The Hows and Whys to memorize: Practice tips from CMC piano faculty Elyse Weakley

Whether you’re learning to play piano or another instrument, follow these practice tips from CMC piano faculty Elyse Weakley.

From the series: Practice Tips from Community Music Center Faculty

The single most efficient practice strategy for mastering a piece of music is to begin by memorizing it. Many instrumentalists will never need to perform from memory however I still strongly encourage the effort as it reaps many benefits including muscular dexterity, freedom of expression and greater ease of reading.

Follow these steps:

1. Analyze the form. Where does section A start and end? Does it ever repeat? What small or large variations are made in the repetition?  Does it start in one key and end in another?

2. Break section A into individual phrases, usually 4-8 bars long, and memorize them one at a time. I often ask my students to sing along while they play the melody as it enhances listening and retention (If you know solfege, use it. Note names or finger numbers work well too).  Pianists must memorize hands alone at first then combine them.

3. Before moving on to section B, make sure that section A is memorized as a whole, now repeat the above steps for each new section.

Why I give to CMC? A donor testimonial of Roland Feller

Pictured (L to R) Lois Feller, Roland Feller, and Jane Kumin. Photo by Drew Altizer.


“I can’t imagine a life without music.” -Roland Feller

Violin-maker Roland Feller first experienced music as a child at home, where his parents made sure that he and his five siblings each learned to play an instrument. Home is also where he learned the joy of playing music with others by playing duets with his mother – a treat that made it worth his required 30 minutes of practice per day.

Roland’s first interest in violin-making came at 12 years old when his father took him to buy his first full-size cello. He was fascinated by a man in the shop who was carving a cello bridge and decided then and there that he wanted to make violins. Years later Roland is living out that dream at his own shop on Divisadero Street.

His shop may be the first place Roland learned about Community Music Center. He has been supporting CMC for so long that it is hard to remember for sure! Former CMC Executive Director Steve Shapiro frequently came into the shop to get evaluations of instruments donated to CMC and see how they could best be used to support the CMC mission. Roland’s children, now grown, also studied music at CMC – maybe before he met Steve, maybe after… who knows!

These encounters with Steve and CMC faculty taught Roland about CMC’s mission of providing access to music for all. He knew the importance of music in people’s lives and found CMC to be an inspiration. That inspiration led Roland and his wife Lois to become supporters of CMC more than 30 years ago and they have been donating ever since.

Roland knows that everyone should have a chance to experience music, whether as an audience member or a player, and whether they are old or young. His older customers regularly ask Roland if it is too late to study music and he tells them about CMC, where everyone has a chance to study, no matter their age, experience, or financial circumstance.

Roland can see how much effort the dedicated faculty and staff put into making CMC work. He loves going to concerts and events to hear incredible work faculty do with their students. He knows that as a donor he plays a role in making that possible.

What would Roland say to someone thinking of supporting CMC? He would remind them of the importance of music in everyone’s lives. Music unites people from different backgrounds and brings so much both to individuals and to society as a whole. CMC helps everyone experience that unity, joy, and community through music.

Community Music Center selected for Outside Lands Works inaugural grant program

Historic San Francisco music organization selected for Outside Lands Works inaugural grant program


Anne C. Mitchell, Marketing Manager
415-647-6015 x75,


For Immediate Release
SAN FRANCISCO, August 3, 2018 – Community Music Center (CMC), the Mission District-based nonprofit that provides high quality music lessons, programs, and concerts at no or low cost is honored to announce that it has been selected as an inaugural grantee of the Outside Lands Works charitable fund. Outside Lands noted for being an exceptional curator of musical talent with its summer festival, has recently launched Outside Lands Works (OLW) charitable fund that “invests in the cultural vitality of the Bay Area through grants to regional music and arts education programs.”

Laura Wainer, the Director of Outside Lands Works, visited Community Music Center’s main branch in the Mission District and CMC’s Richmond District Branch in June 2018 to get to know this music organization whose roots stretch back nearly one hundred years of providing musical access to Bay Area residents.

After visiting CMC’s campuses and learning more about CMC’s programs which serve more than 2600 students annually, Outside Lands Works informed CMC that it had been selected for the inaugural grant cycle.

“OLW was developed to support local music and arts programs and we’re so excited to partner with CMC to provide ongoing opportunities for locals, young and old, to explore and share their talents. The CMC Richmond District campus is key to the OSL festival because of its proximity to Golden Gate Park and the commitment we share to inspire music and empower our community,” said OLW Director Laura Wainer.

Commenting on the grant award notification CMC Executive Director had this to say,“We are so pleased to be a grantee of Outside Lands Works. The Outside Lands festival brings significant awareness to music in the Bay Area. This is an incredible opportunity for CMC to become more visible to festival fans. OLW support is an important contribution to the arts landscape of the Bay Area.”

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 awarded over $2 million in tuition assistance, serving more than 2,600 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 about CMC at and follow the organization on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.

Outside Lands Works (OLW) is a charitable fund that invests in the cultural vitality of the Bay Area through grants to regional music and arts education programs. We believe that music and the arts are essential to a healthy, thriving society and ensuring that the next generation and residents of underserved communities have equal access to music and the arts is especially critical. We hope to help bridge the gap left by declining arts funding through sustained investments in the many diverse creative neighborhoods and communities that make up the inimitable Bay Area.

KTVU Fox 2-July 10, 2018-Mayoral inauguration coverage featuring the CNotes

KTVU Fox 2-July 10, 2018-Mayoral inauguration coverage featuring the CNotes

The CNotes, CMC students and children of CMC faculty Maestro and Nola Curtis, were filmed at Community Music Center on July 10, 2018 the night before San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s historic inauguration. The CNotes joined Mayor Breed on the stage at the inauguration singing a medley “Lift Every Voice” and the “Star-Spangled Banner.”