Music is a lifeline for older adults

For CMC, the COVID-19 crisis hit early. Senior centers around San Francisco were the first to close their doors in early March and older adults were the first population recommended to socially distance themselves. With these closures the CMC Older Adult Choir Program, which serves nearly 400 older adults in senior centers throughout San Francisco, immediately transitioned to an online format, where choir faculty started making videos.

Early response
“We know that older adults are a group that is more likely to feel socially isolated, even without a health emergency in effect,” said Maria Cora, Older Adult Choir Program Coordinator “Our choir program alleviates some of this emotional burden for many of them. Completely shutting down these choirs was not an option. We wanted to provide a lifeline for them and keep the choir experience in the lives of our choir members, especially during a time when there’s so much uncertainty in the world.”

The Older Adult Choir Program staff and choir faculty responded by making Youtube videos with vocal warm-ups, stretching exercises, songs, and messages of hope. “The choir I attend occupies a big place in my life. Not having it has created a hole,” said Judith Turner who is a member of CMC Coro Solera at the Mission Neighborhood Center. “Turning on Youtube and seeing my beloved teachers has been wonderful and great. It makes a difference to see my teachers projecting something positive and very upbeat during this time.”

Silver linings
Another unanticipated benefit of the videos is that they provide professional quality practice recordings for choir members, a resource choir members didn’t have before. “When we return to meeting again, we won’t have missed a step,” said Turner. “My teachers are recording all the vocal parts on videos. It’s actually really helpful having these recordings to practice with.”

Though videos can’t provide in-person community, the videos help fill in the gap of the weekly choir routine that many members are missing. Seeing the supportive faces of their choir faculty provides much more than music. In the case of Nola and Maestro Curtis, who direct and accompany the CMC Western Addition Older Adult Choir, their choir rehearsal video includes video effects and uplifting messages like “Get up and Dance” and “Stay Healthy.” All the choir videos that faculty have made include candid moments, where the care that the faculty have for their choir members is palpable. At a time when the media is full of dire news, seeing a familiar face and practicing music is a silver lining.

Taking Lessons Online

With the City of San Francisco’s direction to shelter-in-place, Community Music Center is not holding on-site lessons and classes at its Mission District and Richmond District Branches from March 14–April 7. All CMC concerts and events during this period have also been cancelled.

We will miss our cherished community during this time, but the music will go on! We are offering lessons and classes through remote forms of instruction during the closure so that learning and teaching go uninterrupted. Expect communications from our staff and faculty regarding your lessons and classes.

While this is an incredibly challenging time for artists, organizations, and people all around the globe, we find great comfort in the role that music plays in connecting and consoling our communities in times of duress. We hope you’ll stay connected with CMC, and continue sharing in the special power of music— we need it now more than ever!

What’s it like to take a remote lesson or class?

CMC faculty are employing the latest technology and using creative approaches to provide high-quality music education and staying connected to their students, during a time when CMC’s sites are closed. For private lessons, teachers are using Zoom, Facetime, Skype, and Google Meet, which are video conferencing platforms for one-on-one, realtime lessons. For group classes, faculty are using video uploaded to Youtube, audio recordings, and video conferencing platforms to supplement classes. Our dedicated faculty are developing engaging new ways for our students to learn and practice, so high quality teaching can continue even when we can’t be together in person.

The CMC Operations Team is available to help students install and use remote learning platforms and trouble-shoot problems. Just contact us at

Take a look at some of these examples to see how an online lesson or class might look:

Phoenix Curtis takes a Zoom violin lesson with Heidi Kim, strings faculty member.  


Daniel Fabricant, Musical Storytime faculty member, created a video class for this week’s classes.


Omar Ledezma Jr., percussion faculty member, recorded a demo Latin percussion lesson on Zoom to demonstrate the experience.


Older Adult Choir members are loving having rehearsal videos online to sing with! Maestro and Nola Curtis made this video for the Western Addition Older Adult Choir, complete with warm ups, repertoire, and tips for staying healthy. 


Won’t you join in the fun, and keep the music going? Enrollment for Spring Quarter is happening now.

Questions? We’re here to help! Want to share how your lessons are going to encourage other students? Just drop us a line at


Violins of Hope at Community Music Center

By Suzanne Korey

On Saturday, February 15, I attended Violins of Hope in the Community Music Center Concert Hall.

