As part of our Centennial celebrations, the Mission District Young Musicians Program will be presenting a special intergenerational performance at Acción Latina’s community art stroll Paseo Artístico: History Matters in the Mission on Saturday, October 23. This event will highlight alumni in collaboration with the young musicians and feature an appearance by beloved local superstar and CMC alumni La Doña (Cecilia Peña-Govea). Older Adult Choir members from the Mission District will be also singing with the ensemble, making three generations of CMC students performing together!
One of the alumni performing at Paseo Artístico will be Eva “Nena” Aldaz. During her high school years growing up in Bernal Heights, she was a member of MDYMP, which included a scholarship for weekly voice lessons. She describes her musical upbringing at CMC as “invaluable.” Aldaz credits Martha Rodríguez Salazar, her vocal coach in MDYMP, with introducing her to classical music. The education she received in this CMC program and support for her gifts gave Aldaz the confidence and passion to pursue music professionally. She got a degree in vocal performance from UC Irvine and then received her MM from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music this past May. “Martha and all the other teachers in MDYMP saw a lot of potential in me, encouraged me, and gave me a lot of confidence.”
Now she is the vocal coach for MDYMP and a private voice faculty member. She describes the process of becoming a CMC faculty member in 2019 as “going full circle.” As Aldaz explains, “Being in the community, learning from the teachers at CMC, and then being able to give back through teaching is amazing.”
As a new teacher in MDYMP, she found the same support in the program that she experienced as a student. “The other teachers have supported me through everything. They wanted me to succeed. They wanted me to have a job in the field that I studied for. They wanted me to keep doing music and spreading that to our community as well. I am honored to do that.”
The importance of CMC in the lives of youth cannot be overstated in Aldaz’s opinion, “It’s so important. We still had Zoom classes for MDYMP during the pandemic. Even though sometimes the kids had their cameras off or would not come to class, we still made it a point to check in with them and make sure that they were doing okay. Besides providing support during the pandemic, providing all these music lessons on a sliding scale is what the community needs. People need music in their lives. It teaches us so many different things across so many different disciplines. Music education is important. It brings the community together.”
CMC at Paseo Artístico: History Matters in the Mission
Saturday, October 23 at 3:30pm outside Adobe Books, 3130 24th Street, San Francisco, CA 94110
Marco Diaz’s commanding presence in the Bay Area music scene has its foundations in the scholarship program at Community Music Center. For this trumpet player and pianist, who is the bandleader for Cuban singer Bobi Céspedes and a central member of the John Santos Sextet, Diaz’s love of music first began in public school. “I heard the trumpet for the first time when I was in fourth grade,” said Diaz. “I knew that was the instrument I was going to be playing.” This passion for music was nurtured and developed through the scholarship program at CMC taking Diaz through his high school years in the early 1990’s and preparing him for studying music at San Francisco State. “I started taking piano lessons at CMC in the eighth grade,” said Diaz.“In my first year of high school, I auditioned for a scholarship, and I was awarded piano lessons, trumpet lessons, and jazz theory. That blew everything open for me. That was it. I was hooked.”
The encouragement to pursue music and extra curricular activities was also given by Diaz’s family. “They would tell us, ‘We want you to have a way to express feelings that you have but that you may not have words for,’” supporting Diaz and his brothers to pursue the arts and sports.
As an educator, Diaz provides similar encouragement to his students. As a faculty member at CMC in MDYMP and Campamento CMC / Camp CMC this past July, Diaz nurtured spaces of safety and artistic expression for the youth. “With all that’s going on in the world, in addition to just being a teenager together with all that turmoil, music is a place where you can be yourself and not feel like you’re being judged,” said Diaz. “It provides a great place for kids to have a healthy dialogue with each other and also to get to know themselves. I think that’s pretty amazing.”
See Marco Diaz perform in-person in a solo piano performance “Journey through the Americas and the Great American Songbook”on Monday, September 20 at 2pm at Flower Piano in the Celebration Garden. Learn more about the concert and get tickets HERE.
