Bridging the technological divide for older adult choir members

Even as the Older Adult Choir Program has moved online with practice videos and Zoom sessions, there are limitations for some of the members. Those who don’t have devices to access Zoom and online videos or access to the internet are not able to participate in the choirs. Especially during the pandemic, when isolation is more prevalent, making the choirs accessible to everyone is of primary concern for María Cora, Older Adult Choir Program Coordinator. She has been working with the Community Tech Network (CTN) and its Home Connect program to address some of the technology challenges CMC’s choir program is facing. She surveyed the Older Adult Choir conductors to nominate members who need devices and training. In working with Home Connect an additional impediment was soon discovered. Many of the nominated older adults speak Spanish or Tagalog primarily and the Home Connect program, which is currently in a pilot phase, is still developing capacity to provide support to clients for whom English is not their primary language. In working with CTN, Cora is hopeful. This past week she learned from Stephen Minor, CTN Senior Program Manager, that the Home Connect Program has more capacity for working with Spanish-speakers through volunteer recruitment. Cora is also helping to connect CTN with someone from the Tagalog community to translate their learning materials.

The Older Adult Choirs will be meeting in a special six-week summer session. Learn more here.

Online jazz ensembles build valuable performance skills

As sheltering-in-place continues through the summer, the ensemble experience of playing music in real-time with others musicians remains a restricted activity. CMC faculty who teach ensembles have been innovating their classes to adapt to these restrictions. In Charlie Gurke’s jazz ensembles, they have gone from in-person weekly classes to Zoom sessions. According to Gurke, the main change in the ensemble has been a shift from focusing on rehearsing and performing to musicianship skills.

“A lot of what we’re doing is working on theory, ear-training, and analysis,” says Gurke.

He’s identified these components as important skills to bring into the performance environment. The weekly Zoom sessions are rich. Each week, the ensemble works through repertoire, with a guided practice of Gurke playing and the ensemble playing along on mute. He individually works with students, listening to their progress. The group works on transcribing, both recorded jazz solos and solos that ensemble members are composing. Melodically, harmonically, and rhythmically analyzing repertoire is also built into the weekly sessions. Gurke has received positive feedback that the students are enjoying addressing aspects of their musicality and honing these skills. In the future, when ensembles can meet in-person again, Gurke plans to carry over some of the valuable musicianship exercises that his remote ensembles have been exploring.


Virtual Field Day: A week of music and reflection

Jazz vocalist Faye Carol was one of the celebrity performers at Virtual Field Day. Listen HERE.

The CMC community united around the power of music during Virtual Field Day, which took place June 1 through 7 with a week-long broadcast of inspiring musical performances by CMC students, faculty, and friends. The week also coincided with the eruption of protests following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Because of the widespread civil unrest taking place, Virtual Field Day also became a moment for CMC to pause and reflect on the continuing impacts of racism both locally and throughout the country.

“For the last several weeks, CMC has excitedly been preparing to launch our Virtual Field Day celebrations scheduled to start today,” said Julie Rulyak Steinberg, Executive Director, in an email to the CMC community on June 1. “However, we need to pause and reflect on the pain and turmoil in our world. Our hearts go out to the communities and families who are suffering right now because of the ongoing impacts of racism.”

CMC followed up with a statement asserting the organization’s commitment to anti-racism and solidarity with the black community seeking justice for police brutality and wrongful deaths.

Spotlight on music and creativity
The Virtual Field Day broadcast live-streamed 185 performances in recorded videos showcasing talented community members of all music levels with a vast array of genres and styles represented. Performances included music celebrities such as Latin jazz vocalist Christelle Durandy with the Grammy-winning Pacific Mambo Orchestra and Faye Carol, local jazz legend. There were videos from some of CMC’s tuition-free programs, such as the Children’s Chorus and the Older Adult Choir Program, which showed not only performances, but also the processes of remote learning being utilized. The Young Musicians Program graduates recorded testimonial videos for their graduations and the Mission District Young Musicians Program seniors shared solo performances to mark their transitions out of the program.

The creativity of the video production to create an “ensemble sound” was an unexpected boon of the broadcasts. Max Gleason, a member of the Teen Jazz Orchestra, recorded a music video of himself playing all the instruments in the song he submitted. Brandie Norris/The Real Brandita, voice student of Jonathan Smucker, shared an original hip-hop inspired composition and highly produced music video.

Faculty supporting students
Faculty members helped students with accompaniment and video editing as well. Heidi Kim, in a project funded by the CMC Faculty Stimulus Grant, created duet videos with her students and edited the videos in a split-screen format. She also created “The Twinkle Project,” a seven minute long group piece of her students performing, which included accompaniment on piano, live-cartooning, and footage from the students’ daily lives. Elmira Lagundi, Older Adult Choir member, performed a duet with fellow choir member Wally Tettamanti, with accompaniment and editing by faculty members Martha Rodríguez Salazar and Jennifer Peringer. The Virtual Field Day broadcasts provided not only great music, but a candid look into the lives of CMC students and faculty, as they’ve been sheltering-in-place.

Fundraising challenge
To date, the Virtual Field Day participants have raised $60,700. The original goal of $60,000 was successfully reached and a stretch goal of $75,000 has been set. The additional funds will support online summer music camps for ages 8–18 and the Older Adult Choir Program through the summer, as well as support CMC operations and faculty salaries. The deadline for donations is June 30 and can be made at the link below.

Donate to Virtual Field Day


A Message of Solidarity from CMC

Community Music Center was founded nearly 100 years ago with the desire to bring together a diverse and vibrant community through the unifying power of music.

Racism has no place in our community. We denounce violence against black, brown, and indigenous people. We stand in solidarity with the black community in calling for justice in the murder of George Floyd, and the ongoing acts of brutality against committed against this community every day.

We will listen to, support, and amplify the voices of marginalized communities who are suffering. We are committed to bringing marginalized voices to the forefront of our organization.

We will share music as a powerful tool of personal and communal expression—of grief, justice, and hope.

We must stand together to make a change for the future, for our children, and for our world.