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Community Music Center's Hyperactive Spring

May 6, 2014

Martha Rodriguez-Salazar conducts Solera Singers and 30th Street Chorus at Community Music Center's 90th birthday party Photo by Mercedes RomeroSome 100 mostly Spanish-speaking older adults will come together on Friday at the Community Music Center's Mission District Branch to sing for their friends and neighbors at a free concert of great personal significance.

And, in addition to a plethora of other public events and activities (see end of this item), the 93-old Center will venture out of its Mission home on May 19 to the SFJAZZ Center for its annual gala to raise funds for music scholarships for low-income youth. James H. Abrams, a dedicated CMC clarinet student, will be honored at this year’s event "for his love of music and his invaluable legal expertise and service to the Center."

The Latin sounds of Grammy Award-winning faculty member Omar Ledezma, Jr. and his quintet will be featured, along with composer, bassist, bandleader and educator Marcus Shelby and his CMC Teen Jazz Orchestra. The headliner of the concert is Van Cliburn gold medalist Jon Nakamatsu.

The Friday event is called Summit of Older Adult Choirs, the participants have been preparing for it for months at the Center. The concert will be recorded, the CD to go on sale in the near future.

Chorus director Martha Rodriguez-Salazar says the program teaches: "Everything: how to sing, how to breathe, the correct posture." She and the singers are happy with the results which go beyond singing.

Community Of Voices choir sings at Mission Neighborhood Center Photo by Mieke StrandOne chorus member says, her words translated from Spanish by Sylvia Sherman, the Center's program director:

When I began singing in the choir I was very depressed. I didn't even want to get up and dressed in the morning. I had only been in the country (from Mexico) for two years and did not have many connections here. After joining the choir I started to come back to life. I loved singing with the choir, made several friends, and even started dancing again."

A similar experience is described by a member of El Coro Solera: "For years, I have suffered from depression; I took medicines to keep going. I didn’t know how to breathe. To sing, you need to have air. Singing has saved me. Thank you so much."

Participating in the concert are the Center's own Solera Singers and the 30th Street Chorus, which rehearse weekly, singing primarily traditional songs in Spanish from across Latin-America, but also performing songs in English and Tagalog. (Solera is a Spanish word describing the process of aging fine spirits like sherry or brandy.) Accompanying rehearsals and the concert is Jennifer Peringer.

The concert includes "Alma Llanera," a Venezuelan jarocho; "La Piragua," a Colombian cumbia; "La Bruja" and "Cucurrucucu" from Mexico, and the Cuban cha-cha-cha "El Bodeguero."

Joining in the "choral summit" will be the Community of Voices Choirs at the Mission Neighborhood Center and Centro Latino de San Francisco. They are all participants in a five-year research study examining whether singing in a community choir is a cost-effective way to promote health and well-being among culturally diverse older adults. The study's partnership between Community Music Center, UC San Francisco, and San Francisco Department of Aging and Adult Services senior centers is funded by a grant from the National Institute on Aging to UCSF.

The Community Music Center is the Bay Area’s oldest community arts organization and San Francisco’s largest provider of free and low-cost music classes and concerts. During the last school year, some 2,300 students of all ages, ethnicities and income levels enrolled in CMC programs, and over 19,000 people attended musical performances at no or low cost.

Some of the other upcoming events at the Center's Mission District Branch:

  • 7:30 p.m. May 9, "A Rose for Mom," violinist Ann Lam and pianist Candice Choi play works by Mozart, Brahms, Liszt, and Stravinsky ($10 adults, $5 kids, moms free).
  • 7:30 p.m. May 10 and 11 a.m. May 11, "Little Opera," 25 kids collaborate with 10 composers to write two short operas from scratch, about Crystal Warriors and Princesses in Antarctica ($15 adults, $10 students and seniors).
  • 4 p.m. May 11, Ina Chalis Opera Ensemble's "Music For Mothers" (free, donations accepted).
  • 2:30 p.m. May 17, Earplay Open Rehearsal (free).

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].