The moment the musician put her bow on the string, the power of the Violins of Hope was clear. These stringed instruments, which belonged to prisoner-musicians from the camps of the Holocaust, represent what is both the worst and best of humanity: the cruelty of war and the beauty of art, the power of faith. Now, through the devotion of Amnon Weinstein, a renowned violin maker, these instruments have been beautifully restored and are being shared in schools and concert halls around the world. 

The Community Music Center was fortunate to see the instruments and hear the Ariel quartet perform two virtuosic pieces with these treasured violins and cellos: Prokefiev’s Sonata for Two Violins and the first movement of Schubert’s Death of a Maiden. Avshi Weinstein, Amnon’s son and a craftsman himself, is traveling with the instruments on a two-month tour of Bay Area venues.

In a perverse use of art, Jews incarcerated in the camps were ordered to play in orchestras for the entertainment of the guards, during labor marches, during executions. For some of these musicians, being a violinist probably saved their lives. James Grymes, author of Violins of Hope, said that “Wherever there were violins, there was hope.” Perhaps that is what the audience took away from the performance – even in the face of the most unspeakable horror, where there is music and beauty there is hope.

It takes a village: The Bernal Hill Players and the spirit of collaboration

The 25th Anniversary season of the Shenson Faculty Concert Series at Community Music Center kicks off on Sunday, February 23 with It Takes a Village with the Bernal Hill Players. Their chamber music program emphasizes multiculturalism, women’s empowerment, and celebrates San Francisco’s vibrant local musical community. The concert highlights music by North and South American composers in diverse styles, including classical, folk, tango, contemporary, and experimental. It also features a commission by CMC faculty member and composer Erik Pearson.

Bernal Hill Players and the spirit of collaboration
Martha Rodríguez-Salazar (CMC flute/voice faculty and choir conductor) and Jennifer Peringer (CMC piano faculty and choir accompanist) founded the Bernal Hill players in 2008. The spirit of collaboration has always been a core principle since the early days of the Bernal Hill Players with CMC students and other musicians as performing members. The upcoming concert It Takes a Village pays homage to this collaborative vision, which fuels creativity and innovation for the group. As Peringer says, “One of the concepts behind the concert title is that it takes a village to continue to grow and flourish in our creative path. We love inviting others to play with us.” Peringer and Rodríguez are opening the door to new collaborators in the upcoming performance with CMC faculty members Rachel Condry (clarinet) and Annelise Zamula (woodwinds) performing, as well as Sharon Wayne (guitar) who is a CMC community member. Piano faculty member Matylda Rotkiewicz will also join the program performing a piano duet with Peringer. Each skilled player comes from a different musical path, yet they find common ground in classical chamber music. For Rodriguez, it’s a “joy to be able to make music with so much diversity of musical expertise.”

Building bridges through repertoire
The upcoming chamber concert explores themes of multiculturalism and women’s empowerment. Both of these themes reveal other important aspects of the Bernal Hill Players’ ethos. As Peringer puts it, “One of the goals of Bernal Hill Players has always been to cross musical bridges.” With their choice of repertoire the group has sought to celebrate cultures and diverse voices, whether those be in the Bay Area, Mexico, or South America, in addition to the European classical music canon. For the group, the theme of celebrating cultures takes on special meaning in the current political climate. As Peringer says, “It feels important during this time when there is so much tension between the United States and Mexico, Central, and South America to build bridges and not walls.” Through the input of ensemble collaborator Rachel Condry, the concert program explores compositions of Pauline Oliveros. For the group, it was important to put forward Oliveros’s feminsist voice during a historical moment when women’s voices are at the center of discourse. Oliveros’s work was also selected for her anti-virtuosic musical sensibilities—to bring people together to experience musical performance as communal and spiritual.

A concert for “everyone”
It Takes a Village features musical configurations of duos, trios, and quintets, while also rejoicing in the motif of inclusion. The audience will be included and invited to experience music in a non-traditional way, with moments for participation and meditative listening. For the group, CMC feels like the perfect place to present a concert that crosses musical boundaries, celebrates cultural and gender diversity, and seeks to include everyone in the musical experience. As Rodríguez says, “CMC is also a musical home to the Bernal Hill Players, so this theme of ‘inclusion,’ ties into CMC’s mission. It feels like the right place and right time to offer this concert.”

