CMC choirs sing city-wide this December

As the year comes to a close, CMC’s Older Adult Choir Program is celebrating with festive concerts all over San Francisco during the month of December. The concerts take place around the city in the various neighborhood centers where each choir holds weekly rehearsals, and are open to the public and free unless otherwise noted. These year-end performances feature songs in many styles and languages: from gospel and jazz, traditional folk songs from Latin America, to showtunes and oldies, these songs are sure to bring holiday cheer.  Be sure to catch a performance in the coming weeks, and be uplifted by the joy of song.

Older Adult Choir December Concerts:

Friday, December 6 at 7:00pm – Christmas in the Mission with CMC Choirs—with Coro CMC del Centro Latino de San Francisco and CMC Solera Singers of Mission Neighborhood Center—at Mission Dolores Basilica, 3321 16th Street. $15 general/$10 seniors/$5 youth 18 and under. Tickets available at the door and online here

Saturday, December 7 from 6:30–8:00pm – CMC Western Addition Older Adult Choir at Jones United Methodist Church, 1975 Post Street

Monday, December 9 from 10:45am–11:30am – CMC 30th Street Older Adult Choir at Lifeways, 30th Street Senior Center, 225 30th Street

Tuesday, December 10 from 12:30–1:00pm – CMC Bayanihan Equity Center Older Adult Choir at Gene Friend Recreation Center, 270 6th Avenue

Wednesday, December 11 from 2:00–2:30pm – CMC Bernal Heights Older Adult Choir at Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center, 515 Cortland Avenue

Thursday, December 12 from 1:00-2:00pm – CMC Aquatic Park Older Adult Choir at Aquatic Park Center, 890 S Beach Boulevard

Thursday, December 12 from 2:00–2:30pm – CMC Castro Older Adult Choir at Castro Senior Center, 110 Diamond Street

Friday, December 13 from 1:00–2:00pm – CMC Solera Singers of Mission Neighborhood Center at Mission Neighborhood Center, 362 Capp Street

Monday, December 16 from 10:00am-11:00am – CMC 30th Street Older Adult Choir at 30th Street Senior Center, 225 30th Street

Wednesday, December 18 from 3:30–4:00pm – CMC Bayanihan Equity Center Older Adult Choir at Bayanihan Equity Center, 1010 Mission Street

Thursday, December 19 from 3:30–4:00pm – CMC Visitacion Valley Older Adult Choir and CMC Bayview Older Adult Choir at San Francisco Public Library, Visitacion Valley Branch, 201 Leland Avenue

Friday, December 20 from 11:00–1:00pm – CMC IT Bookman Older Adult Choir at IT Bookman Community Center, 446 Randolph Street

Friday, December 20 from 12:00–1:00pm – CMC OMI Senior Center Choir at OMI Senior Center, 65 Beverly Street






Holiday concerts in the Mission celebrate Latino culture and music

Two Mission District neighborhood holiday concerts are taking place the first weekend of December. On Friday, December 6, CMC presents “Christmas in the Mission / Navidad en la Misión” at Mission Dolores Basilica. On Saturday, December 7 the “Afro-Latin Dance Party with Two Generations” will light up the CMC Concert Hall. Both events shine a spotlight on CMC music programs that teach music from the Spanish-speaking world and celebrate Latino culture.

Christmas in the Mission / Navidad en la Misión
At “Christmas in the Mission / Navidad en la Misión” CMC choirs are performing a one of a kind music program celebrating holiday traditions from the Spanish-speaking world at Mission Dolores Basilica. The program contains contemporary Christmas songs and also highlights rarely heard holiday music from the 17th and 18th centuries. CMC Coro Solera and Coro Centro Latino de San Francisco Older Adult Choirs are singing Christmas songs from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Colombia. CMC Coro de Cámara are performing Spanish and Mexican Baroque and Renaissance selections as well as 20th century choral music. Martha Rodríguez Salazar is conducting the choirs with accompaniment by Jennifer Peringer (accordion/piano/arranger), Lisa Larribeau (flute), and Leo Suarez (bass).

