CMC’s Mission District Young Musicians Program – Transforming lives through music

Community Music Center’s Mission District Young Musicians Program (MDYMP) creates a musical community unlike any other in the Bay Area. 25 students each year enjoy a comprehensive music education, with a focus on Latin music, completely free of charge. MDYMP students are also empowered by their teachers to take ownership of their experiences and to contribute to their community.

Alicia Naylor-Guerrero, now a student at Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts (SOTA), emphasizes the sense of responsibility MDYMP instilled. She and her fellow students took active roles in all aspects of their music making – listening to and supporting each other in ensemble rehearsals and performances, setting up and breaking down after every rehearsal, and communicating with each other when life got in the way.

For Cecilia Peña-Govea, an alumna who is now an MDYMP instructor, the most important thing about the program is the emphasis on teamwork and mentorship. Students from ages 11 to 18 are expected to work together as an ensemble, supporting each other and mentoring each other throughout the year.

Martha Rodríguez-Salazar, a long-time CMC faculty member and former MDYMP coordinator, remembers recruiting public school students in the Mission District when the program first began in 2006. She met many parents who were grateful to have a way to teach their children about the richness of their culture. Through the universal language of music, and shared cultural traditions, students were able to connect with their families and their community more deeply than ever before.
Learning the varied and complex rhythms and harmonies of Latin American music has set Alicia up for success at SOTA. She approaches every style of music with confidence knowing that, thanks to the skills she learned in MDYMP, she can tackle whatever comes her way. Alicia now advocates for expanding the music instruction offered at SOTA to include more diverse styles and traditions. Cecilia adds that MDYMP’s focus on Latin American music, rather than traditional Euro-centric classical music, creates more well-rounded musicians.

MDYMP engages with and creates a vibrant community in many ways. Each week students rehearse at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts and perform with partners in the community throughout the year. Alicia, Cecilia, and Martha all recall the joy and power of performing at Carnaval, Cinco de Mayo, and CMC’s former holiday program La Posarela. Through these performances students develop deeper connections with their community in the Mission District and the wider Bay Area.

But MDYMP doesn’t just connect students to their local community, it also creates a musical family of students, alumni and faculty. Alicia always felt supported by her fellow students when they rehearsed and played as an ensemble. Cecilia continues to collaborate with her fellow MDYMP alums. Martha’s former students still help her when she works each year on the San Francisco Symphony’s Día de Los Muertos Community Concert.

Alicia, Cecilia, and Martha – and the hundreds of students and families who have been touched by MDYMP – know that music connects communities and changes lives.