Jon Frank: A lasting legacy for CMC young musicians

Jon Frank on his trap set

Jon Frank has a long history at Community Music Center supporting the excellence of young musicians. He spent 26 years of a nearly four decade career as a music teacher nominating his students to audition for the CMC Young Musicians Program. Even though he has retired, his work with young musicians lives on. With the creation of the Sid and Iris Frank Memorial Scholarship, in memory of his parents, CMC students will receive a tuition-free education for generations to come.

Jon Frank taught instrumental music for 39 years, primarily in the San Francisco Unified School District, before retiring in July of 2018. In 1992, his last year of teaching band and orchestra at Roosevelt Middle School, Ken Rosen, a former CMC faculty member, came to visit Roosevelt to recruit students for the CMC Young Musicians Program. Jon handpicked a number of students who he thought would benefit from the extra musical training to audition at CMC. From 1992 until 2018, when he was the Director of the Hoover Middle School Orchestra Program, he sent many students to audition for the YMP scholarship. He had great success getting students to audition for and be accepted in the program. It became a tradition in the Hoover Orchestra program for students to be involved at CMC.

Jon Frank’s connection to CMC runs deeps and includes his family, who are musicians as well. His son Noah was in the Teen Jazz Orchestra with Ken Rosen and studied trumpet. His wife, Lynne Rappaport, was in the Anything Goes Chorus and now sings in the Older Adult Choir Program. Jon, a jazz drummer, participated in the Tuesday night jazz ensemble with his son Noah. As Jon said of CMC’s music education, “I think the world of CMC. It’s been a great experience for my family to go to CMC. As a teacher, I’ve seen what great things CMC music scholarships can bring.”

The creation of the music scholarship in honor of his parents began in 2007, when Jon’s father, Sid, passed away. Both his mother and father were supportive of music, so it seemed natural to honor his father’s memory with a scholarship. Stephen Shapiro, the CMC Executive Director at the time, made the suggestion that the scholarship be set up in perpetuity, meaning that it would be active once the fund began accruing enough interest to pay the yearly cost of the scholarship. For years, friends and family donated to the scholarship fund boosting it closer to the point where it could accrue the necessary interest to make it active. When his mother passed away in 2018, he decided to pay the last part of the balance to activate it and add her name, Iris, to the scholarship. Starting in the 2020–2021 school year, the Sid and Iris Frank Memorial Scholarship will support a young musician on consideration of both musical growth and financial need. The student will receive private music lessons free of charge and be eligible to renew each year.

Jon Frank has left a lasting legacy for CMC young musicians and has generous wishes for both CMC students who receive the scholarship and for CMC’s future, “I hope the students will be able to become more highly-trained musicians and assume a position of leadership in their school music departments, as well as at CMC. I hope CMC will continue to prosper for years to come and provide musical opportunities for those not able to afford music education.”

Exciting news about the Campus Expansion Project

On Thursday, November 21, CMC’s Campus Expansion Project went before the San Francisco Planning Commission. A robust contingent of students, faculty, and friends of CMC attended the hearing to show their support for the project. After the project was presented to the Commission, 13 people spoke in support of the Campus Expansion Project during the public comment portion. Students, parents, and neighbors of all ages shared personal, heartfelt experiences in support of CMC’s work and of the Campus Expansion Project.

Fittingly enough, two of the comments were musical in nature. Ashley Alvarado (CMC Children’s Chorus) with the help of faculty member Beth Wilmurt (Children’s Chorus and Older Adult Choir conductor) sang a portion of “Chinese Proverb” to the Commission. Members from CMC Older Adult Choirs in the Mission District also sang a spirited a cappella version of “La Paloma.”

Upon the conclusion of the public comments and after a few questions put forth by the Commissioners, the San Francisco Planning Commission voted in unanimously to approve the Campus Expansion Project.

“The outpouring of support from students, faculty, and community members was very meaningful to us. We are grateful that our community members took the time to be at the hearing and speak so eloquently on behalf of CMC and this project,” said Julie Rulyak Steinberg.

More details about the Campus Expansion will come in 2020.

Getting started with improvising: Practice tips from CMC jazz improv and trumpet faculty Max Miller-Loran

Do you want to get started learning how to improvise, but don’t know where to begin? Max Miller-Loran, who teaches trumpet, Jazz Improvisation-Beginning, and Jazz Improvisation Workshop, has great tips to get you going. Winter Quarter is a perfect time to learn a new musical skill. CMC offers an array of opportunities to woodshed your jazz skills. In addition to Max’s classes, try private lessons, Jazz Ensembles, and Djangology. All levels are welcome.