“Our program is full of holiday favorites in Spanish,” said Martha Rodríguez Salazar, conductor and musical director. “My hope is that the audience will discover the hidden jewels of Renaissance and Baroque music from Spain and the Americas as well. It’s very beautiful music.”

Afro-Latin Dance Party with Two Generations
The “Afro-Latin Dance Party with Two Generations” returns for its second year with an intergenerational performance by CMC students playing Latin dance music. The Mission District Young Musicians Program are performing music from throughout the Americas including cumbia, música norteña, son, danzón, and cha-cha-chá. The CMC Charanga Ensemble are performing Cuban dance music, from danzón to timba. There will be a Salsa dance lesson at the beginning of the evening and two sets of dance music to follow. The concert is part of the Mission Arts Performance Project (MAPP), a series of arts, music and activist events that has been taking place in the Mission for over 14 years dedicated to cultivating, building, and defending the culture, history, character and community in the Mission District.

Christmas in the Mission / Navidad en la Misión
Friday, December 6, 2019 from 7:00–8:30pm
Mission Dolores Basilica
3321 16th Street, San Francisco, CA 94114

$15 General/$10 Seniors/$5 Youth 18 and under (no one turned away for lack of funds)
Purchase tickets online:
Tickets also available at the door

Afro-Latin Dance Party with Two Generations
CMC Concert Hall
Saturday, December 7, 2019 from 6:30–9:30pm

New leadership in “tried and true” ensembles

Jose Roberto Hernandez (left) will be taking over leadership of the Latin Vocal Workshop in Winter Quarter and Scott O’Day (right) recently took over the Beatles Ensembles.

Two of CMC’s tried and true ensemble classes are receiving new leadership. Scott O’Day recently took over the Beatles Ensembles. Scott, who describes himself as a “huge fan of the Beatles” is no stranger to ensemble classes. He has been teaching the CMC Tango Ensemble for the past four years in addition to being on the guitar faculty since 2014. His approach to ensemble classes focuses primarily on group playing, along with music analysis and exercises that support musicianship.

Jose Roberto Hernandez will be taking over leadership of the Latin Vocal Workshop. Jose is a new faculty member at CMC. He is a multi-instrumentalist, singer, composer, educator, and ethnomusicologist with roots in traditional Mexican music. He began his musical career in Cárdenas, Mexico in the state of Tabasco and continued into Oaxaca, Mexico City, and the United States. He has been recognized by renowned musicians from Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Brazil, and Argentina for his passion and professionalism in traditional music.

“Scott is a talented teacher devoted to making the Beatles Ensembles fun and fulfilling,” said Sylvia Sherman, Program Director. “We are very fortunate to have Jose Roberto on our faculty. He is well-known in the community. In addition to playing with John Santos, he has a vast knowledge of music from throughout Latin America.”

Learn more about the Beatles Ensembles, Teen Beatles, and Latin Vocal Workshop.

Welcoming Ann Mony to CMC as the Operations Manager

Interview: Ann Mony, Operations Manager

Ann Mony is no stranger to CMC. She has been co-producing a monthly swing dance event at CMC for five years. The Bootlegger’s Ball is a well-attended mainstay in the swing dance community and features some of the hottest jazz and swing bands in the Bay Area. In July, Ann came aboard as the CMC Operations Manager. She is helping the school run more smoothly by supporting the daily operations of the staff and working on projects to improve the facilities. Ann’s talents extend to the dance floor too. She is a seasoned swing dance teacher and holds titles from the International Lindy Hop Championships, American Lindy Hop Championships, Canadian Lindy Hop Championships, and more! See her dance in the video below.

