Community Music School Keeps Melodies Alive

For the past 30 years, the Community Music School (CMS) has provided musical education and enriching opportunities for artists in Santa Cruz County.

CMS was created by Shelley Phillips as a direct response to the defunding of public school music programs that began in the 1990s. Initially her two-week summer music camp for children, the organization expanded over the years to include programs for teens and adults as well. It now hosts an annual harp festival and provides a resource to connect music students and teachers.

“Many students have to play by themselves,” says Susan Willatz, who has run CMS for the past four years. is so that they can come and play in a group and understand how it’s done in an ensemble.”

This year, CMS is joining many other local nonprofits for Santa Cruz Gives (SCG). GTannual digital giving campaign. Each participating non-profit is given a section on the SCG website where they describe what they are doing and the projects they want to fund – the “big ideas” of the future. People can donate directly from the website to a non-profit organization of their choice.

“This is our first year with Santa Cruz Gives,” says Willats. “We are very excited. We are a very small nonprofit. That’s me, 10 hours a week, board. and to know about our activities.”

Wiratz calls the recent passage of California Proposition 28, which funds school-based arts and music education statewide, a “game changer.” But funds are still limited, she says. As such, organizations like CMS are keen to maintain and operate.

“Nowadays, even if there is music in school, it is usually only 45 minutes once a week,” she says. “That alone is not enough to learn an instrument. We recognize that our programs are primarily for people who already know an instrument. ‘s “big idea” is to fund beginner music classes in underserved areas. ”

CMS has already launched pilot programs in partnership with: community bridgeI teach music after school. They hope to expand the program in 2023.

“It’s a small program, but it has a deep impact,” she says. “With that, we are trying to balance the distribution of musical wealth and resources across the county.”

Although this is CMS’ first year with SCG, another nonprofit has joined the campaign since its launch in 2015. Senderos is an arts and culture group dedicated to creating a pathway to success for the Santa Cruz County Latino community.

and promenade, Latino culture and history are taught and celebrated through dance and music classes, with performances throughout the year. The organization also offers tutoring, scholarships, and more.

Senderos co-founder and program director Fe Silva-Robles said: “This is important work, especially now after the pandemic. Our community has been severely affected by Covid. I am delighted.”

According to Silva-Robles, the organization’s “big idea” this year is to secure funding for free dance, music and tutoring programs. The group is also gearing up for his 2023 events, including the annual Vive Oaxaca Guelaguetza. The event is scheduled for his April 16th at San Lorenzo Park.

“We are grateful good times To continue to provide fundraising opportunities through Santa Cruz Gives,” says Silva-Robles. “We are a small non-profit organization run by volunteers. Joining this has really made an impact.”

in the meantime, system Aims to promote positive child development and foster social change by expanding access to free, high-quality music education to students in historically excluded communities in Santa Cruz County. increase. They want to grow the Watsonville Youth Symphony, which started in March 2022. With students graduating from pre-his orchestral program with the necessary skills and qualifications to perform in an orchestra, El Sistema launched a youth symphony that reflects all the diversity of the community.

Another music-oriented Gives project is Santa Cruz United Neighborhoodwants to increase funding for audio and visual engineering programs. The group needs to upgrade their music studio and buy the latest computers, mixing boards and cameras. In the long term, we would like to expand this education and provide it to the community.

To donate to these groups or see a full list of participating nonprofits, visit

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