CMC’s 2016 Spring Gala hit every high note!

A Salute to the Joy of Making Music, Community Music Center’s annual Spring Gala, was a wonderful evening of community, stellar performances, and support for continuing CMC’s founder Gertrude Field’s vision of a quality music education for all. One of our most successful galas to date, the event exceeded our goal by more than ten percent. One of the most exciting things we saw was a 60% increase in paddles raised during the scholarship auction. Bravo! And thank you. This school year, CMC will offer nearly $1.7M in tuition assistance to its students. We can’t do this without the support of our donors.

View photo highlights on photographer Drew Altizer’s site.
View CMC’s full photo album for the event.

Mary Commanday
CMC’s Executive Director Christopher Borg, Board President Patricia Taylor Lee, and Mary Commanday, wife of Gertrude Field Community Impact Award recipient, the late Robert P. Commanday. Mary is accepting the award on his behalf.

GRAMMY® award-winning ensemble Chanticleer performs for guests at the San Francisco Community Music Center’s 95th Anniversary Gala.

Instrument Petting Zoo
Young Musicians Program Student Leader Hannah Hanif demonstrates the violin to Dorothy Reller. Looking on is her sister, Mary Commanday.

Gala chair Kathy Aizawa
Auction donors Philip Palermo and Ernest Stout with board member and gala chair Kathy Aizawa


Announcing the Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship at CMC

The Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship honors the life of classical guitarist and Community Music Center teacher Curtis Renshaw by supporting the studies of a guitar student at CMC each year.

Curtis passed away suddenly in June of 2015. He had taught at CMC since 1981, having given nearly 35 years of service to our community. His students appreciated his kindness and patience as a teacher, and those of us who have heard his playing remember it fondly. Says faculty member Shirley Wong-Frentzel, “He was very special to CMC, very dedicated… In his quiet way, he kept the high quality of classical guitar alive here.”

Kerrilyn, Kenneth, and Curtis Renshaw
Kerrilyn, Kenneth, and Curtis Renshaw

Says wife Kerrilyn Renshaw, “If a student was serious, Curtis would offer his time beyond the scheduled lesson. This was especially true if they were a young person. Within a week of Curtis’s passing, my son Kenneth and I talked about how best to honor Curtis’s memory and decided on a guitar scholarship in his name. Others suggested doing the same thing, including Richard Patterson of the Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts, where Curtis was a board member for many years, and Scott Cmiel, who was a colleague of Curtis’s for many years at the Conservatory and then later at The Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA).”

Since Curtis taught and mentored many teen guitarists who attended SOTA, Kerrilyn and Kenneth also wished to create a link between the guitar departments of SOTA and CMC, with the scholarship particularly benefiting a serious student of the guitar who attends SOTA.

Kerrilyn continued, “CMC Executive Director Chris Borg was gracious and enthusiastic, and the whole team at CMC was incredibly supportive and generous with their time and ideas. All of the money has been privately raised by friends and family of Curtis. It feels so great to know that so many people wanted to contribute. It’s been a great success already, and I hope it can continue to serve the musical development of the serious student of the guitar.”

“Nationally recognized guitar instructor Scott Cmiel has generously donated much of his time to help plan the scholarship program and has offered to teach the students who receive the Curtis Renshaw Memorial scholarship. Scott is also the Director of Guitar at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Precollege Division and at SOTA.”

Chris Borg, Kerrilyn Renshaw, Tcarla Horn and Scott Cmiel
Chris Borg, Kerrilyn Renshaw, Tcarla Horn and Scott Cmiel

The first scholarship recipient, Tcarla Horn
The first recipient of the Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship was SOTA student, Tcarla Horn. “Tcarla flourished under Curtis,” said Kerrilyn, “she performed at his memorial service.”

Says Tcarla, “He always believed in me, even when no one else did, not even myself.”

Tcarla likes to share her playing with others. Here is a performance of O Astronauta by Baden Powell, dedicated to the memory of her teacher.

