All of the high tech bustle that propels a Bay Area city like Mountain View would be impossible without creative people, according to Kathy Thibodeaux. And that is exactly what makes the Community School of Music and Arts critical in her view.
"Probably here, more than anywhere else, art and music in the schools are absolutely essential," said Thibodeaux, interim executive director of CSMA. "Art and music are crucial components of a 21st century education. Silicon Valley thrives on creativity."
On a given day, a visitor to the Community School of Music and Arts might hear a student running scales on a trumpet, see the work of a local visual artist or drop into one of the many free concerts and performances regularly held in Tateuchi Hall.
Located at the Finn Center in Mountain View, the CSMA serves as an art and music school, gallery and performance space.
"We offer music, art and artistic experiences in the form of performance and art shows to the community, and encourage people to have some sort of artistic expression in their lives, whether they be a preschooler or a 90-year-old," said Mary Holmes, director of the music school at CSMA.
The vast majority of performances and shows put on at CSMA are free, and for a good reason, Holmes said. The school wants to make art and music easily accessible to all. "We want people to think of music and art as just natural extensions of their daily life," she said. "The arts are fundamental, not ornamental."
CSMA does charge for individual lessons and group classes in music and art. For adults, an 18-week semester of 30-minute private lessons costs about $725; art classes, which cover painting, ceramics and fashion, last 10 weeks and range from $180 to $225; children's classes are cheaper and merit scholarships are offered to Bay Area musicians who have demonstrated great talent.
According to Holmes, the faculty would likely make more money teaching private lessons out of their homes, but choose to work at CSMA not only to contribute to the community, but also to be a part of a community.
"The artists and musicians really get to know each other," Holmes said. "They form bonds as they collaborate with one another." The networking opportunities and the chance to showcase their work at the CSMA makes the school a desirable destination for artists and musicians.
In addition to all the work that is done at the Finn Center, CSMA is also very active outside of its campus, providing arts education for 30 schools in Mountain View and the greater Bay Area.
The school, in coordination with the Mountain View Educational Foundation and the City of Mountain View, is responsible for providing all music and arts education in all of the Mountain View Whisman School District's elementary schools.
CSMA runs entirely on donations, therefore, "It's absolutely imperative that the community get on board, because the school district doesn't have the money for" arts education, Thibodeaux said.
Donations made by readers and local foundations to the Voice's Holiday Fund will go, in part, to help CSMA and six other local organizations that are making a difference in Mountain View.
By Holmes' count, CSMA is certainly making a difference.
"We are creative beings," she said. "We aren't meant to sit in an office all day and not observe beauty. Having some sort of artistic expression helps to serve our intellectual curiosity and make us better human beings."