Celebrating Black Music History at SF Community Music Center

April 18, 2022
San Francisco Classical Voice
Lou Fancher
Celebrating Black Music History at SF Community Music Center

It’s the rare centenarian organization that is as vital and forward-looking as the San Francisco Community Music Center. Founded by Gertrude Field in 1921 with the mission of making music accessible to all people through low or no-cost music lessons and concerts, the CMC is making a larger impact on the Bay Area now, with a greater diversity of programming, as detailed in SFCV’s recent feature.

While continuing to offer a vast array of opportunities for people of all ages, a new Black Music Studies Program and a recommitment to listening to the community are harbingers of the directions the organization will pursue as it enters a second century in operation. Inclusion is not a new word for the CMC: In 1945, its board of directors furthered Field’s humanitarian vision by establishing a hiring process that sought the best instructors, regardless of race.

CMC Executive Director Julie Rulyak Steinberg, in an interview, says, “Community has so many meanings to consider: cultural identity, geography, like-mindedness, generational roots, deeply held values — the list goes on. This kind of multifaceted thinking is always key to the ways in which we seek to reach the various communities we serve through the development of CMC’s programming. When CMC considers how we will frame and prioritize community in our next 100 years, we are finding new ways to listen to those around us, inviting and uplifting diverse voices that reflect a community’s needs and experiences to create music programming and creative work, and expanding our thinking about what role music and the arts can play for our students and teachers beyond traditional teaching and performance.”

Her statement mirrors that of many arts organizations, until she adds, “If we have learned anything from the pandemic, it’s that the arts are a listening tool, a tool of justice, and a way for people to connect to something that is deeply nourishing for individuals and communities.”

Composer, musician, and music scholar Maestro Curtis leads the tuition-free online Black Music Studies Program series of courses he teaches with his wife Nola Curtis, an established and recognized vocalist, musician, teacher, dancer/choreographer, and the accompanist for the CMC Older Adult Choirs. About developing and leading the program, Curtis says, “As a direct descendant of African slaves on both sides of my family, it is a legacy and an honor to be in a position to tell the story and the history of Black music from a Black perspective. The Community Music Center has respected my experience and has allowed me to display, from my perspective, what Black humanity has given to the world and to the music world.”

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Additional press for Maestro Curtis’ A Song of Triumph: The History of Black Music centennial commission:

April 20, 2022
“On the Arts” with David Latulippe
Maestro Curtis, “A Song of Triumph: The History of Black Music”


To mark its centennial, S.F. Community Music Center will send out 100 musical seedlings

April 1, 2022
San Francisco Chronicle Datebook
Joshua Kosman
To mark its centennial, S.F. Community Music Center will send out 100 musical seedlings

What could be more inviting than getting a video infusion of new music in your email inbox every morning? Well, what about two?

As part of its ongoing centennial celebrations, San Francisco Community Music Center is about to launch “(Re)Imagine,” a multi-week collaboration with Oakland composer, performer and music teacher Cava Menzies. To match the school’s 100 years as a center for low-cost, accessible music education, Menzies plans to send out 100 short music videos — two or three minutes apiece — featuring her original collaborations with students and faculty of the school, and with musical colleagues from around the world.

The plan is for them to roll out, two at a time, for 50 days, beginning Monday, April 4. (You can sign up to receive the videos on the school’s website.)

The videos, Menzies told The Chronicle during a recent video interview, are “very raw and real” — an attempt to capture the lives of her and her musical partners as they currently are. Some were created remotely on Zoom, using the software that has become ubiquitous during the pandemic shutdown; others feature Menzies and a student in the same room, working through musical material together.

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Additional press for (Re)Imagine: 100 New Works From Cava Menzies and Community Music Center:

April 5, 2022
Bay City News
Georgia Rowe
Appeared on SF Gate
Celebrating 100 Years Of SF’s Community Music Center With 100 New Works That Tackle Very 2022 Issues

May 12, 2022
“On the Arts” with David Latulippe
San Francisco Community Music Center: Cava Menzies & Sylvia Sherman


Community Music Center’s Centennial Gala Makes Headlines

February 28, 2022
San Francisco Examiner
James Ambroff-Tahan
Community Music Center celebrates 100 years with a concert on steroids

February 28, 2022
San Francisco Chronicle Datebook Pick
Tony Bravo
Community Music Center’s Centennial Gala

April 8, 2022
Nob Hill Gazette
Catherine Bigelow
Parties: Centennial Sounds

San Francisco’s leading performers, arts leaders and educators came together Wednesday, March 2 at San Francisco’s historic Julia Morgan Ballroom, to celebrate the Community Music Center’s centennial and honor Roselyne Chroman Swig, Betty Wong, Shirley Wong-Frentzel and Cecilia Peña-Govea (La Doña) with the Gertrude Field Community Impact Awards. Gala Chair Sharon Seto, Centennial Chair Fred Levin and Honorary Chair Ellen Magnin Newman and committee members produced an evening-to remember featuring dinner and performances by some of the Bay Area’s leading artistsin celebration of CMC’s historic legacy providing a century of music for everyone as it looks forward to the next century of arts access supporting CMC’s mission to make high-quality music education accessible to all people, regardless of financial means.

Featured guests artists: Trumpeter, bandleader, composer, educator and activist Sean Jones; tenor Pene Pati and soprano Amina EdrisAlexander String Quartet, mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade and composer-pianist Jake Heggie, percussionist John Santos, guitarist Jason Vieaux and jazz and cabaret singer Paula WestRenel Brooks-Moon sparkled as Master of Ceremonies alongside Greg Quiroga, auctioneer. Click here for more information about the gala guest artists.

CMC Faculty and Students among Yerba Buena Gardens Festival’s 2022 lineup

April 6, 2022
San Francisco Chronicle Datebook
Lily Janiak
Paula West, Marcus Shelby among Yerba Buena Gardens Festival’s 2022 lineup

Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, the 22-year-old free event series (and CMC partners), is returning to its eponymous South of Market city park on May 7, which kicks off six months of weekly programming in music, dance, theater and more.

The outdoor event’s lineup, announced Wednesday, April 6, also includes Bay Area favorites such as veteran jazz contralto Paula West and San Francisco bassist and composer Marcus Shelby (CMC Teen Jazz Orchestra director), along with a spate of world premieres including Shelby’s Blues in the City with the Marcus Shelby New Orchestra.

“The festival is proud to commission new musical and performance programs specifically designed for the Gardens,” Linda Lucero, the festival’s executive and artistic director, said in a statement.

Included in the Festival programming are performances by CMC’s New Voices Bay Area TIGQ Chorus, and a world premiere celebrating the CMC Centennial, A Song of Triumph: The History of Black Music a new work by faculty member Maestro Curtis, featuring Maestro Curtis Ph.D, the Curtis Family C-Notes and special guests.

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