Home News Many Paths to a Life of Music

Many Paths to a Life of Music

A Collaborative Process Evaluation of the Community Music Center of Boston

Emma Terrell, M.Ed. and Dr. Dennie Palmer Wolf WolfBrown

February 2024

As part of our strategic plan, over the past five years, teachers, students, our board, and national experts worked together to support our journey toward embracing an enriched definition of musical learning. We are no longer just a teaching institution, but a learning institution. 

To measure our results, we engaged Dennie Palmer Wolf and Emma Terrell of WolfBrown to design and implement a major student self-evaluation survey. Click above to download and read their profound findings.

Executive Summary

Established in 1910, the Community Music Center of Boston (CMCB) has played a pivotal role in shaping the cultural landscape of the city and fostering the arts and civic life. With a mission to provide equitable access to excellent music education and arts experiences, CMCB reaches over 3,000 students weekly across Boston’s neighborhoods. As it looks ahead, CMCB envisions creating well-defined educational pathways to support students as musicians, responsible citizens, and thriving individuals, highlighting its commitment to the evolving needs of its students and families.

In collaboration with WolfBrown (WB), CMCB initiated an evaluation process to assess the impact of recent investments on teaching and learning, embracing a contemporary approach to music education. This report outlines CMCB’s evolution and efforts to redefine its
educational vision, specifically focusing on expanding the definition of musicianship through a learner-centered approach. It highlights students’ motivations, progress, and the role of faculty in supporting evolving educational goals.


The purpose of this report is twofold:

  1. It seeks to advance CMCB’s goals in evolving into a learning institution and
  2. Aims to contribute to the broader discourse on developing learner-centered and culturally inclusive music education for similar organizations.

This work strives to establish a system that enables community music schools to broaden their definition of musicianship, serving as evidence that students bring a diverse range of goals and objectives to community music schools. This emphasizes the responsibility of educators an institutions to translate these broad and emerging values into daily practices. Additionally, the work aims to catalyze other music education organizations, particularly in the greater Boston area, to embrace the rich musical traditions that students bring, reflecting the city’s contemporary musical diversity more inclusively. It does not advocate for teaching one tradition over another but rather encourages embracing various traditions for teaching and learning music, recognizing that they can collectively enrich students’ lives.

Key Findings


  • Students Seek Various Pathways – Students showcased an interest in all four student pathways, highlighting the necessity for tailored and diversified programming to meet individualized educational objectives.
  • Students report improvement in all three learning outcomes – Students self-reported positive growth across all three learning outcomes–Musical Artistry, Social-Emotional Development, and Cultural Inclusion. This demonstrated the depth and complexity of their musical and personal development journeys.


  • Professional development makes a difference – Faculty members who “robustly” participated in professional development (PD) demonstrated significantly higher observation scores compared to those with “minimal” PD engagement.
  • CMCB-led professional development has an even greater impact – Faculty members “robustly” involved in CMCB-led professional development initiatives (any PD led by either CMCB faculty or staff) achieved an even greater difference in observation
    scores than those with “minimal” engagement in CMCB-led PD.
motif design for visual presentation


Many Paths to a Life of Music

Read The Story

Student Pathways at the Community Music Center of Boston

Read The Story


Read The Story