Maestro Curtis, CMC faculty member since 2013, is having quite a moment. His family band The Curtis Family C-Notes are going to be competing in the America’s Got Talent (AGT) quarter finals on August 24. Then on August 31, he’ll launch the Black Music Studies Program, CMC’s newest tuition-free program. As teachers at CMC, Maestro and Nola Curtis have taught piano and voice, directed choirs in the Older Adult Choir Program, and taught group classes. Their five children have grown up in the halls of CMC studying various instruments and participating in the Vocal Harmony classes their parents taught. “Community Music Center has literally changed our lives,” said Curtis. “The community of musicians and the leadership has allowed us to thrive not only in what we love to do, but as community activists.”
The Black Music Studies Program which Maestro Curtis developed, follows the emergence of American music from the African Diaspora through talks, workshops, and music practices taught online. “If Gertrude Field (CMC’s founding director) were alive today, I believe she would have something like the Black Music Studies Program at the Community Music Center,” said Curtis. “I feel proud to be an extension of her legacy. This gutsy woman started something so remarkable a hundred years ago.”
Students will learn about the lineage of American music that developed out of the cultures of the African Diaspora and the musical derivatives that evolved through the 20th century and into the music of today. The program is designed to “inspire” and “empower” students to have a full understanding of the roots of American music. “We want to validate the originators, composers, and the people that gave this music to the world,” he said. “We say ‘black music studies,’ but it belongs to everyone.” Musical examples will include early vocal ensembles (barbershop quartet), early jazz and blues (Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey), Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Motown, and the music of today.
On August 24, Curtis will be taking the stage with his wife Nola and five children Zahara, Nile, Kiki, Isis, and Phoenix as the family band, The Curtis Family C-Notes. The C-Notes have been a source of inspiration in the Bay Area in recent years, performing in CMC’s Facebook Live series, the mayoral inauguration, and delivering food and live music to families in the Bayview. Curtis credits the CMC Facebook Live series with AGT producers discovering them online. During the AGT quarter finals, the C-Notes will perform live on national television along with 11 other groups with talents ranging from dance, music, comedy, poetry, and others. America will vote for their favorite contestants, and the acts with the most votes will advance to the next round. The winner of the competition will receive $1 million paid out over a period of time. “We don’t look at music from the perspective of competing,” said Curtis. “We look at it as a way to bring joy…and now we get a bigger audience to be able to do that!”
Tune in to America’s Got Talent on Tuesday, August 24 at 6pm PT. You can follow the C-Notes on Instagram, YouTube, and Facebook.
July 19, 2021 It’s a musical summer for San Francisco youth with CMC leading arts programs at the Mission District Branch and in public school in San Francisco.
Walking past the Mission District Branch on Capp Street in July, you’ll hear the grooves of Campamento CMC / Camp CMC. “It’s been really heartwarming to watch the campers light up around the music and open up to one another,” said Chantel Hernandez, Program Coordinator and MDYMP Coordinator. Campamento CMC is happening in collaboration with the San Francisco Unified School District serving students entering the sixth through twelfth grades. The SFUSD Mariachi program, which CMC has had a hand in teaching, and SFUSD music teachers nominated students for this tuition-free camp. Faculty members Tregar Otton (MDYMP and violin faculty) and Macro Diaz (MDYMP faculty) are teaching the camp with Cuban and Mariachi music and popular repertoire like El Manisero, Almendra, and Las Mañanitas. Diaz composed a special jam called Descarga CMC for the students to learn and write vocal parts (coros) as well, providing a compositional element to the camp curriculum.
The campers have been enjoying the many opportunities at the camp to play music together again after a very long hiatus of in-person music classes. “This was the first in-person class experience for all of the students since the pandemic,” said Hernandez about the campers. “There was a bit of hesitancy at first. By the end of the first week the older students were explaining the music charts to the younger students, students were standing up confidently for their solos, and during break times the students would group up and practice together on their own! I can’t wait to see what they all accomplish by the end of the third week.”
“I’ve learned so much in the last five days of camp,” said Gian Velasquez, age 16 and MDYMP student. “I’m not not only getting to practice as a timbalero, but I have the opportunity to learn piano. My favorite part of the camp so far is getting to play with people again.”