What’s your background?
I’m originally from Montreal. I’ve been in Operations for about 10 years, mostly for tech companies. I’ve also been teaching swing dancing for 15 years. Swing dancing is what brought me to San Francisco nine years ago. I was traveling around looking for a place with a good swing dancing scene and a city I liked. When I visited San Francisco, I thought the city had the perfect vibe for me. Friends and I started the Bootlegger’s Ball, a monthly swing dance to live music at CMC, five years ago. It’s a great party! You can find us on the web at and on Facebook. The event is also mentioned CMC’s monthly event email. 


What are some of your career highlights?
Being invited to teach swing dancing in South Africa. It was a highlight when I started my own dance school called Shimmytown. In terms of Operations, I’ve managed six office moves for tech start-ups. 


How did you first come to CMC?
I found it while wandering through the Mission. I thought, “What’s this place?” I popped in and stuck my face in the concert hall window. I knew it would be a great place for the Bootlegger’s Ball. 


What drew you to the position?
The arts are the field I feel most passionately about. I wanted to find a way to marry my arts teaching life with my 9-to-5 administrative life. I thought working at an arts school would be exciting. For people who don’t know, in Operations I manage the infrastructure of the school, everything from furniture, to software, to staff communications— anything that will help the school run smoothly. I’m good with a screwdriver and I can do IT.


How is it going so far? 
I started at the end of July, and it’s going really well. There are a lot of varied projects and the team is great. I feel like I can make a big impact here. I enjoy making my colleagues work easier and more efficient. I love walking down the hallway and hearing music during my work day.


What are you passionate about in your work?
I’m passionate about removing distractions, so people can focus on what they love doing. In my Operations work, I want to make sure my colleagues have what they need so they can focus on their work. As a dance teacher, I want to help students focus on what they need to learn.


What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to raise my kid. My toddler is one and a half. I watch a lot of documentaries and enjoy honing on my cooking skills.

See Ann Mony dance!

How do you make a violin sound great?  Throw it in the trash and buy a piano! Practice tips from CMC faculty member Heidi Kim

Heidi Kim (left) teaches violin at the Mission and Richmond District Branches. She is also a coach for Chamber Music Camp.

From the series: Practice Tips from Community Music Center Faculty

By: Heidi Kim, violin faculty member

Some days more than others I want to throw my violin (or bow) against the wall, neither of which I recommend doing. (If you’re looking to vent, I would actually suggest throwing stuffed animals or pillows at a wall.) Because the truth is: the practicing never stops— EVER, even once you’ve turned professional. Talent can only get one so far. But if you’re looking for a Lizst of practice tips to give you a Händel on your practice situation, you’ve come to the right place. 


Tip 1: Bullet Time

There never seem to be enough hours in the day, regardless of whether you are a young student or working professional. And then you have that one violin teacher who is asking their students to practice themselves into a black hole … But you know what? Like anything else, it all boils down to prioritization. What do you make the time for? What is most important to you? What is it exactly that you care about? Growing up, it was a nonnegotiable to practice five hours a day. But many of us don’t have that kind of time, and to be frank, studies show that after you hit the two-hour mark, your level of concentration starts to wane anyway, which means you’ll be mindlessly practicing. Who wants to be in the practice room all-day anyway? I purposely do not put a clock in my room anymore because I realized that when I was practicing, my eyes would gradually start to wander away from the music … the wheels in my head would begin to turn, and my dark conscience would say, “Hm … what can I do to burn through these next 10 minutes?” I’m sad to report that it wasn’t always the best 10 minutes of my life because I was working through those 10 minutes just to get through them, which is a terrible way to practice. So, what I discovered that has made practicing much more fun for me is what I call, “Bullet Time.” Bullet time, just to clarify, is a visual effect in many action films where time stands still for a moment, and the action is slowed down enough to show normally imperceptible and unfilmable events, such as (you guessed it) flying bullets. For me, there’s a bit of a thrill in racing against the clock while not knowing how much time is available to you. It forces you to make the most of time, creating the ultimate competition against yourself, which, in my very humble opinion, is the healthiest kind. I’ll set a timer for 20-30 minutes and, with a specific goal or two in mind, will proceed to tackle the music. Within each of those power sessions, I usually record myself. It might be sporadically throughout, or only the beginning and end products, but regardless, recording oneself is an extremely valuable tool that can really help you zero in on your sound. It makes you ask yourself, “What’s actually working, and what’s just all in my head?”, for intonation, pulse, your choice of fingering, phrasing, etc. The key to not destroying the magic of this tool is to avoid becoming overly obsessed with recording every single little thing. It’s important to have a chance to digest and enjoy the music you’re making, in real time. 