At a recital given by the students of SOTA guitar instructor Scott Cmiel, Curtis’s wife Kerrilyn Renshaw and CMC’s Executive Director Chris Borg presented the very first Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship award to Tcarla.

Tcarla has just graduated, and the 2016-2017 recipient of the Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship, 15 year-old Leo Austin-Muehlec, was just selected in June.


Scott Cmiel, Leo Austin-Muehlec, Kerrilyn and Kenneth Curtis
Scott Cmiel, Leo Austin-Muehlec, Kerrilyn and Kenneth Curtis at Community Music Center

How to contribute
If you would like to contribute to the Curtis Renshaw Memorial Guitar Scholarship scholarship, you can do so online (please indicate “Curtis Renshaw Memorial Guitar Scholarship” in the dedication field) or by mail:

Please write a check to “Community Music Center,” and state in the memo “Curtis Renshaw Memorial Guitar Scholarship.”

Mail to:
Community Music Center
Development Office
544 Capp Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

About the Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship
The Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship is a special collaboration with The Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA). Each year, a member of SOTA’s guitar faculty will nominate hard working and passionate students who have not had ample opportunity for private lessons. These students will audition during CMC’s May juries and will be selected by a faculty panel. Full scholarships to study at CMC are awarded on consideration of both musical growth and financial need.

A CMC Merit Scholarship provides a full year of private lessons at CMC. The Curtis Renshaw Memorial Scholarship was inaugurated in the 2015-16 school year and is one of 31 awarded.

Concert with Conversation Performer Feature: Pianist Marc-André Hamelin

CMC is thrilled to welcome the widely beloved pianist Marc-André Hamelin back to our stage this month in a Concert with Conversation. This series, sponsored by San Francisco Performances, brings exceptional artists to CMC to give free, community concerts that also feature conversation with the audience.

Learn more about Hamelin below, and mark your calendars for his appearance on Friday, October 21 at 6:00pm!


Pianist Marc-André Hamelin at-a-glance:

From: Montreal, Quebec

Currently living in: Boston, Massachusetts

Married to: Cathy Fuller, pianist and WGBH classical music broadcaster

Age he began to play: Five

Best known for: His attention to lesser-known composers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century

Little known fact: Hamelin has written three pieces for player piano.

Our favorite kudos: 
“A true avatar of the piano” — Hyperion Records
“Is it possible for a pianist to be too good? If anyone faces jeopardy with that question, it’s Marc-André Hamelin.” — The New York Times

Home country honors:
– Officer of the Order of Canada: recognition by Her Majesty The Queen for outstanding achievement, dedication to the community and service to the nation
– Chevalier de l’Ordre du Québec: the highest distinction given by the Québécois government
– Member of the Royal Society of Canada: the senior national, bilingual council of distinguished Canadian scholars, humanists, scientists and artists

andsneshamelin2xAnother opportunity to hear him in SF this year:
Leif Ove Andsnes and Marc-André Hamelin, pianos

Tuesday, April 25, 2017 at 7:30pm
Herbst Theatre, SF
San Francisco Performances will present this two-pianos/four-hands recital featuring works by Debussy, Mozart and Stravinsky. Says SFP, ”…the combined talents of these frequent collaborators and friends create an exhilarating experience.”

Learn more:
Read his full bio.
View featured videos of his performances.
Visit his official website.


Summit of Older Adult Choirs Uplifted Crowds at the Herbst Theater

By Judy Goddess

“I came away with such a high. I wish there was something like this [older adult choir program] where I live”
— Audience member

View photos from the Summit of Older Adult Choirs

Joyful is the simplest and most accurate way to describe the recent Community Music Center Summit of Older Adult Choirs at the Herbst Theatre on January 27. The near 200 singers, their directors, accompanists, and guest artists all beamed with happiness that day. An eager audience of family and friends responded in-kind, enthusiastically applauding after each number.

