Community Music Center

Opened in 1921 on Capp Street in the Mission district, Community Music Center has been a consistent musical destination for its immediate community and the city in general. Throughout its 96—year existence, the school has been known to focus on access, prioritizing students from underprivileged backgrounds and aiming to make music more widely available, regardless of income. And it has thrived using this mission and model. In fact, the school, which offers classes to students across a wide spectrum of skill-levels and ages, has undergone expansions (there is a smaller location in the Richmond, which opened in 1983). For a brief video of the school’s history and its legacy of women leaders, check out this video, narrated by KDFC’s Dianne Nicolini.

The school actually started in 1912, when it was the music department for the Dolores Street Girls Club settlement house, under the direction of Gertrude Field. Starting with Field, who was a violinist, and throughout its history, the Community Music Center has prided itself on its faculty of musicians and musical directors. The famed African American conductor Paul Freeman, for example, was the school’s director in the 1960s. Take a look at this 1967 photo of Freeman.

And here is a 1973 photo of the Flowing Stream Ensemble performing at Palace of Legion of Honor concert. Betty, seated on the left and Shirley, seated on the right, were both instructors of Chinese Folkloric music at the Community Music Center.

Photos courtesy of the San Francisco History Center, San Francisco Public Library