The Community Music School of Santa Cruz is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that was founded in 1993 by recording artist/music teacher Shelley Phillips. The School is a collective of educators, music enthusiasts, professional performers and student musicians living in the greater Santa Cruz region. We operate without a fixed location, instead renting space as needed for our concerts, camps and classes, and these events are often located in many different parts of the county. The School thrives on the support of our dedicated staff and eager volunteers, as well as grants and in-kind donations. Keep in mind that donations are tax-deductible and greatly appreciated!
We run a free information and referral service, putting the public in touch with exemplary music teachers and community music groups offering instruction on a myriad of instruments and styles. By visiting our website and clicking on a given instrument, prospective students can shop for teachers to find someone whose approach best matches the students’ needs, and in turn the referral service helps qualified teachers stay in business by providing their listings online at no charge. There are currently over one hundred local music teachers listed in our database.
Throughout the year, CMS provides educational and affordable concerts to the public that feature local luminaries as well as internationally known performers. There is usually about one event per month. Many of these events are inter-generational, highlighting talented young students as well as master musicians, and our Musical Lives project celebrates the work of local senior musicians through a concert and photo exhibit at the Louden Nelson Center. Our Living History concerts, an informative series geared toward an adult audience, explore historical, classical and ethnic music traditions, with the performers offering insight into the stories behind the tunes. The Santa Cruz Harp Festival, an annual winter concert event, is a five-week class, offered free for local harpists of all ages, that culminates in an equisite concert with phenomenal soloists as well as a large student harp orchestra - look for this event each Winter. Our Family Concert Series, a collaborative effort with The Attic, offers audiences with young children an enjoyable music experience in a more informal and kid-friendly context. Family Concerts happen about every three months. And lastly, we present a music documentary film once a year at the Rio Theater (past films include The Concert for George and Ravi Shankar: In Portrait).
Workshops with Visiting Artists
Often CMS presents workshops and master classes with touring musicians that perform in our Concert Series. Local students get a rare chance to learn from renowned international players one-on-one.
Summer Trad Music Camps
Each summer CMS produces two traditional music camps for children and teens, attended by over one hundred students. Both camps are staffed by teachers and T.A.’s specializing in traditional music and instruments. In June, teens ages 13-17 enjoy a week-long overnight camp in Big Basin. Students learn and perform Celtic, Bluegrass, Scandinavian, and old time tunes in small bands as well as a full orchestra. Evening activities include Irish and Scottish dance classes, a costume party, Improv night, a bonfire on the Solstice, a night swim, and a lively traditional ceilidh at the end of the week. Teen Camp ends with a performance by the Celtic orchestra, and a picnic with friends and family on the beautiful Sempervirens Outdoor School campus in Boulder Creek.
Kids’ Camp, for students ages 7-12, takes place in August and runs for two weeks as a day camp. The camp is located at the Boomeria in Bonny Doon, an elaborate Renaissance estate complete with a castle and catacombs. In addition to learning traditional music, kid campers enjoy such activities as swimming and crafts, and camp concludes with a finale concert and costumed garden party that is open to the public.
Through this instrument adoption program we place donated instruments with people and organizations that really need them. Music Match adoption is available for music students of all ages. We accept most small instruments (guitars, flutes, violins, etc) that are in good shape - special arrangements must be made for pianos and other large instruments. The School also has a few affordable rental instruments available.
Instrument Petting Zoos
We offer supervised instrument petting zoos at family concerts and community events. Audience members may try out different instruments with the help of the performers and learn first hand how the instruments make music.
Listings for local music classes and song circles can be found on the website and in the newsletter. Those interested in posting info in this section of our website free of charge should call our office at (831) 426-9155. We also offer several Community Music School classes taught by our faculty teachers.
We have independently produced several professional recordings that raise money for CMS programs. Our albums feature music from ethnic and folk traditions, including Celtic music, Shape Note singing, and songs of the Shakers. CD’s can be found on our website, at local record stores, and at CDBaby.com.
Information on our concerts, camps and classes is published in a free bi-annual e-newsletter, which currently has a circulation of 3,000. Fill out the form above or email email@example.com to join the mailing list.
Board of Directors
Shelley Phillips, Susan Willats, Sarah MacGillivray, Jonathan Casper, Christa Stiner, Ary Smith, Brianna Ady, James McNeill, Rachel Goodman, & E. Ariel Young.