From the series: Practice Tips from Community Music Center Faculty

Improvising can be a daunting undertaking, even for seasoned musicians. Seeing players channel intricate musical ideas from thin air can be so intimidating that many decide it’s not worth it to try. However, I believe improvising can be one of the most rewarding musical disciplines, and it’s much less frightening once you understand how to practice and improve. Here are some tips to get you started!


1. Limitations are key. Often, players become paralyzed by the infinite number of musical possibilities in front of them. Enforcing boundaries can be liberating, because it clearly lays out where you may and may not go. You can limit your playing to specific pitches, rhythms, phrases lengths, articulations, dynamics—anything really. This process allows you to methodically target and practice any element of improvising.

2. Less is more—at first. Effective improvising is about building a direct conduit from your mind’s ear to your instrument. Playing sparse ideas, using longer rhythmic values and slower tempos gives you a chance to consider your choices and play with as much intentionality as possible.

3. You can be critical without being judgmental! Listening to your playing critically is essential for improvement (understanding what seems to be working, and what isn’t), but judgement is entirely counterproductive. Let yourself make mistakes, and be open to learning from them. Oftentimes, mistakes are beautiful!

Announcing 2020 Shenson Faculty Concert Series Grant Recipients

2019-2020 marks the 25th Anniversary season of the Shenson Faculty Concert Series at Community Music Center. This series was established by the Shenson Foundation to support CMC Faculty as performing artists and ensure their work on stage is shared and celebrated in our community. Each year, the Shenson Foundation sponsors four free community concerts for CMC faculty music projects. The faculty members and their ensembles are selected by a committee of musicians from CMC’s Board of Directors. It’s always a pain-staking decision to select four recipients from a pool of talented faculty applicants.

This year’s series celebrates local composers, CMC faculty/staff songwriters and lyricists, excellence in virtuosity, and the power of music to speak amidst difficult political times. The series showcases four faculty concerts that span the genres of classical, Latin, contemporary, Americana, R&B, and experimental musical styles.

Martha Rodríguez-Salazar – Sunday, February 23, 2020 – 4:00 pm
Martha Rodríguez-Salazar (flute faculty, voice faculty, and choir conductor) is presenting ‘It Takes a Village’ with The Bernal Hill Players, which is comprised of Jennifer Peringer, piano; Rachel Condry, clarinet; Annelise Zamula, saxophone; Matylda Rotkiewicz, piano; and Sharon Wayne, guitar. ‘It Takes a Village’ is a concert of duos, trios and quartets by North and South American composers, in diverse styles, including classical, folk, tango, contemporary, and experimental. The emphasis of the program is on multiculturalism, women’s empowerment, and celebrating our vibrant local musical community.



Larry Dunn – Friday, April 10, 2020 – 7:00 pm
Guitar and songwriting faculty member Larry Dunn is putting together a concert celebrating four of CMC’s own singer/songwriters performing their original compositions in folk, country, blues, R&B, and bluegrass styles. They will be performing songs solo (individually) in a round-robin fashion, much like a Nashville singer/songwriter circle. Each artist will play four songs. Expect backstories, anecdotes, and even a bit about the songwriting process as relates to the song an artist performs. In addition to music by Larry Dunn, Erik Pearson, Maestro Curtis, and Anne Carol Mitchell will be performing original music.



Michael Long – Friday, June 19, 2020 – 7:30 pm
Michael Long, violin faculty member, along with guest performers Eiko Mitani, piano and Ben-han Sung, piano will be performing “Music in Times of Resistance.” This classical music concert highlights music written in or about extreme political circumstances and oppression. This program includes composers who not only dealt with dictators and political tumult, but who also used their compositions to confront or address this in some way, such as Poulenc, Shostakovich, and Schulhoff.



Christopher Basso – Sunday, June 21, 2020 – 4:00 pm
Piano faculty member Christopher Basso will be celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth with “Beethoven and His Influence” which will feature music of Beethoven and others who were directly inspired by him. The first part of the program is all-Beethoven and the second part of the program includes Für Elise and two composers’ take (including a world premiere) on Für Elise. The program concludes with Schubert’s Sonata in C minor, D.958 restating Beethoven’s Variations in C minor on an Original Theme, WoO 80.

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