Tip 2: Memorization

To revel even more on Cloud 9 of music making, memorization is another component. Why do we memorize music anyway? You can blame it on virtuosi like Paganini, Lizst, Clara Wieck Schumann, and Mendelssohn. Collectively, they initiated this evolution of memorization as a performance practice. As rockstars of the Romantic Era, they made it ‘cool’ to have all the music seemingly come straight out of their heads. The practice became mainstream from the late 19th century and on, setting the stage for generations of musicians to come. But aside from the cool factor, I am an advocate of it because I do feel that once you have internalized the music, you have more freedom with musical expression and communicating with your full undivided attention with your audience and/or colleagues on stage. The benefits also extend beyond music. Completing such a herculean effort in front of an audience of any size helps to boost confidence because it develops your performance skills under pressure. Students can easily translate this skill to any number of aspects in their nonmusical life, such as giving pitches or presentations at work, job interviews, and public speaking. So, maybe I’ve now convinced you that memorization is worth trying, but you’re haunted by the fact that you’ve struggled with it in the past. Well I am here to say, if you practice something until you can’t get it wrong (as opposed to just getting it right), it usually seeps into your memory at some point. But you can also try to associate a tricky spot with something iconic, such as a memory from your childhood, a mood, a color, and how that all fits into the bigger picture. You might also consider examining your music for any finger patterns. There might be a moving bass line and the surrounding notes are either exactly the same or the intervals remain consistent as the line progresses. 


Tip 3: Play along with recordings

Then there’s my absolute favorite method: playing along with a recording with your headphones on (or your earbuds in), which helps with memorizing. Ever watch the Super Bowl or some other major sporting event in America? The event host brings in a different singer each year to sing the “National Anthem,” and every single one of them has a different take on the song. It’s the same thing with using this method. When you play along with recordings, not only do you have to be flexible with timing, but it might also give you some inspiration for how to approach a passage you haven’t quite decided how to phrase. You’ll have fun pretending to be a Hollywood studio musician, but I think you will also be pleasantly surprised to discover that all of a sudden, somehow you know that piece you’ve been struggling to memorize, by heart. 


Hopefully when you go Bach to the practice shed, you will feel less inclined to chuck your instrument against the wall after trying out some of these practice tips. Rome was not built in a day, and neither were you nor the intricacies of music. Just remember to stay the course, be patient, take it one day at a time, and definitely be sure to treat yourself to some fresh air and your choice of dessert after a hard day’s work. Easier said than done, but you Can-Can do it. 

World-class artists take the stage at Concert with Conversation series 2019–2020

This year’s free Concert with Conversation series sponsored by San Francisco Performances features Grammy Award-winning artists, musicians of critical acclaim, and raising stars who are quickly becoming legends in their genres. San Francisco Performances, celebrating their 40th anniversary season, is providing five unforgettable concerts for the CMC community. Each short concert is followed by a Q & A session where the audience can learn more about the music and lives of the performers.


Friday, October 25, 2019 from 6:00-7:00pm
Jason Vieaux, guitar

Grammy Award-winner Jason Vieaux, “among the elite of today’s classical guitarists” (Gramophone), is the guitarist that goes beyond the classical. His most recent solo album, Play, won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo. Jason Vieaux has performed as soloist with over 100 orchestras in the U.S. and abroad.


