Since its founding almost 50 years ago, CSMA has worked to pick up arts education as school districts downsized these programs, usually at a lower cost. That trend hasn't abated — and in fact, it seems to be going into overdrive as schools refocus to meet government-mandated testing standards.
Today, the music and arts school offers weekly classes for 45 public schools from San Jose to Daly City. In addition, the school offers a wide range of other classes, including for corporate workers, special-needs students and pretty much anyone from age 1 to 100.
While these classes aren't free, CSMA officials say they're making their strongest effort to date to make these available to all, rich or poor. This year, the nonprofit expanded its financial aid program by increasing its scholarship programs to cover up to 80 percent of class fees. There's no limit on the number of people who can receive financial aid, said Sharon Kenney, CSMA's marketing director. Last year, 250 students benefited from the program, she said.
"This gives kids a way to express themselves in ways that regular academics don't allow," she said. "It activates different parts of the brain."
CSMA is one of seven nonprofit organizations that benefit from the Voice's annual Holiday Fund. Donations to the fund are divided equally among the nonprofits and are administered by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation at no cost, so 100 percent of contributions go to the recipients.
On a visit last week, Kenney broke away from her daughter's art class to take the Voice on a tour of the CSMA's campus, located just off San Antonio Road. Lining the walls of the foyer were paintings from a recent elementary-school class depicting whatever the students thought best represented "celebration." Almost universally, the children chose to paint cupcakes, and the walls were covered in a rainbow panoply of tiny cakes.
Walking down the hallway, Kenney said that on almost any afternoon the corridors of the school are throbbing with the sound of dozens of students practicing in the school's private music studios. She unlocked the entrance to the 200-seat Tateuchi Hall, the school's main performance space for faculty and students alike. Having a professional auditorium was a big deal especially for up-and-coming talent, she said.
"It gives students that feeling of a real professional experience, that feeling of a real performance" Kenney said.
CSMA employs about 150 faculty members — both full- and part-time —and the nonprofit's administrators beam with pride as they describe the talent of their instructors. Musicians from the top conservatories in the world choose to teach at the school, Kenney said, and much of the faculty continue to independently produce their own work.
Among the biggest challenges for CSMA is working with dozens of different clients — school districts, tech companies and individual families. Just schools alone present their own set of difficulties because pretty much every district lays out its own goals and schedules. "It's a highly fragmented market," with no one-size-fits-all template, said Vickie Scott Grove, CSMA executive director.
Even for those not interested arts or music education, Grove is confident that CSMA has something to offer. The school puts on dozens of art exhibitions and music performances — just last year, CSMA hosted about 35 free events.
"For us, the problem often is getting the word out," Grove said.
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