Holiday Spirit

Ceramics teacher Amy Steinmann explains to students, James, Vineet and Adini, what to do with their clay during a class at Community School of Music and Arts in Mountain View on Dec. 19, 2019. Photo by Magali Gauthier.

Posted December 29, 2019

CSMA offers a beacon of arts in a tech world
Nonprofit stays true to its egalitarian roots of 'arts for all'

by Mark Noack

Back in the 1940s, Natalie Werbner was a young girl living in Boston who wanted to take music lessons. Her family had recently immigrated from Russia and didn't have much money, but there was still one option available to her. It was a settlement house, a progressive co-op school that offered arts and music instruction for anyone, rich or poor, immigrant or native-born.

As the Werbner later explained it, she never forgot how the school provided her an opportunity when all the other doors were closed. About 30 years later, that memory served as an inspiration to her when she was living in the Bay Area and helped launch the Mountain View Community School of Music and Arts (CSMA). It started rather modestly with outdoor classes held in the backyard of a rented house, but today the organization has expanded to teach over 30,000 students per year, making it the largest arts institution of its kind in the area.

"I thought that there should be schools like this all over the country," Werbner said in an interview earlier this year. "It's astounding how much the organization has grown. It's so important to pass the torch along."

CSMA is one of seven nonprofit organizations serving Mountain View residents that benefit from the Voice's annual Holiday Fund . Donations are divided equally among the nonprofits and are administered by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation at no cost, so 100% of contributions go to the recipients.

The music and arts school has come a long way over the last 50 years, but it has never strayed from its mission to teach the creative arts to those who otherwise wouldn't have that opportunity. While CSMA normally charges anywhere from $200 to $350 for classes, the faculty strongly promotes financial aid programs. Over the last year, the school granted $545,000 in scholarships and other aid, which CSMA administrators say is an unprecedented amount.

On a Thursday afternoon visit, the school's hub at the Finn Center off of San Antonio Road was a scene of activity as students zipped around for their after-school lessons. The corridors at the center were filled with the echoes of youngsters at drum lessons and choral recitals. For her ceramics class, arts teacher Amy Steinmann was teaching a group of elementary-school age students how to make holiday mugs with penguins and polar bears.

Each year the school offers more than 500 arts and music classes, most of which are geared toward adolescents. Over the years, CSMA has expanded its scope, teaching off-campus classes at tech companies and providing arts and music education to K-8 students in Santa Clara and San Mateo county public schools, including the Mountain View Whisman district.

CSMA is also making efforts to broaden the age range of its students. The directors point out they have more senior citizens participating than ever before. In fact, the school featured its first ever senior chorus this year, which included about 20 members, and also introduced its first music classes for babies as young as 3 months.

Looking out the window of the school's boardroom, CSMA executive director Vickie Scott Grove pointed to the nearby towers of new apartments that were sprouting up all around the Finn Center. Parents and their children have a rekindled interest in arts instruction, she said.

"With all this growth, there's been quite an increase in demand for our programs," Grove said. "Compare this to five years ago when it seemed like everyone only wanted to learn about math. Now it seems like the importance of the arts is coming back."

CSMA's facility is currently overwhelmed with more demand that it can handle. Starting next year, the school is planning a $5 million expansion that would replace a shuttered tire shop next door with a 3,200-square-foot annex.

Perhaps the best kept secret at CSMA is its free concert series, which regularly attracts a lineup of highly acclaimed performers. Earlier this month, the school hosted three-time Grammy winner John Daversa for a free performance of his latest jazz album. Next year, the school plans to host Taylor Eigsti, who has been nominated for multiple Grammy awards and who was previously a student at CSMA. Eigisti's event will showcase his new "crowdsourced jazz composition" that he is creating with suggestions from Bay Area students. Last year, CSMA offered more than 30 free concerts and events.

Make a donation
2021 Recipient Agency

Community Health Awareness Council
CHAC serves Mountain View, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills and seven school districts. Among the services it offers are schoolbased counseling and programs to protect students from high-risk behaviors.

Community School of Music & Arts
The Community School of Music and Arts provides hands-on art and music education in the classrooms of the Mountain View Whisman School District.

Community Services Agency
CSA is the community's safety-net providing critical support services for low-income individuals and families, the homeless and seniors in northern Santa Clara County, including Mountain View, Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Day Worker Center of Mountain View
The Day Worker Center of Mountain View provides a secure place for workers and employers to negotiate wages and work conditions. It serves workers with job placements, English lessons, job skills workshops and guidance.

