Learning to play jazz at CMC

April 21, 2023

The jazz program is a core component at CMC serving all levels from beginners to advanced. Students from a range of musical backgrounds and levels seek out the program to receive top-notch coaching from talented faculty members Erick Peralta, Charlie Gurke, and Max Miller-Loran. Students learn skills in improvisation, playing by ear, jazz theory, group playing, arrangement, composition, interpretation, performance, and technique. The jazz classes, whether beginning, intermediate, or advanced, provide not only the essential ingredients for learning  jazz, but also provide opportunities to apply skills in an ensemble setting catering to a variety of musical levels. The program focuses on diving deeply into repertoire, including bebop, Latin jazz, standards (Great American Songbook  and jazz composers), plus student and faculty written compositions. 

Other CMC programs not specifically dedicated to jazz cover jazz topics from time to time, such as The So-Called Revolution (Black Music Studies Program) with Maestro Curtis and Intro to Jazz Theory (Music Theory) with Jono Kornfeld. The new vocal class R&B Choir and More with Rita Lackey explores jazz repertoire for vocalists and Teen Jazz Orchestra with Marcus Shelby focuses on teenage musicians playing in a big band setting. 

Learn more about CMC’s jazz program at sfcmc.org/jazz


Student voices from CMC jazz

Wen-Hao Lue

Wen-Hao has been taking classes at CMC since 2019 and has been studying jazz piano with Erick Peralta since 2020. He’s a member of the Advanced Jazz Ensemble, lead by Charlie Gurke, as a drummer. 

CMC has helped me meet other jazz musicians and has given me many opportunities to play music outside of class with fellow classmates. Many of the members of the Advanced Jazz Ensemble play a regular weekly jazz gig in the Mission at Ivory & Vine on Sunday afternoons!”




Stacy Mathies

Stacy has studied at CMC since 2015. She’s taken music theory, Beatles Ensemble, private guitar and voice lessons, and Embodiment & Expression class (now called Musical Expression & Injury Prevention). 

Charlie’s class [Jazz and Blues in the Aural Tradition] is the first jazz class I’ve taken at CMC. Learning to play songs by just listening (no charts allowed) is a fun challenge. The other students have been very supportive with me being a beginner at this process.”




The Peterson Family (Andy, Purple, and Annika)

Andy Peterson studied at CMC 20 years ago for a few years and returned to CMC in 2022. His daughter Purple (age 18) started at CMC a year ago and his other daughter Annika (age 18) just started with her first jazz class at CMC.

“It’s fun for us to be together in Charlie Gurke’s ensemble class Standards Ensemble II: The Jazz Composers. We get to do homework together learning songs, and if one of us needs to miss class, it’s easier to catch up. With three of us in class, we have to be careful to behave like we’re in a class, and not goofing around at home.”

In Full Bloom Gala Celebrates a Flourishing Community Music Center





Contact: Anne C. Mitchell
CMC Marketing and Communications Director
415-647-6015 x175


For Immediate Release

In Full Bloom Gala Celebrates a Flourishing Community Music Center 

CMC’s Spring Gala raises funds for the mission of music for everyone with a world-class concert and a grooving afterparty with the luminous The Curtis Family C-notes


SAN FRANCISCO, CA March 16, 2023– Community Music Center (CMC), in its 101st year of making music accessible to everyone, will be raising critical funds for its mission of music for all with a dazzling gala on Monday, April 24, 2023 at the Palace Hotel, San Francisco. The theme of this year’s CMC Spring Gala is “In Full Bloom,” alluding to an expanding CMC, with construction well underway increasing the Mission District Branch location by 4,800 square feet and doubling the number of students served each year at the Mission Branch including the tuition-free programs CMC is known for nationwide. Construction is expected to be completed by December 2023. The gala will honor Jake Heggie, the world-renowned composer and dear friend of CMC; Catharine Kalin, CMC’s longest-serving board member; and Rebeca Mauleón, Latin jazz pianist, composer, educator, and visionary. Musical performances by beloved jazz vocalist Tiffany Austin with Marcus Shelby, internationally recognized mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke, composer and pianist Jake Heggie CMC faculty, and students will light up the evening and a lively afterparty with San Francisco’s “First Family of Song,” The Curtis Family C-notes, will keep the party going. More information and tickets are available at https://cmc2023.givesmart.com.

Honoree Jake Heggie shared: “Community Music Center represents everything I believe music is about: community, connection, empathy, joy and possibility. The ripple effect of the good work being done there reaches far and changes lives for the better. It’s been a great honor to help out in small ways the past 27 years, and immensely gratifying to watch CMC grow, flourish and create more opportunity and possibility for generations to come.” 

CMC’s Gala raises money for its tuition assistance program–the largest of its kind in the country serving more than 3,000 students annually with nearly $3M in scholarships and assistance. With this campus expansion, CMC is doubling down on the mission of music for everyone, through offering up to 120 additional group classes each week, revitalizing its signature courtyard spaces, building a large gathering space for a multitude of community needs, as well as adding ADA accessibility.  

Julie Rulyak Steinberg, Community Music Center Executive Director had this to say: “CMC remains committed to growing opportunities to serve our city and those who need music the most. We look forward to a blossoming future in our expanded campus, with doubled classroom and performance space and long-awaited accessibility improvements.”


Community Music Center Spring Gala Sponsors

Presenting sponsor
Diane B. Wilsey

Evening sponsors
Camilla and George Smith

Concert sponsor
Fred Levin

Afterparty sponsors
Thao and Jerome Dodson
Gordon Getty
Marcia and John Goldman
Sharon L. Litsky and John F. Sampson
Roselyne Chroman Swig

Flower sponsors
Katherine and Roy Bukstein
The MOCA Foundation
Oak Hill Capital Corporation
Oliver & Co.

Sasha Cooke
Tiffany Austin
The Curtis Family C-notes
Jake Heggie
Rebeca Mauleón
Catharine Kalin
CMC Logo

Community Music Center (CMC), founded in 1921, is a nonprofit music school and performance space with branches in the Mission and Richmond Districts. Community Music Center makes high-quality music accessible to people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities, regardless of financial means. CMC offers the largest tuition assistance program of its kind in the country, serving more than 3,000 students with music lessons, classes and other programs. The school offers in-person and online music lessons and classes in jazz, blues, Latin, pop, folk, rock, and classical. CMC also presents free and low cost events, workshops, and master classes for its students and for the public.