Gian’s younger brother Luca is also in the camp with him and following in his brother’s footsteps as a Latin percussionist. Gian gives Luca tips and practices with him.
CMC has teaching artists in three public schools in a six-week Summer Together program in partnership with the Department of Children Youth and Families (DCYF) and Jamestown Community Center as well. Vincent de Jesus is teaching Afro-Caribbean percussion at Longfellow Elementary, Beth Wilmurt is teaching singing at Cesar Chavez Elementary, and Andrea Rodriguez is teaching dance and healing arts at Buena Vista Horace Mann. After the many long months of music being conducted remotely, the sounds of youth playing in classes and ensembles again is lighting up the courtyard of the Mission District Branch. It’s been wonderful for CMC faculty and the students to connect musically in real-time. CMC thanks its partners for their collaboration and support.
Descarga CMC by Marco Diaz, a jam for Campamento CMC students.
We are very sorry to share news of the passing of our dear faculty member, Michael Jordin.
Michael was a part of the CMC community since 1999 as a dedicated winds teacher at the Richmond Branch. He was also an active performer throughout the Bay Area and a beloved teacher at the SF Waldorf School.
Michael was deeply committed to his students, who were frequently featured in the CMC All School Recital and other special performance opportunities.
He passed peacefully in late March at home, surrounded by those he loved.
Below we are sharing some tributes from Michael’s students and colleagues. It’s clear that he was deeply loved and his presence is greatly missed.
From Leo Safir, student:
I stood with my clarinet, while Michael sat at his keyboard to my right. I looked out from the penthouse window at the Bay Bridge, where tiny yellow headlights cut through the blue mist. Our elite audience sat in anticipation. I cocked my fedora, our signal to start, and we began to play “Harlem Nocturne”. Sweet jazz drifted through the Embarcadero flat that night. We were proud. Our gala gig is one of my many memories of Michael that I will always cherish. He was my teacher for a decade, but he was also my friend. We sight-read together in quartets and played recitals, from Michael’s living room to CMC fundraisers. He invited me to see Martin Frost, Kugelplex, and Anat Cohen. Every lesson was initiated by a check-in with Michael. From my latest adventure, to my “homies”, to my cooking, Michael was up to date with the life of Leo. Although he is no longer with me to forge more memories, I am grateful that I was able to have such an exceptional music teacher and friend.
Ellinor Hagedorn, student:
I am still in mourning about Michael’s passing. Since he is gone I have not touched my clarinet. I told my son that almost every morning when I wake up with classical music, I hear a clarinet solo, as if Michael is wagging his finger at me to start again.
I am almost 83 years old. He was always interested in my well-being. When I had to interrupt my lessons for health reasons, he was never impatient. You always felt that you were the only person he cared about when you were around him. That is a very unique quality. Every time I saw him it was a special memory. He always had news to share and was interested in my family. He was not only a teacher—and he was a fabulous teacher! It was very personal studying with him.
Michael came to my 80th birthday. A friend of mine said he knew Michael from many years before, when Michael worked at a grocery store. My friend remarked that Michael was the nicest guy they had ever met. Michael made a real impression. He was one of a kind.
From Corey Weinstein, student:
Room D at 3pm every Monday was a sanctuary of meaning. As a novitiate I always arrived early to refresh the lesson of the past week. Michael would generously play with me so I could seek to match his command of the clarinet. But first our warm up scales and arpeggios, different each time to keep my mind from thoughtless repetition. Without criticism he noticed inadequacies in my playing and chose material to challenge my lazy habits. That was his way; a kindness that was rapier sharp and demanded facing and overcoming poor playing. But it was always kindness first, combined with insightful comments on the structures and meanings of everything from technique to concertos and etudes. I would ask questions just to sit back and listen to him dip into his deep and wide well of musical history, counterpoint, harmony and nuance. To be with Michael was to enter a special place in the world and be loved just as I was. While he was always concerned with my welfare, he never talked about his personal life, except his little dog. As he did with many students, he made a special effort to attend my performances and took a seat up front to show support. Finally if we had time he would bring out duets so we could make music together, and always chose material appropriate to my skill. That made us so happy together. Michael was my nurturing clarinet mother who only had my needs and hopes in mind as he brought me lessons in music, clarinet and life. I am so much a better clarinetist and a better person as a result. Oh, I miss him. I think I’ll be working on the Bach 15 Etudes for many years just to keep him with me.