Before the theater doors opened, hundreds of people waited in the crowded entry hall, greeting friends and gathering information on programs and services for older adults from a rich array of agencies that had partnered with CMC for this event. By start time, all 900 of the Herbst Theatre seats had been filled.

The Summit of Older Adult Choirs brought together CMC’s choirs for older adults with choirs created in the last several years under a three-way partnership between CMC, UCSF, and the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services. The Community of Voices study (COV), funded by the National Institute on Aging, is researching the impact of singing in a choir on the health of older adults. As the COV choirs cycle out of that study, CMC – which has long recognized the healing value of music in the lives of older adults – has sought funding to continue and expand these choirs. Grants from the Aroha Philanthropies, the Myrtle V. Fitschen Charitable Trust, and, as well as support from individual donors and volunteers, enabled CMC to realize this commitment. Today, seven choirs are hosted by senior centers and community organization in five San Francisco neighborhoods – the Richmond, Ingleside, Mission, Western Addition, and the Bayview. Membership in the choirs remains free and open for adults ages 55 and older.

The program started with brief introductions by Sylvia Sherman, CMC Program Director, and Shireen McSpadden, Interim Executive Director of the Department of Aging and Adult Services, and touched on the theme of the day: the joy of music. Referencing the choir participants from across San Francisco, Sherman remarked that the joy of music knows no age limits and the power of singing carries across neighborhood, community culture and economic background. McSpadden spoke with pride about the choir program that takes place at senior centers affiliated with the Department of Aging and Adult Services and told the choir members and the audience “I want to share your joy today.”

After the opening remarks the choirs from the Richmond and OMI (Ocean View, Merced Heights, and Ingleside) Senior Centers took the stage. Directed by Beth Wilmurt and accompanied by Richard Daquioag on the piano, the two choirs performed Blue Monk by Thelonius Monk, Come Away by E.Z. Levin, and Those Were The Days by Boris Fomin.

Next on were the gospel choirs from the Western Addition Senior Center and Bayview’s Dr. Davis Senior Center. Co-Directed by Maestro Curtis and Nola Curtis, and accompanied by Maestro on piano and guest artists on strings, drums, and trumpet, the choir sang You’ll Never Walk Alone by Rogers and Hammerstein. Special guest Dorothy Morrison then led the choirs in the 18th century hymn, Oh, Happy Day.

Directed by Martha Rodriguez Salazar, and accompanied by Jennifer Peringer and guest artists, the CMC Mission District older adult choirs – Coro Solera from Mission Neighborhood Center, Coro de la 30 from 30th Street Senior Center, and the Coro del Centro Latino de San Francisco from Centro Latino de SF – then took the stage, performing three songs in Spanish: Cancion Mixteca by Jose Lopez Alaves, La Martiniana by Andres Henestrosa, and El Bodeguero by Richard Egues.

The final portion of the concert brought all the performers – the choirs, directors and accompanists – to the stage for lively renditions of Sh-Boom by The Chords, This Little Light of Mine by Harry Dixon Loes, and El Cumbanchero by Rafael Hernandez.

The concert ended with a standing ovation from the audience. As the audience left the Theatre, one exhilarated member, carrying a bouquet for his mother, exclaimed, “They all deserve a bouquet.” The crowd around him agreed.


“I was walking on cloud nine for days after the Summit, telling everyone about it – the energy, the inspiration, the beauty of the voices and older adults gathered.” – Audience member and Community of Voices Choir Director, Helen Dilworth

“For me, a ‘first timer on stage’ it was a lot of fun. I felt “mimada” (spoiled) by all who helped us.”
– Centro Latino choir member

“I am just beaming with pride and joy! This is such a testament to what the choirs do for people. Great job!!!”
– Valorie Villela (30th Street Senior Center, Director)

“Congratulations and thank you so much for letting us be part of such a beautiful event! (I must admit I shed a few tears.)”
– Valerie (Pollo Campero, sponsoring organization)