Mayview Community Health Center
The MayView Community Health Center in Mountain View offers primary care services to low-income and uninsured patients in northern Santa Clara County. No patient is turned away for inability to pay for services, which include prenatal and pediatric care, cancer screenings and chronic disease management.

Mentor Tutor Connection
Mentor Tutor Connection matches adult volunteers who serve either as mentors with under-served youth in high school or as tutors to students in elementary and middle schools in Mountain View and Los Altos school districts.

YWCA of Silicon Valley
This group operates a 24-hour bilingual hotline and a safe shelter for women and their children. It also offers counseling and other services for families dealing with domestic violence.


As of January 26, 2020
138 donors have contributed $79,760 to
the Mountain View Voice Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld

19 Anonymous6,645
Anne Johnston150
Ellen Wheeler50
Kathleen Cutler*
Bruce Karney500
Edward Perry200
Kathleen & Sergey Bonte150
Tom & Barbara Lustig*
Thomas J. Mucha350
Michael A. Tugendreich200
Robert Rohrbacher*
Margaret Chapman100
Heather Cowper100
Patricia Larenas500
Sally B. Evans500
Ed Taub108
Jeanne Elam200
Linda Catura1,000
Marilyn Gildea100
Herbert Perry100
Herta Schreiner100
Diana Hall50
Daniel Kelly1,000
Emma Wong500
Leslie C. & Anita N. Nichols*
Catherine Howard150
Melissa Jankowski150
Jill Bertrand300
Lori Abrahamsohn50
Jeff Segall & Helen He200
Kevin & Robin Duggan*
Norma Jean Bodey Galiher200
Jim & Alice Cochran700
Lyle & Sally Sechrest100
Brian & Marilyn Smith*
Susan Elliott Russell1,000
Wesley D. Smith*
Andy & Liz Coe100
Crystal Chow200
Paul & Sarah Donahue2,000
Erik & Ankita Kaulberg*
Elizabeth Swierk200
John Baya & Rose Han250
Kathleen Creger500
Kristina Sandoval100
Gary & Yuko Kushner*
Josh Switkes & Meg Kelly1,000
Kevin & Laurel Smith1,000
Judy Atterholt & Chris Petti100
Randa Mulford250
Lora Henderson50
Vivi Naumovski100
Samantha Knox100
Feng Zhou8,000
R. Lanier Anderson &
Katherine A. Preston500
Robert & Lois Adams500
E. Denley Rafferty100
Gail Nyhan & Dave Offen*
David Fung*
Sarah Campbell100
Janet Jarmann30
Ross Heitkamp350
R D Roode150
Kanan Krishnan250
Ellis Berns100
Janet Sloan & Peter Stahl2,000
Donna Davies800
Dianne Chambliss700
Karen Skold100
John Igoe100
Patricia Hayes100
Leona K. Chu*
Pamela Baird1,000
Julie Steury & Peter Reynolds500
Sherleen Ong500
Scott Haber50
Sheri Morrison*
Laura Blakely100
Jon Burns250
Marilyn & James Kelly100
Cliff & Kara Chambers1,000
The Burtin Family*
Jeral Poskey250
Christopher Chiang*
Michael Kahan150
David & Karen Keefer200
Randy Robinson200
Karen DeMello100
Joel Riciputi*
Ann Kapoun200
J Steury500
K. Hayes Family2,000
Sara Jenez*
Bruce Lin1,337
Steve Attinger500
Yiping Liao150
Ronald Nakao50
Max Beckman-Harned700
Diane Nanis50
Sanna Wager500
Elisabeth Seaman750
In Memory Of

Mack & Laila Holombo400
Ken & Arlene Christie100
Jim & Sally Haydn-Myer200
Dori400
Ernesto Alejandro*
Judith Manton50
Eva D Chang200
Michael Van De Vanter50
Mark Flider*
Jennifer Murray50
Christopher & Mary Dateo500
Dr. Sofia Laskowski200
In Honor Of

Jane & Gerald King500
Tyler Beatie50
Ed, Petros & Thalia185
As a Gift For

Glen & Linda Eckols200
Businesses & Organizations

Hewlett Foundation8,750
Packard Foundation8,000
Wealth Architects2,500


Changes or corrections to listings may be made by contacting Kali Shiloh at [email protected]