From Annelise, faculty member:
I had the privilege of knowing Michael in a variety of capacities: he was my colleague at CMC, my clarinet and recorder teacher, a fellow performer, and a friend. Michael was fascinated by music of all sorts, the arts, nature, and people. He took an extraordinary interest in his students, carving out the time to attend their concerts in the midst of his own rehearsals, performances, and teaching commitments. I experienced first hand his zeal for bringing people together to make music—my lesson would often include the student who came before me or after me (or both). Michael enjoyed finding points of connection among students in the non-musical realm, as well, providing an informal bio of each whenever he introduced one student to another.
Michael started every lesson by asking me questions about my friends and family, my goings-on, delicious meals eaten, trips planned. In his presence, I always felt valued as a person. He made sure that I was aware of any enjoyable events on the horizon: one week he would tell me about the silent film festival, the next about the de Young Museum’s Bouquets to Art—there was little happening in San Francisco that he wasn’t keenly interested in. As someone who was constantly bringing people together, Michael truly epitomized the “community” aspect of Community Music Center. Every day I think of him, and I doubt I’ll ever stop missing his exuberant grin. Thank you, Michael, for all that you gave us.
Ben Barrett, parent:
Over the last eight years, Michael taught three instruments to our two kids, and they loved him. My wife and I loved him too. How could anyone adequately describe Michael? His constant kindness, his conscientiousness; the way he connected people; the way he listened! I sat in on many lessons and so admired his memory for the details of our kids’ little biographies. He took the time to write out songs our kids liked, using a ruler to make the notes perfect. He invited us to concerts around the city. He attended our kids’ middle school performances. If there wasn’t a student waiting for the next lesson, Michael would joyfully keep the lesson going long after the hour. He was a model for our kids, for all his students, for anyone lucky to have spent time with him. My kids, now high-schoolers, both tell me they keep seeing people who look like him on the street (we used to meet him randomly at bus stops, farmers markets, etc.). They miss this lovely, incomparable man. I am so grateful that he made an indelible mark on their forming lives. May his memory live on in all of us.
We’re so happy and proud to announce that the New Voice Bay Area TIGQ Chorus, directed by Reuben Zellman, appeared on the Billboard Music Awards: The List Live on April 29, 2021. They musically announced the BBMAs Finalists for Top Billboard 200 Album. 🎉
Stephen Shapiro is an all-star Field Day fundraiser. He was the top fundraiser for Field Day in 2019. This year, he currently leads in Virtual Field Day fundraising. Steve has some great pointers for those who might need a little encouragement and tips for asking friends and family to donate to Virtual Field Day. It’s also important to mention that Steve Shapiro was the Executive Director of CMC for 33 years. He retired in 2011. He’s no stranger to fundraising professionally and knows CMC’s work first-hand having initiated many of CMC’s core programs.
You have already raised over $3,700. How did you do it?
Stephen Shapiro: The first principal of fundraising is that you’re not raising money for yourself. You’re asking for donations to sustain the mission of the music center—making music possible for everybody. When I, or you, keep that in mind, the anxiety of asking for money from friends and family lifts a little. The second principal of fundraising is making a match. In the case of Field Day, you’re asking for money from people who might have dual motives in giving-—to support your music-making and who want to support the cause of CMC which is to help make music possible for someone who doesn’t have the opportunity. Making a match is choosing family members and friends, who are interested in supporting your music-making journey because they know what it means to you and they also believe in the mission of the music center. The more personal you can be when emailing and talking to people, the better. I use parts of the letter that CMC provides for Virtual Field Day fundraising tips, but I make it personal. When you personalize your message to people who are close to you, it has a completely different feeling than if you’re writing something that’s more generic. Adding your story to the letter is much more meaningful than a letter that simply has language about the mission of the music center. One other important thing to keep in mind is that your love for a friend is not on the line when you ask for a donation. Whether or not they give is not a test for their friendship.
What inspires you to raise money for CMC?
