CMC Expands Successful Older Adult Choir Program

Innovative program now offers ten choirs in partnership with senior centers across the city with the inclusion of choirs in Bernal Heights, Castro and Marina neighborhoods

SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 13, 2016) Community Music Center (CMC) is expanding its successful Older Adult Choir Program in San Francisco by including three new choirs at senior centers in the Bernal Heights, Castro and Marina neighborhoods. With a total of ten choirs, this innovative program brings the many personal, social and quality of life benefits of making music to hundreds of seniors in the city each week.“We’re excited to expand this wonderful program and bring the joy of music into the lives of more seniors in our community,” said Chris Borg, executive director, Community Music Center. “It’s amazing to see the positive impact singing and rehearsal time can have on the well-being of choir members.”The Older Adult Choir Program began five years ago when CMC began to partner with senior centers to provide music opportunities for older adults. It has grown to include ten choirs and serves a diversity of communities throughout San Francisco. The program is free for any older adult ages 55 and up, regardless of musical background or experience. The choirs provide a unique way for seniors to learn about singing, form new friendships, perform in community concerts, exercise, and improve their quality of life. The choirs perform at various community concerts throughout the year touching the lives of thousands of attendees.

“Working with our senior choirs has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my sixteen years at Community Music Center,” said Martha Rodríguez-Salazar, director of three of the CMC choirs. “You can see the immediate benefit in their lives as choir members learn how to sing, meet new friends, exercise and learn new breathing techniques and take better care of themselves.”

The senior centers participating in the program include: The 30th Street Senior Center, Bayview Senior Services, Mission Neighborhood Center, the Western Addition Senior Center, el Centro Latino de San Francisco, the Richmond Senior Center, OMI-Catholic Charities Senior Center, the San Francisco Senior Center at Aquatic Park, the Bernal Heights Neighborhood Center and the Castro Senior Center.

“I used to be introverted, always trying to avoid people. Music helps me release a lot of emotions,” said Francisco Sanchez of the CMC Solera Singers of the Mission Neighborhood Center. “All my life I dreamed of being a singer. Now I have my dream come true at my age, showing it’s never too late.”

The music sung in the program reflects the interests of each community and is chosen by the individual choirs. It includes Gospel, jazz, Latin American, show tunes, folk songs, oldies and Americana, among others. Two of the ten choirs are taught bilingually in Spanish and English, and one also sings in Tagalog.

Maxine Jones, who sings with the Bayview Older Adult Choir said, “It’s nice to get together as a group and sing. As seasoned adults we all get along so great and we really all enjoy performing in our community; it gives us a sense of purpose and we feel really good seeing the happiness it brings to others.”

“It’s gotten me out of the house more and helped me form new relationships and friendships which have just really added to my life” said Estela Moreno, who sings with the CMC 30th Street Chorus of 30th Street Senior Center.

CMC’s Older Adult Choir Program has grown as choirs have cycled out of the Community of Voices research study, a three way partnership between UCSF, Community Music Center, and the Department of Aging and Adult Services, supported by a grant from the National Institute on Aging. 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.

“These choirs give seniors something to look forward to. They bring people together in their community,” said Shireen McSpadden, executive director of the San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services.

“The transformative power of that is truly amazing.”

“These seniors find a community within the choir, they find a place to belong, a place where there’s love,” added CMC Older Adult Choir co-director Nola Curtis. “I’ve had singers tell me this is the reason they get up in the morning because when you come to choir, you are part of something bigger than yourself and there is something very healing that takes place through singing and performing together.”

The Older Adults Choirs are directed and accompanied by CMC faculty in partnership with the participating senior centers. A complete list of schedules, locations and sign-up instructions, along with a video documentary about the program, can be found online.

The Community Music Center was founded in 1921 with the mission of making music accessible to all people, regardless of their financial means. Celebrating 95 years as one of the oldest and largest community arts organizations on the West Coast, CMC offers classes for people of all ages, abilities and interests and financial aid to all who need it. 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, Twitter and YouTube.

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Media Contact:    Kevin Herglotz
HPA Strategic Communications