Since 1999, La Jolla Music Society’s Community Music Center (CMC) in San Diego’s Southcrest neighborhood has given hundreds of children their first experience in music making. Over a hundred students from ten area schools are given full scholarships to study music in an area where most families are not able to afford lessons. Feedback from students and parents is immensely positive and often reflects benefits beyond learning key and time signatures. Instruction begins at the fourth grade level and is typically a two year program, following which the students are prepared to enter middle school band or orchestra programs.
The CMC offers group instruction in piano, strings, woodwinds, trumpet, guitar, and percussion. Classes meet three times each week, following the academic schedule of the host campus, Cesar Chavez Elementary School. The instruction day is split into three classes, allowing study at the beginning, intermediate, and advanced levels. The program provides each student an instrument which they use for practice at home and in the classroom. At the end of two years of successful study and meeting goals for attendance and musical progression, the students are given the instruments to keep for further study.
Though not a social service program, the Community Music Center offers benefits beyond musical instruction. Parent testimony thanks La Jolla Music Society for offering children lessons in discipline through structured practice, responsibility in caring for the instruments, and enthusiasm for trying new things. In an area where many children turn to mischief or dangerous behavior after school, the Community Music Center is recognized as a positive force.