Friday, November 22, 2019 from 6:00-7:00pm
Los Angeles Guitar Quartet

The Grammy Award-winning Los Angeles Guitar Quartet is one of the most multifaceted groups in any genre. The LAGQ is comprised of four uniquely accomplished musicians bringing a new energy to the concert stage with programs ranging from Bluegrass to Bach. They consistently play to sold-out houses worldwide. Their inventive, critically acclaimed transcriptions of concert masterworks provide a fresh look at the music of the past, while their interpretations of works from the contemporary and world-music realms continually break new ground.


Friday, Friday, February 7, 2020 from 6:00-7:00pm
Dashon Burton, baritone

Praised for his rich tone and powerfully thrilling voice, bass-baritone Dashon Burton has proven himself to be a voice to be reckoned with, winning international competitions and performing with opera companies and orchestras across the country and in Europe. His talents make him equally at home performing Bach and Mozart to Stockhausen, as well as touring with the Grammy Award-winning contemporary vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth. Burton’s repertoire includes classical and sacred music as well as programming with deeper political meaning.


Friday, March 27, 2020 from 6:00-7:00pm
Alfredo Rodríguez, piano
Cuban pianist and composer Alfredo Rodríguez has become a globally recognized Grammy nominee with multiple critically acclaimed releases on Mack Avenue Records since being discovered and produced by the great Quincy Jones. Rodríguez is leading the way for the new wave of Cuban musicians, including past collaborators Ibeyi and Pedrito Martinez, and exposing the rich musical history of Cuba to a wider audience.


Friday, April 24, 2020 from 6:00-7:00pm
Nicholas Phan, tenor & Gabriel Kahane, piano

Described by the Boston Globe as “one of the world’s most remarkable singers,” American tenor Nicholas Phan is increasingly recognized as an artist of distinction. Praised for his keen intelligence, captivating stage presence and natural musicianship, he performs regularly with the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies.

Over the last decade, Gabriel Kahane has quietly established himself as a songwriter all his own, grafting a deep interest in storytelling to a keen sense of harmony and rhythm. His major label debut, The Ambassador, a study of Los Angeles seen through the lens of ten street addresses, was hailed by Rolling Stone as “one of the year’s very best albums”.

Welcoming Adriana Marrero Ocasio, CMC Program Coordinator and MDYMP Coordinator

Interview: Adriana Marrero Ocasio, CMC Program Coordinator and MDYMP Coordinator

The CMC staff is very happy to welcome Adriana to the team. She will be supporting CMC’s diverse and plentiful programs as the Program Coordinator. She will also be helping to administer the Mission District Young Musicians Program as the MDYMP Coordinator. Adriana is also a talented vocalist who performs with several local bands and has taken the stage at some of San Francisco’s most popular venues.



What’s your background?
I grew up in Puerto Rico. Both of my parents are musicians. Before I was born, my mom was a backup singer for the Fania All-Stars, a band made up of some of the best Latin Music performers during the 70’s and 80’s. My dad played música de trío, mostly boleros. I grew up around people playing music, though I didn’t start really performing music until I moved to San Francisco. I moved to San Francisco in 2011 on a whim. I met a singer-songwriter couple who used to perform at Revolution Cafe. They introduced me to their sons who invited me to join their band called Cha Ching!. I’m still a member. Since then, I’ve been in other musical projects: Soltrón,  Lagos Roots Afrobeat Ensemble, Santos Perdidos, and The Astronauts. I’ve collaborated with John Santos, John Calloway, the Funk Revival Orchestra, among others. I’m good at learning to sing music by listening, so I can sing in Brazilian Portuguese, French, Turkish, Arabic, Hindi, and more! I love singing jazz and Latin music the most.

What are some of your career highlights?
I shared the stage with the California Honey Drops at the Fillmore, along with Cha Ching!. That was great. I’ve played at most venues in San Francisco, except Bill Graham Auditorium or the Warfield. I played at the Opera House for the Ethnic Dance Festival with the John Santos Sextet. I also got to perform with Cha Ching! as part of the SFJazz Summer Series for the past two years.

