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.

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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 14, 2020
159 donors have contributed $84,000 to
the Mountain View Voice Holiday Fund.
* indicates amount withheld

30 Anonymous10845
John Miller & Randa Mulford250
Thomas J. Mucha350
Lyle & Sally Sechrest100
Wesley D. Smith*
Twana & Bruce Karney250
Dr. & Mrs. I.C. Statler100
Vi Robertson100
Mary & Christopher Dateo500
E. Denley Rafferty100
David Fung*
Marilyn Gildea*
Dan Kelly & Michelle Friedland500
Jeff Segall & Helen He200
Robert J. Rohrbacher100
Marilyn & Jim Kelly250
Dan Rich*
Anne Johnston*
Michael A. Tugendreich200
Julie Donnelly50
Judith Manton50
Edward Taub & Sheri Gish108
Gary Kushner650
Emily A. Arcolino1000
Jim & Alice Cochran700
Karen & David Keefer100
Reese & Kathleen Cutler*
Margaret Chapman100
Kathleen & Serge Bonte100
Mark Flider*
Linda Jahnke200
Jamil Shaikh100
Edward Perry200
Meghan Kelly200
The Burtin Family*
Lisa Twardowski100
Karl Schnaitter700
Dan Pappas100
Ellen Wheeler50
Tom & Barbara Lustig*
Paul & Sarah Donahue1000
Lawrence K. Wallace100
Danny Lee200
Rose Han200
Diane U. Nanis100
Susan Jordan500
Mei Hong150
Leslie & Anita Nichols*
Leona K. Chu*
Kevin & Robin Duggan*
Andy & Liz Coe100
The Somersille Sibley Family200
Bruce Heflinger500
Tats & Rose Tsunekawa100
Dixie L. Pine60
Lois & Robert Adams500
Jerry & Sheri Morrison350
Jeral Poskey1000
Elaine Roberts1000
Eva Diane Chang200
Frederick Butts500
Wendy Wong500
Herta Schreiner100
Laura Blakely100
Lisa & William Rogers200
Max Beckman-Harned700
Feng Zhou5000
Ann McCarty100
Arleen Ballin*
Jackie Doda210
Dolores N. Goodman500
Dr. Lawrence M. Rosenberg Ph.D.250
Pamela Baird & Greg Unangst1000
Linda Kannall25
Erik & Ankita Kaulberg*
Catherine Pratt Howard100
Mariya S Filippova50
Michael Kahan180
Herbert Perry100
Tracy King500
Ronald Swierk125
Alan & Laura Kostinksy*
Ellis Berns200
R D Roode150
David & Jennifer DeGraaff1000
Crystal Chow100
Randy & Debra Robinson500
Vi Robertson50
Lora Henderson100
Dana Backman250
Kanan Krishnan250
Janet Sloan & Peter Stahl1700
Nancy Mueller50
Mary Pulvers50
Sarah Campbell100
Brian & Marilyn Smith*
Katherine Preston & Lanier Anderson500
Mark Flider*
Karl Schnaitter700
Elisabeth Seaman500
Heitkamp Family350
Cliff & Kara Chambers200
Ann Kapoun200
Nguyen Family75
Barbara Krzyczkowska & Massimo Prati200
Bruce Lin*
Judy Atterholt100
Susan Swensen35
Kirsten & Kevin Hayes600
Stephen Attinger250
Susan Evans150
Pauly Family1000
Julie Steury & Peter Reynolds1200
Susan Perkins*
In Memory Of

Jim & Sally280
Mack & Laila Holombo*
Nancy & William Creger500
Mike Fischetti525
Sofia Laskowski100
Virginia (Ginny) Thompson100
Ernesto Alejandro100
Claudia Davis100
In Honor Of

Ed, Petros and Thalia175
The staff at Mayview Clinic500
Community Service Agency10
As a Gift For

Glen & Linda Eckols200

Wealth Architects2500
Hewlett Foundation8750
Packard Foundation8000