“What we’re listening to” is a series of Spotify playlists curated by CMC faculty.
This month’s Spotify playlist called Favorite Songs for CMC is curated by The Curtis Family C-notes, a family band with faculty members Maestro and Nola Curtis (Papa and Mama C) and their exceptionally musical children Zahar, Nile, Kiki, Isis, and Phoenix, who all study at CMC. Nola Curtis shares some listening tips for this comprehensive, seven-hour long playlist in the video below. There is genius to the song selection, so listen to it in order for maximum enjoyment. (It’s okay to take breaks.)
Beth Wilmurt, who conducts three of the Community Music Center (CMC) Older Adult Choirs, started making instructional videos for her choirs in early March when senior centers throughout San Francisco were shut down. Through this transition to a virtual choir, a series of email exchanges between choir members and Wilmurt were collected like small poems in her inbox. Wilmurt, who is also an actor and songwriter, transformed these email exchanges into mini-songs as part of For You’s ongoing Artists & Elders Project. “Hello Chorus,” which is supported by CMC’s Creative Stimulus and Artist Support Grant for Faculty, is the result. Each weekday in October, people who sign up will get one of Wilmurt’s songs delivered to their inbox.
“Little email exchanges started to seem sweetly profound even in their pedestrian nature,” said Wilmurt. “And the result was that I got really inspired by each of my students and their stories.”
Connecting in a time of COVID Wilmurt taught herself multi-track recording, iMovie, and YouTube to bring these stories to fruition, singing and playing all the parts in the recordings. Though the recordings are DIY in nature and crafted from seemingly simple exchanges, “Hello Chorus” speaks to a larger historic moment when people are forced to transform the ways they connect.
As Erika Chong Shuch, performance maker at For You, put it, “The collection of Beth’s songs are mini odes offered to the current moment. Through the multiple Artists & Elders projects, we are creating a portrait of our collective mutual aid. These projects are a record of some of the ways we’ve stepped up for each other.”
Just as the weekly videos were a lifeline for the seniors to stay connected to the social and creative benefits of the choirs, the email exchanges with her choir members became a buoy for Wilmurt’s artistic process.
“I was moved by my students’ struggles and desires to go on-line, and dealing with my own tech struggles,” says Wilmurt. “I used this songwriting prompt to keep me invested in the learning of the technology, just as my students’ social needs motivated them to step out of their comfort zone.”
Creative Stimulus Grant supports creativity during the Pandemic Wilmurt project is one of 56 CMC faculty projects supported by the Creative Stimulus and Artist Support Grant for Faculty to stimulate and support creative work during the pandemic. Other projects include work by jazz artist Marcus Shelby, pianist/composer Allison Lovejoy, tenors Jonathan Smucker and Michael Mohammed, and saxophonist Charlie Gurke.
Deciding what instrument to learn, what kind of music to play, and finding the right teacher can be a lot to navigate when signing up for music lessons. This decision-making process at CMC is facilitated with the help of the registration team.
Gabi Díaz-Hernández has been a smiling face in the registration office since 2018. As an adult music student, multi-instrumentalist, and someone very familiar with the CMC faculty she is uniquely equipped to help students. As she says, “Since I’m an adult music student myself, it reassures older music students that it’s never late and our teachers love working with adults.” For people who are unclear about what instrument to study, the half-off group class discount is very helpful too. Gabi says, “One student I had last year was interested in a bunch of different instruments. Because we have the group class discount, I could set her up with a voice lesson teacher and then she got half off on the Latin Percussion class so she could learn percussion as well.” Sometimes students may be very sure what they want to study. In these cases, Gabi makes suggestions and uses the faculty bios on the CMC website, so potential students can read about the teachers and feel confident in the match. It’s also important to know that in making a match with a teacher, it’s not set in stone. As Gabi says, “When someone is uncertain they have made the right choice about a teacher, I tell them that we want them to be happy with their teacher because it’s a commitment for a quarter. But, if it’s not a good fit for them, students can let us know after the first lesson and we can change teachers for them. It’s reassuring for them to know that.”
Even as CMC offices are closed to in-person appointments with registrars, the registration team is a phone call away.