How did you first come to CMC?
I took vocal lessons here with Dorothy Barnhouse. I got such a good vibe from the CMC.

What drew you to the positions?
I started teaching music and movement to preschool age kids in Head Start. I wanted a job where I felt like I was making a difference in the community, enriching people’s lives, and making music accessible to people. I read the job description for the CMC positions and thought it was perfect. I am drawn to working with youth especially. I’ve been a counselor at Jam Camp WEST. I know kids can have so much musical potential, but when they get on stage they feel scared. I thought working with MDYMP would be a good place to get involved with young musicians that need support with their performance skills.

How is it going so far?
I started in July. I am excited to be CMC’s first Program Coordinator. Since it’s a new role in the organization, I’m helping to create it as I go. I am pretty adaptable and good under pressure, so it feels like a good fit. I’m excited about MDYMP starting up in September. I’ve already met some of the kids and have been talking to parents. I’m looking forward to finding opportunities to help the MDYMP kids shine! I am ready for MDYMP to start, so I can identify the needs and help the program function more smoothly.

What are you passionate about in your work?
So far in MDYMP, I’m feeling the most passionate about finding ways for the program to run more smoothly. I’m also looking forward to helping the kids with stage presence. In both my CMC roles, I want to support communication and create better systems.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to ride my bike. I like to jam with friends and my partner, who is a drummer and a uke enthusiast. I volunteer by performing at senior centers and alzheimer’s facilities. The music really makes a difference in their day.

CMC choirs receive local and national recognition

CMC’s choirs and the choir program have been recognized in several ways this summer! The 30th Street Senior Center included its older adult choir in its beautiful new mural which had its unveiling this month. CMC’s Older Adult Choir Program was honored with an award by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a). Grantmakers in the Arts features an article about the program on its website and newsletter.  We are proud to share the model of this program with others on a national level!

Mural unveiling portraying 30th Street Older Adult Choir

This past weekend, the 30th Street Older Adult Choir performed as part of a mural unveiling at the 30th Street Senior Center. The mural was created by the center’s senior community in partnership with Precita Eyes artists. The 30th Street Senior Center has a long history of supporting the arts and creativity for older adults. The mural reflects this dedication by vividly depicting the 30th Street Older Adult Choir in their signature royal blue stolls flanked by Martha Rodríguez Salazar (conductor), Jennifer Peringer (accompanist), Lisa Larribeau (flutist), and Leo Suarez (bassist), in addition to many engaged and active senior center members.

“It was inspiring to see the choir depicted in the mural as a reflection of the important role they play in the 30th Street community,” said Sylvia Sherman, CMC Program Director, “It was great to see District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandleman there, along with a packed audience in the exquisite garden. The choir sang beautifully.”

Grantmakers in the Arts publishes article featuring Older Adult Choir Program

Grantmakers in the Arts, a national network of arts funders that support the growth of the arts and culture, recently featured an article on its website about CMC’s Older Adult Choir Program and the Community of Voices (COV) study.  “Joyful Singing, Healthy Living: How Community Choirs Benefit Older Adults and Contribute to Age-Friendly Cities” was written by Sylvia Sherman, CMC Program Director; Shireen McSpadden, DAAS Executive Director; and Julene K. Johnson PhD, Professor at the UCSF Institute for Health & Aging and UCSF Center for Aging in Diverse Communities, principal investigator of Community of Voices research study . The article shares the innovative and creative approach to providing a high-quality, culturally responsive, older-adult choir program designed to help reduce loneliness and increase interest in life for older adults. The article also provides information and resources for those interested in learning more about developing community choirs. The COV study, supported by a grant to UCSF from the National Institute on Aging (award numbers R01AG042526 and P30AG15272), found that singing in a choir reduced loneliness and increased an interest in life. CMC’s Older Adult Choir Program, which expanded through this study, continues to grow and supports the emotional and creative well-being more than 400 older adults in San Francisco. The publication of this article by Grantmakers in the Arts is a wonderful recognition of the impact of creative aging programs and the value of the older adult choir program model and resources developed through the Community of Voices study and CMC’s Older Adult Choir Program.