“Congratulations to everyone involved. The Choir Summit was fabulously successful AND inspirational! I had the good fortune of sitting in the 2nd row so could see close-up the smiles, how very happy all the singers were. It was great too that all the choirs worked so well together. The magic of music!”
– Linda Murley (Richmond Senior Center, Director)

“Packing the house like that is the envy of many local arts organizations, but the joy that filled the hall was what made the afternoon truly special. I think my favorite moment was the end of the concert, when all 200 singers came together, singing with gusto ALL the different styles of music from the wonderful variety of communities we are so fortunate to have here in San Francisco. The joy and pleasure just beamed out.”
– Martha Westland (SF Bach Choir, Managing Director)

“As a proud co-sponsor, we want to let others know about this wonderful experience. Cheers, and congratulations on producing this marvelous event.”
– Caitlin Morgan (Institute on Aging)

“I was walking on cloud nine for days after the Summit, telling everyone about it – the energy, the inspiration, the beauty of the voices and older adults gathered.” – Audience member and Community of Voices Choir Director, Helen Dilworth

“Thank you so much for the community choir concert – wondrous… I just want you to use your influence with UCSF to get the federal government to offer this program all over the USA – Senior Centers, etc. It is invaluable to health and welfare and good to employ wonderful people in the arts! My partner said I wish it was in Bedford, PA. My mother loves to sing! Thank you so much for all you do for our city!”
– Audience member

“As I was leaving a patron said to me ‘did you notice, there were NO programs on the floor, people were taking them home’.”
– Volunteer


Maya Enriquez: A Story of Community Leadership

“I’ll hold out for the oboe,” Maya Enriquez recalls saying when she decided to switch instruments (from flute) to play in her elementary school’s band. She added that although she does not sing, she feels that playing the oboe is an extension of her voice.

Maya has studied oboe for ten years, six of those at Community Music Center in the Mission District, near her home. “Kathleen Connor, my music teacher at CMC, is amazing. She taught me how to sing out with expression and imbue my music with meaning. And even as I mastered this, she encouraged me to respect the piano passages and the silences.”

Music study at CMC has both tracked and guided Maya’s academic career. When she was accepted at both Lowell and School of the Arts (SOTA) high schools, she held out once again — this time, in favor of music education: She enrolled in SOTA. She’s now a senior at Vassar, and the first in her family to attend college. Maya makes sure to incorporate her music into her curriculum. Although she is pursuing rigorous undergraduate science courses and planning to enter medical school, Maya rehearses and performs in the orchestra.

To practice successfully, she advises, “Take it slowly. Don’t rush through – give it time. Break it up into small parts, and then add the parts together. And always keep in mind that an audience will be listening.”

Maya is leading the way among a growing number of CMC’s young musicians to practice leadership and give back to the community. Recently, she has become the newest—and youngest—member of Community Music Center’s Advisory Board. “Maya is a remarkable CMC success story,” said Executive Director, Chris Borg, when announcing Maya’s acceptance to join CMC’s Advisory Board.

Community Music Center’s World Premier of “El Son de la Misión,” Celebrates Rich Mission Culture as District Faces Rapid Change

95th logo assymetrical

For Immediate Release

Kevin Herglotz
HPA Strategic Communications

• “El Son de la Misión,” an original work commissioned by Community Music Center, examines the rich history of the Mission District through music, featuring original songs that reflect pivotal social and artistic movements in the neighborhood’s past and present.

• “El Son de la Misión” will be performed on Saturday, March 19, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 20, at 7 p.m. at the Brava Theater Center in the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District.

SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 16, 2016 – Community Music Center today announced its upcoming March world premier of “El Son de la Misión,” an original work commissioned to celebrate the rich history of the Mission District through original songs that reflect pivotal social and artistic movements in the neighborhood’s past, performed by artists of the present. As part of the CMC’s 95th anniversary, “El Son” is a celebration of the neighborhood where the Center has offered music lessons to all people, regardless of financial means, since 1921.

