Field Day performances in 2018 included appearances by young guitarists. (Courtesy Judy Rosenfeld)

Community Music Center opens doors for big Field Day weekend

On its third anniversary, Community Music Center’s performance-packed fundraiser Field Day has doubled in size, due to popular demand.

“We realized we couldn’t fit in everyone in who wanted to participate,” says CMC Executive Director Julie Rulyak Steinberg, describing why this year’s free “performathon,” with 300 participants, is happening over two days. Saturday and Sunday programs feature piano, violin and young musicians’ student showcases, as well as appearances by staff and friends in solos and ensembles.

“Virtually every kind of group we have will be taking the stage,” says Steinberg, mentioning that Field Day works like a walkathon, with each participating performer soliciting donations, and every dollar going to an annual $2 million scholarship fund.

The event also includes a Sunday open house with an instrument petting zoo and information about summer camp opportunities for 8- to 12-year-olds.

New this year on Saturday night is “Cultural Traditions in Diaspora,” a concert featuring a dozen faculty members playing original roots, Latin and jazz music. Steinberg calls it a “rare opportunity to see CMC staff collaborating in all different ways.”

There’s a $20 suggested donation for a ticket to the show, but anyone can attend, keeping in mind the 98-year-old nonprofit’s mission to celebrate diversity and inclusiveness.

Field Day is named for founder Gertrude Field, who, Steinberg says, had “a vision that CMC would be a place that made music accessible to everyone.”

Founded in 1921, CMC offers training on more than 30 instruments and vocals to some 2,800 students, half from its main Mission campus on Capp Street in The City.

“CMC really walks the walk, it’s so deeply rooted in the community,” says Steinberg, adding, “The hallmark is financial accessibility. Classes are sliding-scale pay and many are free, and open to all ages and stages.”

Willard Harris, the center’s oldest student, is taking piano lessons. “Her spirit is amazing; I just called to wish her a happy 99th birthday,” says Steinberg.

Field Day performances in 2018 included appearances by young guitarists. (Courtesy Judy Rosenfeld)

In various partnerships, CMC also offers mariachi in public schools and choral programs serving 350 vocalists at 13 senior centers.

Also, thanks to a collaboration with San Francisco Performances, world-class musicians give free concerts and talks at CMC; trumpeter Sean Jones appears on Friday; on March 1, guitarist Pablo Sáinz Villegas had the center packed to the rafters.

CMC’s success also stems from its 130 professional faculty members, whom Steinberg calls “fantastic educators” offering extensive experience and breadth of knowledge.

As Steinberg admits, “My job is 100 percent too good to be true,” it isn’t without challenges.

Preparing for CMC’s upcoming 100th birthday, her primary question is: “How can we continue to support this amazing ecosystem and be authentic to our roots?” as she addresses issues concerning financial, human and physical resources. In particular, there’s a project to expand the main campus building, which doesn’t meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.

In the meantime, she’ll be among Field Day performers, singing mezzo-soprano in a trio with baritone Tim Eischens, a member of CMC’s board of directors, and soprano Elenka Refsell of CMC staff.

While she encourages everyone to check out CMC in person this weekend, she adds: “I have to say this: It’s easy to visit our website and make a donation to support our hundreds of performers.”

Community Music Center Field Day
Where: 544 Capp St., S.F.
When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 16-17
Admission: Free
Contact: (415) 647-6015,
Note: “Cultural Traditions in Diaspora” is at 7 p.m. March 16; $20 donation suggested.


Older adult choir members, pictured in 2018, are among dozens of singers slated for this year’s Field Day. (Courtesy Linda Nakasone)

Field Day performances in 2018 included appearances by young guitarists. (Courtesy Judy Rosenfeld)

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