Older Adult Choir Program receives national award 

CMC’s Older Adult Program is being honored with an award by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a). The choir program and the agencies providing it are receiving an Aging Achievement Award in the Social Engagement category. The award will be given at the n4a national conference on July 28 in New Orleans to a team from the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services (DAAS), including DAAS Executive Director Shireen McSpadden and DAAS Deputy Director of Community Services Cindy Kaufman, along with CMC Program Director Sylvia Sherman and CMC Older Adult Choir Program Coordinator María Cora. Many thanks to the City and County of San Francisco, Department of Aging and Adult Services who nominated the choir program for an award.

Save the date: “Getting There Together” 

CMC Older Adult Choirs from across San Francisco will gather in song at the first annual “Getting There Together: A Celebration of All Ages and Abilities.” The event is Sunday, September 8, 2019 from 11am–4pm in the San Francisco Civic Center, and is presented by CASE (Coalition of Agencies Serving the Elderly) in partnership with Livable City/Sunday Streets, Department of Aging and Adult Services, Age and Disability Friendly San Francisco, and the Dignity Fund Coalition.


Strength in numbers: The benefits of group classes at CMC, an interview with Erik Andersen

“It’s easier than you think. You’re connected to a larger community through your class. You won’t be doing it alone.”
Erik Andersen, CMC faculty member (cello, Cello Ensemble and Technique,  Introduction to Viola da Gamba, YMP, MDB Chamber Music Camp Director)


Group classes and ensembles at CMC can be the next important step in honing hard-won skills developed through private lesson study. Group classes and ensembles are unique learning environments where students from diverse musical backgrounds play music together. They are musical communities of mutual support and encouragement.

CMC faculty member Erik Andersen teaches the Cello Ensemble and Technique and Introduction to Viola da Gamba group classes, both of which cater to beginning music students. He is the Mission Branch Chamber Music Camp Director and is part of the faculty for the Young Musicians Program. He also teaches private cello lessons. Since Erik teaches all ages and all levels of private lessons, group classes, and ensembles, he has valuable perspectives on the benefits of group learning.

Group classes as stepping stones
From Erik’s perspective, private lessons, group classes, and ensemble-playing complement one another, inherently reinforcing and utilizing many of the same skills. However, the group class experience has the added benefit of group learning through playing music together. Trying something new and difficult for the first time as a group, can take some of the pain out of the learning process. Playing in a group class can also teach important skills a student will need when they’re ready to try an ensemble, like blending and framing the overall sound with your playing. A group music class can be a crucial stepping stone between private lesson study and a larger ensemble. Playing in a music ensemble, a student can learn other unique skills like supporting the larger sound while being the only instrument of your type (in the case of a cellist in a chamber group) or following a conductor (in the case of a larger ensemble like the String Orchestra Workshop). The inherent vulnerability of putting yourself out there that exists in ensemble playing, is an exciting and rewarding experience for music students.

Erik’s student Susie Zacharias shared her first-hand perspectives transitioning from the group class experience to the large ensemble String Orchestra Workshop, “In Erik’s group cello class, I am learning different cello techniques that profit from practicing in a group. I consider it a very efficient way of learning new things on the cello. For the string orchestra (since I’ve only been playing three years) it’s like being thrown into the deep end of the pool and you just swim. For me it’s invaluable also in a different way from the group class—you gotta keep going! Don’t overly worry what it sounds like. And since I want to play ensemble, this is what I need. It’s so much fun.”