Stephen Shapiro: I really believe in communities and community organizations. I think we need communities and community centers so much more than ever. A place like CMC that brings people together is a treasure. I believe in the value of the arts and community. Music and art for everybody are needed more than ever. This is something I deeply believe in.
Any tips for fundraisers out there?
Stephen Shapiro: I would suggest you have bullet points to help ground you in the email you write or the conversation you have. The more personal you can be, by connecting your message to your own life and the things that give you joy, will touch them the most. For me, I express what music means to me—which is everything! I tell them what the opportunity to play music at a community center means to me. I share with them how I love the idea that CMC makes the opportunity to learn music possible for people who wouldn’t otherwise have that chance. I talk about how CMC is for all ages, all backgrounds, and all kinds of music. If you have a collection of bullet points that reference personal things then it will give you something to hold onto when you’re writing an email or having a phone conversation.
What are you playing in your Virtual Field Day performance?
Stephen Shapiro: I’m playing Johannes Brahms Intermezzo, Opus 118, No. 2. Faculty member Matylda Rotkiewicz helped me prepare for my performance video. I hope I did it justice!
————————————————- Virtual Field Day
June 1–7 12noon
*Saturday, June 5 will include a special edition of CMC Young Musicians Program performances and graduation, beginning at 11am
“What we’re listening to” is a series of Spotify playlists curated by CMC faculty.
This month’s Spotify playlist is curated by piano faculty member Michaela Overall. What do Bob Marley, Bach, John Coltrane, and Barbara Steisand have in common? Michaela Overall calls her eclectic, elegant playlist “Summer Madness,” and in the video, she talks about why it’s called that and why these artists all appear together.
CMC’s oldest vocal ensemble, Anything Goes Chorus, is celebrating its 40th anniversary! Since the chorus cannot produce an anniversary concert, they put together three professional videos, the first of which has just been released.
The Anything Goes Chorus began in 1981 in Oakland and was founded and continues to be directed by vocalist, pianist, guitarist, and arranger Ellen Robinson. The chorus launched at a time when, according to Robinson, there were not many opportunities for adult music students to learn to sing in a group. The chorus found its San Francisco home at CMC in 1985. The chorus steadily grew through the years with weekly rehearsals, annual performances, and outreach concerts at retirement communities and homeless shelters. After 25 years, the chorus at CMC was divided into two groups based on level: Anything Goes Chorus I for beginners without audition and Anything Goes Chorus II by audition for singers with more experience.
Through the years, the repertoire and the curriculum of the group have changed. When the group began, Robinson was a singer-songwriter who performed folk music, with the chorus doing the same. Robinson wrote a new arrangement every week at that time. Now the group focuses mostly on jazz, Broadway, and pop music, in keeping with Robinson’s own artistic journey as a jazz vocalist and performer. Anything Goes I has become a group where singers learn not only group singing, but receive individualized instruction from Robinson. Eventually Anything Goes I members can join the second level.
Robinson has stayed inspired as the chorus’s director through her love of music and her continuing amazement at hearing harmony sung together by many voices. Being director has taught her many important life lessons over the years, such as patience, acceptance, focus, and organization. As Robinson says about the chorus, “It gives meaning to my life and I see before my eyes that I’m doing good in the world by helping people find their voice.”
During the COVID pandemic, the chorus like almost all CMC programs moved to Zoom. The transition to online has not been easy and has required technological learning curves. Robinson has learned to be spontaneous and intuitive as a teacher once again, finding fun in her online classes. The chorus members have received some unexpected gains from the transition to online learning such as more one-on-one work with Robinson and developing important musicianship skills like working with a metronome and note recognition and location.
In lieu of having a 40th anniversary concert, the chorus has been creating a series of professionally produced performance videos with everyone singing together. The chorus raised more than $6,000 on Go Fund Me to hire a sound engineer/video editor. For the first video to the song “Why We Sing,” Robinson taught her singers how to make quality video recordings, advising them on appropriate backgrounds, lighting, and performing for the camera. She coached her singers on practicing to the rehearsal track that the sound engineer created. Robinson reviewed multiple drafts of videos and gave feedback to her singers, until the final videos were submitted. There are two more videos in the series, which will be released this year.
