Remembering Michael Jordin

May 19, 2021
By Julie Rulyak Steinberg

We are very sorry to share news of the passing of our dear faculty member, Michael Jordin.

Michael was a part of the CMC community since 1999 as a dedicated winds teacher at the Richmond Branch. He was also an active performer throughout the Bay Area and a beloved teacher at the SF Waldorf School.

Michael was deeply committed to his students, who were frequently featured in the CMC All School Recital and other special performance opportunities.

He passed peacefully in late March at home, surrounded by those he loved.

Below we are sharing some tributes from Michael’s students and colleagues. It’s clear that he was deeply loved and his presence is greatly missed.

Clarinet lesson with Michael Jordin and Leo Safir. Artwork by Stanley Goldstein, father of Leo Safir.

From Leo Safir, student:

I stood with my clarinet, while Michael sat at his keyboard to my right. I looked out from the penthouse window at the Bay Bridge, where tiny yellow headlights cut through the blue mist. Our elite audience sat in anticipation. I cocked my fedora, our signal to start, and we began to play “Harlem Nocturne”. Sweet jazz drifted through the Embarcadero flat that night. We were proud. Our gala gig is one of my many memories of Michael that I will always cherish. He was my teacher for a decade, but he was also my friend. We sight-read together in quartets and played recitals, from Michael’s living room to CMC fundraisers. He invited me to see Martin Frost, Kugelplex, and Anat Cohen. Every lesson was initiated by a check-in with Michael. From my latest adventure, to my “homies”, to my cooking, Michael was up to date with the life of Leo. Although he is no longer with me to forge more memories, I am grateful that I was able to have such an exceptional music teacher and friend.

Ellinor Hagedorn, student:
I am still in mourning about Michael’s passing. Since he is gone I have not touched my clarinet. I told my son that almost every morning when I wake up with classical music, I hear a clarinet solo, as if Michael is wagging his finger at me to start again.

I am almost 83 years old. He was always interested in my well-being. When I had to interrupt my lessons for health reasons, he was never impatient. You always felt that you were the only person he cared about when you were around him. That is a very unique quality. Every time I saw him it was a special memory. He always had news to share and was interested in my family. He was not only a teacher—and he was a fabulous teacher! It was very personal studying with him.

Michael came to my 80th birthday. A friend of mine said he knew Michael from many years before, when Michael worked at a grocery store. My friend remarked that Michael was the nicest guy they had ever met. Michael made a real impression. He was one of a kind.

From Corey Weinstein, student:

Remembering Michael

Room D at 3pm every Monday was a sanctuary of meaning. As a novitiate I always arrived early to refresh the lesson of the past week. Michael would generously play with me so I could seek to match his command of the clarinet. But first our warm up scales and arpeggios, different each time to keep my mind from thoughtless repetition. Without criticism he noticed inadequacies in my playing and chose material to challenge my lazy habits. That was his way; a kindness that was rapier sharp and demanded facing and overcoming poor playing. But it was always kindness first, combined with insightful comments on the structures and meanings of everything from technique to concertos and etudes. I would ask questions just to sit back and listen to him dip into his deep and wide well of musical history, counterpoint, harmony and nuance. To be with Michael was to enter a special place in the world and be loved just as I was. While he was always concerned with my welfare, he never talked about his personal life, except his little dog. As he did with many students, he made a special effort to attend my performances and took a seat up front to show support. Finally if we had time he would bring out duets so we could make music together, and always chose material appropriate to my skill. That made us so happy together. Michael was my nurturing clarinet mother who only had my needs and hopes in mind as he brought me lessons in music, clarinet and life. I am so much a better clarinetist and a better person as a result. Oh, I miss him. I think I’ll be working on the Bach 15 Etudes for many years just to keep him with me.

From Annelise, faculty member:
I had the privilege of knowing Michael in a variety of capacities: he was my colleague at CMC, my clarinet and recorder teacher, a fellow performer, and a friend. Michael was fascinated by music of all sorts, the arts, nature, and people. He took an extraordinary interest in his students, carving out the time to attend their concerts in the midst of his own rehearsals, performances, and teaching commitments. I experienced first hand his zeal for bringing people together to make music—my lesson would often include the student who came before me or after me (or both). Michael enjoyed finding points of connection among students in the non-musical realm, as well, providing an informal bio of each whenever he introduced one student to another.

Michael started every lesson by asking me questions about my friends and family, my goings-on, delicious meals eaten, trips planned. In his presence, I always felt valued as a person. He made sure that I was aware of any enjoyable events on the horizon: one week he would tell me about the silent film festival, the next about the de Young Museum’s Bouquets to Art—there was little happening in San Francisco that he wasn’t keenly interested in. As someone who was constantly bringing people together, Michael truly epitomized the “community” aspect of Community Music Center. Every day I think of him, and I doubt I’ll ever stop missing his exuberant grin. Thank you, Michael, for all that you gave us.

Ben Barrett, parent:
Over the last eight years, Michael taught three instruments to our two kids, and they loved him. My wife and I loved him too. How could anyone adequately describe Michael? His constant kindness, his conscientiousness; the way he connected people; the way he listened! I sat in on many lessons and so admired his memory for the details of our kids’ little biographies. He took the time to write out songs our kids liked, using a ruler to make the notes perfect. He invited us to concerts around the city. He attended our kids’ middle school performances. If there wasn’t a student waiting for the next lesson, Michael would joyfully keep the lesson going long after the hour. He was a model for our kids, for all his students, for anyone lucky to have spent time with him. My kids, now high-schoolers, both tell me they keep seeing people who look like him on the street (we used to meet him randomly at bus stops, farmers markets, etc.). They miss this lovely, incomparable man. I am so grateful that he made an indelible mark on their forming lives. May his memory live on in all of us.

Michael Jordin. Artwork by Stanley Goldstein.
Clarinet lesson with Leo Safir and Michael Jordin. Artwork by Stanley Goldstein.