Drawing on fifty years of changing musical styles and created by renowned local musician John Calloway in concert with fellow Mission artists, including iconic storyteller Carlos Barón, “El Son” celebrates all the Mission has given to San Francisco at the very moment the district’s future stands at a crossroads.

“Creating ‘El Son de la Misión’ has been like coming home,” said John Calloway. “Working with fellow Mission artists and cultural leaders has been inspiring, and has reminded us all of what makes the Mission such a powerful community and potent artistic voice. “El Son” is a living homage to our community.”

“El Son” brings together four generations of Mission District artists and organizers, sharing memories and creative vision as a way to both pass on traditions and create new possibilities together. John Calloway grew up musically with the Afro Cuban and salsa music groups of the late 1970s and early 1980s. As an educator in the San Francisco School District, at San Francisco State University, director of the Latin Jazz Youth Ensemble of San Francisco, and long time collaborator with CMC’s Mission District Young Musicians Program, Calloway has played an integral role in training and shaping young musicians’ lives.

“El Son” includes current and former students of CMC’s Mission District Young Musicians Program and those of other Mission district arts groups such as Loco Bloco. Other leading Mission artists such as Fogo Na Roupa, Roberto Hernandez and new generation ensembles Bayonics and Soltron will perform in “El Son”. Visual artist Carlos “Kookie” Gonzalez created artwork for the piece to visually represent the neighborhood.

This backdrop makes “El Son” not only a creative project that will result in a world premiere of a new musical work but also an important thread in preserving and passing on to new generations neighborhood history and culture.

“The Mission district has a rich and compelling history of arts and cultural activism,” said Christopher Borg, Executive Director, Community Music Center. “Today, the Mission district is at a critical juncture, with rapid change happening all around us. Preserving neighborhood history and the cultures which make our district so rich is vital, and we are proud to work with John and our community’s artistic leaders to record our district’s unique voices and powerful living history.”

“El Son de la Misión” will be performed on Saturday, March 19, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, March 20, at 7 p.m. at the Brava Theater Center in the Calle 24 Latino Cultural District. General admission is $12, with a door price of $15. To buy tickets, please visit or contact for more information.

“El Son” is supported by the Creative Work Fund. Community partners include Acción Latina/El Tecolote, Brava Theater Center, Mission High School Bear Society, Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, Machete Records, The Mexican Museum and Yerba Buena Gardens Festival.

About San Francisco’s Community Music Center: Founded in 1921, San Francisco’s Community Music Center (CMC), a Bay Area nonprofit, is one of the oldest and largest community arts organizations on the West Coast making high quality music accessible to all people, regardless of financial means. CMC, based in the Mission District, was established to “be a provider of music that is not art for art’s sake, but art for life’s sake.” CMC serves more than 23,000 people each year, including more than 2,400 students of all ages, ethnicities and income levels who enjoy music lessons, programs and concerts at no or low cost. Learn more about CMC at and follow the organization on Facebook, TwitterInstagram and YouTube.


Emanuel Ax master class a chance of a lifetime for CMC students

Celebrated pianist Emanuel Ax returned to Capp Street in January to offer a second master class to CMC musicians and audiences. Participating that day were 7th grader Susanna Lau, 6th grader Rebecca Portnoy, chamber music students Dov Grunschlag, Julie McDevitt and Kari Prindle, and piano duo Carrie Chan and Nayoung Kim.

“It is not every day someone gets to meet one of the best musicians in the world, Emanuel Ax. Your comments helped me understand the piece better think beyond what is written in the music, and try out new things too. At first, I was really nervous when I came, but once I saw you personally and how nice you were, that calmed me down.” Rebecca Portnoy, from a letter of appreciation to Emanuel Ax.

View photos


CMC Selected as Grantee of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Arts Innovation and Management Program

Community Music Center is honored  to be a grantee recipient of Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Arts Innovation and Management (AIM) program. Through the two-year initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies is providing $30 million across 262 small and mid-sized nonprofit cultural organizations around the country to help strengthen their operational and programming efforts, including training in fundraising, audience development and board member engagement.

