Learning to play jazz at CMC

April 21, 2023

The jazz program is a core component at CMC serving all levels from beginners to advanced. Students from a range of musical backgrounds and levels seek out the program to receive top-notch coaching from talented faculty members Erick Peralta, Charlie Gurke, and Max Miller-Loran. Students learn skills in improvisation, playing by ear, jazz theory, group playing, arrangement, composition, interpretation, performance, and technique. The jazz classes, whether beginning, intermediate, or advanced, provide not only the essential ingredients for learning  jazz, but also provide opportunities to apply skills in an ensemble setting catering to a variety of musical levels. The program focuses on diving deeply into repertoire, including bebop, Latin jazz, standards (Great American Songbook  and jazz composers), plus student and faculty written compositions. 

Other CMC programs not specifically dedicated to jazz cover jazz topics from time to time, such as The So-Called Revolution (Black Music Studies Program) with Maestro Curtis and Intro to Jazz Theory (Music Theory) with Jono Kornfeld. The new vocal class R&B Choir and More with Rita Lackey explores jazz repertoire for vocalists and Teen Jazz Orchestra with Marcus Shelby focuses on teenage musicians playing in a big band setting. 

Learn more about CMC’s jazz program at sfcmc.org/jazz

Student voices from CMC jazz

Wen-Hao Lue

Wen-Hao has been taking classes at CMC since 2019 and has been studying jazz piano with Erick Peralta since 2020. He’s a member of the Advanced Jazz Ensemble, lead by Charlie Gurke, as a drummer. 

CMC has helped me meet other jazz musicians and has given me many opportunities to play music outside of class with fellow classmates. Many of the members of the Advanced Jazz Ensemble play a regular weekly jazz gig in the Mission at Ivory & Vine on Sunday afternoons!”

Stacy Mathies

Stacy has studied at CMC since 2015. She’s taken music theory, Beatles Ensemble, private guitar and voice lessons, and Embodiment & Expression class (now called Musical Expression & Injury Prevention). 

Charlie’s class [Jazz and Blues in the Aural Tradition] is the first jazz class I’ve taken at CMC. Learning to play songs by just listening (no charts allowed) is a fun challenge. The other students have been very supportive with me being a beginner at this process.”

The Peterson Family (Andy, Purple, and Annika)

Andy Peterson studied at CMC 20 years ago for a few years and returned to CMC in 2022. His daughter Purple (age 18) started at CMC a year ago and his other daughter Annika (age 18) just started with her first jazz class at CMC.

“It’s fun for us to be together in Charlie Gurke’s ensemble class Standards Ensemble II: The Jazz Composers. We get to do homework together learning songs, and if one of us needs to miss class, it’s easier to catch up. With three of us in class, we have to be careful to behave like we’re in a class, and not goofing around at home.”