Black Music Studies Program

A comprehensive program that includes a certificate program on history and culture, private lessons, and instrumental and vocal classes that explore the roots and styles of Black music.

The Black Music Studies Program (BMSP) is designed to inspire and empower students by learning and experiencing the foundations, innovations, and expansion of American music given to the world by the enslaved black peoples from the continent of Africa (Alkebulan) and their descendants. The program aims to give students a deep sense of love, respect, and appreciation for the contributions of American Black culture which has impacted and crossed all ethnic and color lines.

The program was developed by Department Head Maestro Curtis, PhD. In addition to being well-known teacher, composer, producer, and performer, Maestro, along with his wife Nola and their five children (who are CMC students), make up The Curtis Family C-notes aka San Francisco’s First Family of Song and America’s Got Talent contestants on season 16. 


    The Black Music Studies Certificate Program is a rich collection of classes taught online on the history, culture, and musical appreciation of Black music derived from the African Diaspora. The classes offer students engaging discussions, inspiring demonstrations, and musical examples. The certificate classes are taught by Maestro and Nola Curtis. CMC students who complete varying levels of the coursework will be eligible for a certificate of completion.

    BMSP Certificate Program classes rotate on a quarterly bases. There are no classes available for Spring 2024. Please check back next quarter for updated opportunities!


    Based on student interest, private lessons can focus on Black music styles, which include blues, jazz, R&B, Afro-Cuban, funk, soul, and others, as well as offering students a full range of technical and creative skills.

    Deszon Claiborne

    Omar Ledezma Jr. 

    Jon Jang
    Ken Little
    Tony Martinez
    Michaela Overall

    Tregar Otton

    Michael Mohammed
    Clif Payne


    Many Community Music Center group classes and ensembles focus on music with roots in the African Diaspora. Faculty in group classes and ensembles offer technical and musicianship skills, music theory, history, and ensemble playing.

    “When I teach singing, the first priority is to preserve the integrity of jazz and soul music. I want my singers to understand how Black music has redefined and shaped popular culture. The emotion and feeling comes when we recognize the meaning of songs like ‘What’s Going On’ (Marvin Gaye). I like to create an environment of fun creative expression. But, it’s important for my students to know that R&B, jazz, and blues are part of a broader experience. The harmony, rhythm, and lyrics are rooted in African heritage and born out of our struggles as people of color.”

    Rita Lackey, faculty for the choirs: R&B Choir and More, IT Bookman, Downtown Senior Center Choir, and Visitacion Valley