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Community Music Center

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Nonprofit Overview

Causes: Arts & Culture, Arts Education, Bands & Ensembles, Music, Performing Arts Schools

Mission: Community Music Center (CMC) is a San Francisco-based nonprofit organization founded in 1921 with the mission of making music accessible to all people, regardless of financial status.

Results: One million students and concert-goers have had access to music education and performance since we opened our doors in 1921.

Target demographics: Anyone interested in learning to play music, with an emphasis on low-income students.

Direct beneficiaries per year: 18,000 students and concert-goers

Geographic areas served: San Francisco Bay Area

Programs: We serve nearly 2400 music students and 18,500 concertgoers each year.

Community Stories

10 Stories from Volunteers, Donors & Supporters


Board Member

Rating: 5

I discovered CMC in 2006, when a friend and I were preparing a voice + violin recital. We were in search of the perfect place for our "family + friends" performance, and CMC was recommended to us by another violinist. I absolutely fell in love with the space at first sight. In the middle of the hustle & bustle of the Mission district exists this magical secret garden where beautiful music is learned, practiced, and performed. Day or night, summer or winter, CMC is a magical treasure right in the heart of SF.

Over the years, I have given 3 recitals at CMC, and in 2013, I joined the Board of Directors. I am honored to be a part of CMC's long history and to be able to introduce such a fantastic place to more peers in my generation.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I don't know anything about music, but I fell in love with CMC from the website. It's a great experience to walk by and hear the music. People of all ages who can't afford music lessons have access to the highest quality lessons. I took music theory classes and has a ball! My life has been enriched by being a part of Community Music Center!

Client Served

Rating: 5

I didn't know anything about music. I took cello classes with a great instructor and music fundamentals there and I found a great pleasure with my teachers. Despite the fact that I was a beginner and I had no clue and background in music and I'm a Spanish speaker, they were able to teach me kindly and their classes were well prepared and I learned a lot. The classes are affordable and the great deal of quality is priceless.

Client Served

Rating: 5

I'd wanted to play the oboe ever since, as a young boy, I listened to the duck on Peter and the Wolf. Later, as a college student, I heard John De Lancie play. Playing oboe became a secret passion; but steeped in perfectionism or was it defeatism, held myself back, until finally at 60 it became, "I have no time or money, but I'd better get started"

With no expectation of actually being able to ever produce 'music' I began. Shortly after beginning, I joined a Community Music Center small ensemble. Years later, with the help of wonderful instructors from CMS, I'm now playing better than I could have imagined, and more important, have discovered the deep pleasure and satisfaction in the process of attentive practice, and attentive listening when playing ensemble.

I had no idea playing for an audience is a skill, like ensemble, that improves with practice. CMC provides the triad of individual and ensemble instruction, and performance experience that developed more skill and satisfaction than I believed possible.


Rating: 5

The Community Music Center makes music lessons and performances accessible for all who wish to participate. CMC is commited to making music lessons available to all regardless of income level. A large porion of those studying receive financial aid.

CMC offers a great deal to the community. For students, it provides a great enviornment to study music. For instructors, it offers a stimulating setting for collaboration. For the community, it provides a wide variety of events. All events are free or very modestly priced.

CMC uses music for personal growth, professional fulfillment and community sharing.

Client Served

Rating: 5

Community Music Center in San Francisco, CA is an institution that serves people of all ages who are interested in music, theory and practice, and I have taken advantage of both offers. The teachers and professors are of excellent quality and with the versatility to address the needs of children as well as adults. Under the present city, state and national budgetary limitations, the programs offered by the Center are essential for, and complement, the well-rounded development of the children affected. I am a senior citizen and the student that takes the subsequent piano lesson is a boy 9 years of age. Simultaneously, the studio next door has a violin lesson and on the other side another piano lesson is going on. The Center has a main office and a branch, which is where I take my lessons. There is, evidently, enough demand for this service in town to take advantage of both sites.

Client Served

Rating: 5

CMC is a community music school for everyone. It has many students on scholarship, and does not turn anyone away for lack of funds. It also serves the general public, including adult students. The teachers at CMC are dedicated professionals -- you can learn classical, jazz, rock, or just about any style of music from teachers who practice their art full time.
CMC has two primary locations in SF -- in the Mission and the Richmond Districts. Even so, they are filled to the rafters most weekday afternoons and evenings, and I wish there were more teaching and practice rooms.
One of the unique things about CMC is its concert calendar. There are free concerts all year long, featuring students and teachers, and occasionally a world-class artist will stop by for a free concert with conversation. CMC also has a chorus and orchestra who give concerts in the school's auditorium and elsewhere in the community.

Carolyn S.

Board Member

Rating: 5

I have been on the Board of Community Music Center for only three years but I have come to have great respect for their mission and programs and all the people they serve. Fees for music lessons and classes are on a sliding scale based on need; many people who would otherwise not have access to quality music education can experience the joy of making music.

Geoffrey Gallegos

Board Member

Rating: 5

San Francisco is the home of a vibrant music education and performing nonprofit institution, that for the past 90 years has been dedicated to offering the entire SF Bay Area community the opportunity to study and make music by eliminating obstacles associated with income level, age, experience and ethnic background.

With two main locations; the central and original center in the heart of the Mission (San Francisco's largest Latino community) and a more recent facility serving the Richmond neighborhood district, the Community Music Center continues to fulfill its core mission with great success! Much of this success must be attributed to an outstanding, professional instrumental, vocal and composition faculty (approx. 120), a hard working, energetic and highly capable professional staff, a very effective, active and supportive board of directors and, for the past 33 years, the superb leadership of Executive Director Stephen Shapiro. The other part of that equation, of course, is the large (2,367 strong as of 2010!), diverse and enthusiastic student body and guest artists whose energy, talents and love of music form the heart beat of CMC.

In addition to individual private lessons in all major traditional instruments, voice, theory, ear training, composition, music therapy, Alexander Technique and Feldenkrais, CMC also offers instruction in

accordion, banjo, electric bass, recorder and traditional Chinese instruments. An array of performing ensembles and workshops are available for students to participate in including jazz, chamber music, chorus, flute choir, Latin-Flamenco, Middle Eastern/Turkish/Eastern European Music, opera, musical theater, string orchestra, Children's chorus and Latin vocal. Many students take advantage of these and other opportunities for performance, and in fact, CMC hosts over 150 concerts on average annually.

Two other important programs of note more recently established:

The Mission DIstrict Young Musicians Program, a collaborative effort with a number of Mission District organizations and schools speaks to CMC's desire to extend its offerings through significant efforts with community outreach, and,

The Adult Certificate Program, designed for adult students at any skill level who are interested in an integrated and intensive course of study that includes private instrumental/voice lessons, theory and musicianship, ensemble participation and performance under the guidance of a faculty member/advisor.

In accordance with its core mission, CMC provided financial assistance and scholarships to over 60% of its students in 2010!

The Community Music Center is wonderful place to study, make and hear music!

Brian K.


Rating: 5

CMC is a model organization serving a diverse community opening its doors on a siding scale to anyone of any age or income who desires music lessons.

CMC teaches a vast array of every imaginable instrument and recently celebrated its 90th anniversary! A non-profit that's been around for 90 years! Wow! The staff is dedicated and the instructors are inspiring musicians themselves.

I've worked as a volunteer advisor on technology, a photographer and a donor for CMC. I have also been a student of a piano with the talented and inspiring faculty.