Music is a lifeline for older adults

For CMC, the COVID-19 crisis hit early. Senior centers around San Francisco were the first to close their doors in early March and older adults were the first population recommended to socially distance themselves. With these closures the CMC Older Adult Choir Program, which serves nearly 400 older adults in senior centers throughout San Francisco, immediately transitioned to an online format, where choir faculty started making videos.

Early response
“We know that older adults are a group that is more likely to feel socially isolated, even without a health emergency in effect,” said Maria Cora, Older Adult Choir Program Coordinator “Our choir program alleviates some of this emotional burden for many of them. Completely shutting down these choirs was not an option. We wanted to provide a lifeline for them and keep the choir experience in the lives of our choir members, especially during a time when there’s so much uncertainty in the world.”

The Older Adult Choir Program staff and choir faculty responded by making Youtube videos with vocal warm-ups, stretching exercises, songs, and messages of hope. “The choir I attend occupies a big place in my life. Not having it has created a hole,” said Judith Turner who is a member of CMC Coro Solera at the Mission Neighborhood Center. “Turning on Youtube and seeing my beloved teachers has been wonderful and great. It makes a difference to see my teachers projecting something positive and very upbeat during this time.”

Silver linings
Another unanticipated benefit of the videos is that they provide professional quality practice recordings for choir members, a resource choir members didn’t have before. “When we return to meeting again, we won’t have missed a step,” said Turner. “My teachers are recording all the vocal parts on videos. It’s actually really helpful having these recordings to practice with.”

Though videos can’t provide in-person community, the videos help fill in the gap of the weekly choir routine that many members are missing. Seeing the supportive faces of their choir faculty provides much more than music. In the case of Nola and Maestro Curtis, who direct and accompany the CMC Western Addition Older Adult Choir, their choir rehearsal video includes video effects and uplifting messages like “Get up and Dance” and “Stay Healthy.” All the choir videos that faculty have made include candid moments, where the care that the faculty have for their choir members is palpable. At a time when the media is full of dire news, seeing a familiar face and practicing music is a silver lining.

Taking Lessons Online

With the City of San Francisco’s direction to shelter-in-place, Community Music Center is not holding on-site lessons and classes at its Mission District and Richmond District Branches from March 14–April 7. All CMC concerts and events during this period have also been cancelled.

We will miss our cherished community during this time, but the music will go on! We are offering lessons and classes through remote forms of instruction during the closure so that learning and teaching go uninterrupted. Expect communications from our staff and faculty regarding your lessons and classes.

While this is an incredibly challenging time for artists, organizations, and people all around the globe, we find great comfort in the role that music plays in connecting and consoling our communities in times of duress. We hope you’ll stay connected with CMC, and continue sharing in the special power of music— we need it now more than ever!

What’s it like to take a remote lesson or class?

CMC faculty are employing the latest technology and using creative approaches to provide high-quality music education and staying connected to their students, during a time when CMC’s sites are closed. For private lessons, teachers are using Zoom, Facetime, Skype, and Google Meet, which are video conferencing platforms for one-on-one, realtime lessons. For group classes, faculty are using video uploaded to Youtube, audio recordings, and video conferencing platforms to supplement classes. Our dedicated faculty are developing engaging new ways for our students to learn and practice, so high quality teaching can continue even when we can’t be together in person.

The CMC Operations Team is available to help students install and use remote learning platforms and trouble-shoot problems. Just contact us at

Take a look at some of these examples to see how an online lesson or class might look:

Phoenix Curtis takes a Zoom violin lesson with Heidi Kim, strings faculty member.  


Daniel Fabricant, Musical Storytime faculty member, created a video class for this week’s classes.


Omar Ledezma Jr., percussion faculty member, recorded a demo Latin percussion lesson on Zoom to demonstrate the experience.


Older Adult Choir members are loving having rehearsal videos online to sing with! Maestro and Nola Curtis made this video for the Western Addition Older Adult Choir, complete with warm ups, repertoire, and tips for staying healthy. 


Won’t you join in the fun, and keep the music going? Enrollment for Spring Quarter is happening now.

Questions? We’re here to help! Want to share how your lessons are going to encourage other students? Just drop us a line at