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 friends they’ve met, go check out the garden, or go make a plan to eat together, 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  jazzintheneighborhood.org/contribute/.


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 jazzintheneighborhood.org/guaranteed-fair-wage-fund/


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 jazzintheneighborhood.org/tix/

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 info@jazzintheneighborhood.org or leave a message at 415-737-JITN (5486)