Mary Commanday, wife of Gertrude Field Community Impact Award recipient, the late Robert P. Commanday. Mary is accepting the award on his behalf.

GRAMMY® award-winning ensemble Chanticleer performs for guests at the San Francisco Community Music Center’s 95th Anniversary Gala.

Instrument Petting Zoo
Young Musicians Program Student Leader Hannah Hanif demonstrates the violin to Dorothy Reller. Looking on is her sister, Mary Commanday.

Gala chair Kathy Aizawa
Auction donors Philip Palermo and Ernest Stout with board member and gala chair Kathy Aizawa


Announcing the Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship at CMC

The Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship honors the life of classical guitarist and Community Music Center teacher Curtis Renshaw by supporting the studies of a guitar student at CMC each year.

Curtis passed away suddenly in June of 2015. He had taught at CMC since 1981, having given nearly 35 years of service to our community. His students appreciated his kindness and patience as a teacher, and those of us who have heard his playing remember it fondly. Says faculty member Shirley Wong-Frentzel, “He was very special to CMC, very dedicated… In his quiet way, he kept the high quality of classical guitar alive here.”

Kerrilyn, Kenneth, and Curtis Renshaw
Kerrilyn, Kenneth, and Curtis Renshaw

Says wife Kerrilyn Renshaw, “If a student was serious, Curtis would offer his time beyond the scheduled lesson. This was especially true if they were a young person. Within a week of Curtis’s passing, my son Kenneth and I talked about how best to honor Curtis’s memory and decided on a guitar scholarship in his name. Others suggested doing the same thing, including Richard Patterson of the Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts, where Curtis was a board member for many years, and Scott Cmiel, who was a colleague of Curtis’s for many years at the Conservatory and then later at The Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA).”

Since Curtis taught and mentored many teen guitarists who attended SOTA, Kerrilyn and Kenneth also wished to create a link between the guitar departments of SOTA and CMC, with the scholarship particularly benefiting a serious student of the guitar who attends SOTA.

Kerrilyn continued, “CMC Executive Director Chris Borg was gracious and enthusiastic, and the whole team at CMC was incredibly supportive and generous with their time and ideas. All of the money has been privately raised by friends and family of Curtis. It feels so great to know that so many people wanted to contribute. It’s been a great success already, and I hope it can continue to serve the musical development of the serious student of the guitar.”

“Nationally recognized guitar instructor Scott Cmiel has generously donated much of his time to help plan the scholarship program and has offered to teach the students who receive the Curtis Renshaw Memorial scholarship. Scott is also the Director of Guitar at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Precollege Division and at SOTA.”

Chris Borg, Kerrilyn Renshaw, Tcarla Horn and Scott Cmiel
Chris Borg, Kerrilyn Renshaw, Tcarla Horn and Scott Cmiel

The first scholarship recipient, Tcarla Horn
The first recipient of the Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship was SOTA student, Tcarla Horn. “Tcarla flourished under Curtis,” said Kerrilyn, “she performed at his memorial service.”

Says Tcarla, “He always believed in me, even when no one else did, not even myself.”

Tcarla likes to share her playing with others. Here is a performance of O Astronauta by Baden Powell, dedicated to the memory of her teacher.

At a recital given by the students of SOTA guitar instructor Scott Cmiel, Curtis’s wife Kerrilyn Renshaw and CMC’s Executive Director Chris Borg presented the very first Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship award to Tcarla.

Tcarla has just graduated, and the 2016-2017 recipient of the Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship, 15 year-old Leo Austin-Muehlec, was just selected in June.


Scott Cmiel, Leo Austin-Muehlec, Kerrilyn and Kenneth Curtis
Scott Cmiel, Leo Austin-Muehlec, Kerrilyn and Kenneth Curtis at Community Music Center

How to contribute
If you would like to contribute to the Curtis Renshaw Memorial Guitar Scholarship scholarship, you can do so online (please indicate “Curtis Renshaw Memorial Guitar Scholarship” in the dedication field) or by mail:

Please write a check to “Community Music Center,” and state in the memo “Curtis Renshaw Memorial Guitar Scholarship.”

Mail to:
Community Music Center
Development Office
544 Capp Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

About the Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship
The Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship is a special collaboration with The Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA). Each year, a member of SOTA’s guitar faculty will nominate hard working and passionate students who have not had ample opportunity for private lessons. These students will audition during CMC’s May juries and will be selected by a faculty panel. Full scholarships to study at CMC are awarded on consideration of both musical growth and financial need.

A CMC Merit Scholarship provides a full year of private lessons at CMC. The Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship was inaugurated in the 2015-16 school year and is one of 31 awarded.

Concert with Conversation Performer Feature: Pianist Marc-André Hamelin

CMC is thrilled to welcome the widely beloved pianist Marc-André Hamelin back to our stage this month in a Concert with Conversation. This series, sponsored by San Francisco Performances, brings exceptional artists to CMC to give free, community concerts that also feature conversation with the audience.

Learn more about Hamelin below, and mark your calendars for his appearance on Friday, October 21 at 6:00pm!


Pianist Marc-André Hamelin at-a-glance:

From: Montreal, Quebec

Currently living in: Boston, Massachusetts

Married to: Cathy Fuller, pianist and WGBH classical music broadcaster

Age he began to play: Five

Best known for: His attention to lesser-known composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century

Little known fact: Hamelin has written three pieces for player piano.

Our favorite kudos: 
“A true avatar of the piano” — Hyperion Records
“Is it possible for a pianist to be too good? If anyone faces jeopardy with that question, it’s Marc-André Hamelin.” — The New York Times

Home country honors:
– Officer of the Order of Canada: recognition by Her Majesty The Queen for outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation
– Chevalier de l’Ordre du Québec: the highest distinction given by the Québécois government
– Member of the Royal Society of Canada: the senior national, bilingual council of distinguished Canadian scholars, humanists, scientists and artists

andsneshamelin2xAnother opportunity to hear him in SF this year:
Leif Ove Andsnes and Marc-André Hamelin, pianos

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 7:30pm
Herbst Theatre, SF
San Francisco Performances will present this two-pianos/four-hands recital featuring works by Debussy, Mozart and Stravinsky. Says SFP, ”…the combined talents of these frequent collaborators and friends create an exhilarating experience.”

Learn more:
Read his full bio.
View featured videos of his performances.
Visit his official website.