The musical community of a group class
From Erik’s point of view, a group class that caters to beginners or beginners with some basic skills, is a fun environment of mutual support and learning. Especially at CMC, a music student can expect to be in a group class with students from all musical backgrounds and training. For Erik, this diverse learning environment is wonderful. He enjoys witnessing his students encouraging and supporting one another. As Erik says, “The group class can be unique. Where else can you get support and sympathy from your peers, who are also trying to learn the same challenging skills as you are?”

Erik’s student Greg King shared his personal experiences about the benefits of playing in a group class,“I have found the teachers at CMC inspiring whether private lessons on the cello with Erik or theory classes with Jono Kornfeld. They both make learning music a joy. The added benefit are the other students in my group classes. Each of us comes from either different instruments or musical interests, and that adds to the experience.”

For people interested in learning an instrument from scratch, such as the Baroque viola da gamba in Erik’s class Introduction to Viola da Gamba, he is encouraging, “It’s easier than you think. You’re connected to a larger community through your class. You won’t be doing it alone.”

Registration for Fall Quarter classes opens August 5. To make an appointment to register, visit, or enroll online where available.

Meet Jose Hernandez, CMC’s new Associate Registrar

Interview: Jose Hernandez, Associate Registrar

We have a new face at our Mission District Branch. Help us welcome Jose Hernandez as CMC’s new Associate Registrar. Jose brings his passion for music, arts access, and social justice to his work. He is also an accomplished tenor appearing in local opera productions, in addition to playing many other musical instruments.


What’s your background?
I’m from a small town near Fresno. I’ve been singing my whole life. I grew up playing piano in church, singing in church, and in my highschool choir. I had a great choral music teacher, who had a good understanding of the voice. Even though the school was rural and small, we had excellent choral training and sang some difficult pieces. Not what you’d expect from a farm town school! She encouraged me to pursue music. I came to San Francisco in 1992 to get a music degree. I’m a tenor, and I’ve been singing professionally since 1998. 

I’ve worked with non-profits for a long time. I’ve been on the receiving end of non-profit services and at a certain point, I became really interested in working on behalf of organizations with a social mission. I’ve worked with organizations who help people address health issues, such as HIV advocacy and outreach. A few years after working for non-profits, I found myself working for an orchestra, which led me to go back to school to finish my music degree in 2001. I lived in New Orleans and studied with Raquel Cortina at University of New Orleans. Then I moved to Houston and got a Masters of Music at the University of Houston. In Houston, I performed with the Houston Grand Opera (HGO) Chorus. I came back to San Francisco, and am now finishing up a masters degree in jurisprudence in labor and employment law online through Tulane University. 


What are some of your career highlights?
One of my most memorable experiences was performing at Houston Grand Opera in Aida, and the staging was such that I was able to stand next to one of my favorite opera singers, Dolora Zajick who performed the role of Amneris. It was a powerful feeling standing next to the enormity of her sound. She was lovely and great to chat with too! Another highlight was getting a call out of the blue to sing a concert with Ben Folds at the Houston Symphony. 


How did you first come to CMC?
In the 90’s, when I was applying to go back to school, they required a recording, so I came to CMC to record my audition tape. 


What drew you to the position?
My first love is music. I am also a strong believer in providing educational opportunities. It’s a no brainer for me to be part of a music school. I always knew I’d be involved in music education in some way. 


How is it going so far?
I started on July 1. So far, it’s going great! It’s good to see all the happy faces headed to their lessons. 


What are you passionate about in your work?
I am very happy to be here working at an organization that provides music training for the local community and serves all ages. I love that CMC offers and teaches music in Spanish. CMC’s Latin music program is great. It really makes me happy to hear the music. 


What do you like to do in your spare time?
I’m finishing up my graduate degree. I finish in August. Once I have free time again, I’ll enjoy going to the theater and symphony. I like seeing movies. I also want to start volunteering at an organization that serves LGBTQ asylum seekers. My next performance is with Pocket Opera doing the Barber of Seville on July 21 in Palo Alto and on July 28 in San Francisco at the Legion of Honor.