In February, CMC lost a friend and colleague. Richard Daquioag, who was a CMC alum, concert hall manager, and most recently treasured accompanist for three of CMC’s Older Adult Choirs: the Aquatic Park, OMI, and Richmond District choirs, died peacefully in his Oakland home in the arms of his partner of 35 years.
Richard is remembered fondly for his love of music, his curiosity for diverse styles of music, and his commitment to working with the community. In his roles as an older adult choir accompanist and concert hall manager, he was kind, patient and friendly with students and performers with whom he came in contact. Richard is missed! Faculty, staff, and students shared memories of Richard below. Read his obituary here. Feel free to email Anne if you have memories to add.
BETH WILMURT This was very hard news to get. I know it has been hard for the many choir members that he became close with as well. Richard made each choir class feel like a music party with his upbeat, fun loving presence. And after the party he was that friend who listened intently to whatever was going on in your life, and always sent you on your way with the most concise, thoughtful bit of wisdom. When he played the piano in class there would inevitably be some moment that was just so ear catching and uniquely beautiful. I would often ask him what he did to make it happen, and he always had time to share his process and musical knowledge. Sometimes however, it was unexplainable, and just the magic of music pouring out of him. I feel so lucky to have witnessed these moments. I have learned so much from Richard over the years about life and music. I’m going to miss him dearly.
SHIRLEY WONG FRENTZEL We have lost an ‘essential worker’ in Richard’s passing. He was a dear dear friend of CMC and his kindness at the front desk welcomed students with a bright smile. While being concert manager, he not only moved chairs in the hall, but greeted young students with verbal encouragement, which extended to the few times I was privileged to be under his ‘managing’ before performances. I received winks, and high 5’s and especially his knowing hands of a shoulder massage blessing before I went on stage. Sometimes I could hear Buddhist words being whispered as well! Richard was initiated into the SF Zen Center as a lay priest. Sometimes we would share our Buddhist moments at CMC, which are some of my cherished memories of dear Richard. I do miss his passionate piano jazz licks with a Latin kick. R.I.P. Richard! CHUS ALONSO It makes me very sad to hear about the passing of Richard Daquoiag, the coolest guy! What a loss! He was the impersonation of the CMC hero: a real community builder, a creative spirit with music in his blood, and a compassionate and generous person. I always enjoyed having him around. He always made insightful contributions to the conversation. He was part of my CMC ensemble, Potingue, at the end of the nineties and the beginning of the century (PICTURE BELOW). And, in the years after, he supported Potingue’s concerts as concert manager. I have very fun memories of him. I don’t know much about his personal story, but I am sure it was an interesting one. My sincere condolences to his family and friends, and to all of us in the CMC community.
JANET HOUSER It was a bright part of Tuesdays here at RDB when Richard would arrive to accompany the Older Adult Choir. Joyous sounds came from the Grand Piano Room when he played.
LINDA HITCHCOCK I was greatly saddened by the news of Richard’s death. I will always remember him as an outstanding concert hall manager, talented musician, and caring friend. His compassion, love of music, and dedication to others was always evident as he went about his daily activities with patience, good humor, and kindness to everyone. He will be sorely missed.
MARIA CORA So sad to hear this…Richard was a sweet man and I am honored to have known and worked with him. My heart goes out to his partner, his family and friends, and to Beth.
ANNE MITCHELL He lived such a beautiful life. His obituary is moving. I remember Richard through the devotion of the Older Adult Choir members who absolutely adored him. It’s quite a thing to bring joy and happiness to others.
Older Adult Choir Member memories:
People shared fond memories of Richard’s last performance with the choir, when he played for their Christmas concert and surprised them by singing at the end!
One choir member remembers Richard being very down to earth and always 100% present when talking.
Another choir member remembers talking about jazz of the old days – on the 19 bus after choir session. Others recounted what a joy it was to hear Richard accompany one of the choir members during the session break on two favorite songs in particular “I’ll be Around” and “Again.”
Several choir members went to see Richard play in different clubs – and remarked on what a great performer he was and how he got people to sing with his trio!