“It’s such an honor to be recognized by Bloomberg Philanthropies for the life-changing music and music education services we provide to more than 23,000 people in and around San Francisco each year,” said Christopher Borg, executive director of Community Music Center. “This generous donation will allow us to expand our outreach efforts and programs to an even wider community. We’re thrilled for the opportunity to bring more people from all walks of life together to connect through music – no matter their age, musical ability or financial background.”

The invitation-only program supports nonprofit cultural organizations based in six cities: Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles and San Francisco. All organizations are locally or internationally recognized nonprofits that have been in existence for at least two years. The grantees are required to participate in a management training program; secure matching funds; ensure 100% board participation in fundraising; and maintain up-to-date information in the Cultural Data Project, an online financial & data collection platform that assists arts organizations across the country to collect, learn from, and use data effectively. The grants are unrestricted so that recipients can use them to address their greatest needs.

Funds from this grant will be used to expand fundraising and marketing initiatives, all of which will ultimately help CMC become a national leader in community-based arts education. Combined, these efforts will further the organization’s strategy to attract the highest caliber of teaching professionals, board volunteers and staff to sustain CMC’s work and mission.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is partnering with the DeVos Institute of Arts Management at the University of Maryland to develop curricula and conduct trainings for the AIM program in each city. The comprehensive workshops engage organizations around activities that strengthen their long-term health and goals and include consultations and implementation support for arts managers and their boards.

Community Music Center’s Older Adult Choir Program Finalist for Bay Area Impact Challenge Grant

PR Contact:
Sonia Caltvedt, Marketing Director
Community Music Center
(415) 647-6015 x75


Community Music Center’s Older Adult Choir Program
Finalist for Bay Area Impact Challenge Grant


(SAN FRANCISCO, CA, May 22, 2014) — Community Music Center (CMC), a non-profit music school with the mission of making music accessible to all, is a Top 10 finalist in Google’s Bay Area Impact Challenge.  To compete, local nonprofits were invited to share their most innovative ideas for improving Bay Area communities. Four winners will receive a $500,000 grant and technical support from Google. Finalists were selected based on the following criteria: community impact, innovation, scalability, and feasibility.

Community Music Center will bring the joy of music making to hundreds of older adults through community choirs. The program will extend the innovative work of the Community of Voices research study, which is a partnership between CMC, UCSF and the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services. The study examines whether singing in a community choir is a cost-effective way to promote health and well-being among culturally diverse older adults. It is funded by the National Institute on Aging and supports each choir for one year.

As a finalist, Community Music Center has already been awarded $250,000 to extend rehearsals for the 12 choirs that are participating in the Community of Voices study. With enough public support during the Google Bay Area Impact Challenge voting period, CMC can increase its grant funding to $500,000, ensuring that the positive impacts of the senior choirs continue for at least four years beyond the duration of the study.

The results have been truly transformative for choir members so far.

“When someone is old and shut away in a room watching television, it withers the soul. With [singing] you feel very good. It gives life.” — Francisco, 83

“All week, we wait with enthusiasm for Friday [rehearsal]. I feel a lot better physically and spiritually.” — Isabel, 76

The public voting window is open from May 22 to June 2. Visit to learn about all ten finalists or visit Community Music Center’s voting page directly. On June 3, the top four winning projects will be revealed.

Community Music Center is honored to have been selected as a finalist by a distinguished panel of advisors: Honorable Aida Alvarez, Secretary Norman Mineta, Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach Reed, Reverend Cecil Williams and Major League Baseball player Barry Zito.


About Community Music Center:

Community Music Center is a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization founded in 1921 with the mission of making high quality music accessible to all people, regardless of their financial status. CMC is the Bay Area’s oldest community arts organization and San Francisco’s largest provider of free and low-cost music classes and concerts. During the 2012-13 school year, over 2,300 students of all ages, ethnicities and income levels enrolled in CMC programs and over 19,000 people enjoyed musical performances at no or low cost. Learn more at