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Free Fun for the Kids at Crowden Community Music Day

October 14, 2015

Children exploring the Instrument Petting Zoo at Crowden Community Music Day.This is one of the great annual events in the East Bay. Held every fall, the Crowden School in Berkeley opens its doors to children of all ages, but particularly younger children. This year, music day will be held this Sunday, October 18. 

Activities include an Instrument Petting Zoo in which Crowden student "Zookeepers" help kids and adults alike to explore, touch, and make sounds on a variety of the instruments you find in a symphony orchestra. There are special miniature string instruments for tiny hands and fingers.

Another main event at community music day is the series known as Very First Concerts, which is presented by the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra. Each concert features a central theme to be discussed, short selections, tumbling mats for fidgety toddlers, and hands-on musical activities designed for families with young children (infants to 7-year-olds). Audiences are encouraged to dance.  

This year's Very First Concerts theme is "Meet the Woodwinds!" -- an introduction to the flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and French horn. Musicians will impart lessons about reeds, keys, knobs, and tubes.

In addition, there will be class demonstrations, in which family members of all ages can sing, dance, move, and drum together in short demonstrations. There is also an opportunity to make your own instruments!

If the madding crowd becomes too intense, there’s a "chill" room, where music-related movies will be screened. Also, look for the sales of music, BBQ, and baked goods. Crowden School admissions information also will be available.

Crowden, a grade 4 through 8 middle school, was the vision of violinist Anne Crowden, who opened it in 1983. She died in 2004. The school has gone from 13 students to 80. From a handful of faculty to more than 28 full- and part-time instructors. From a rented-out church basement to what was once a barn, then recast in 1998 as an auditorium. The sound system is one of the most advanced in the world.

In 2013, the school celebrated its 30th anniversary. 

The school is part of the Crowden Music Center, a nonprofit umbrella for both the school and an outreach program called the Crowden Center for Music in the Community.

Community Music Day is free and open to the public. All performances will be held in the school’s auditorium. Repeat performances will be 10:40 am, 11:20 am, and 12:00 pm. For more information, visit the school’s website.

Mark MacNamara, a writer and journalist based in Asheville, North Carolina, has written for such publications as NautilusSalonThe Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Vanity Fair. From time to time, his pieces in San Francisco Classical Voice also appear in  Noteworthy examples include a piece about Philip Glass’s dream to build a cultural center on the Pacific Coast; a profile of sound composer Pamela Z and an essay on the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. MacNamara recently won several awards in the 2018 Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards presented by the San Francisco Press Club.  His website is