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September 1, 2020

Dear CMCB Community

Although it has been a challenging year, and many of us are beginning to have a hard time remembering a life before the coronavirus, I wanted to start this year’s welcome letter by taking a moment to celebrate many of CMCB’s successes from the last year:

LAST YEAR – PRE-COVID

  • Last fall, CMCB finally welcomed our first group of BEAM (Bridge to Equity and Achievement in Music) students, and we were excited to learn alongside them as they began their journey of trying to create more inclusive pathways for music students from historically underrepresented groups. 
  • We had another successful Performathon, one of my favorite events of the year!
  • We launched CMCB’s Community Conversations, a series of workshops with CMCB staff that sought to engage others in dialogue about important issues in arts education, such as equity of power, gender inclusivity, and inclusion as it relates to individuals with disabilities.  
  • Our Chamber Orchestra created its first ever student committee. This incredible student-led group has been a platform for students to affect decisions such as repertoire, marketing, ensemble vision, and we look forward to expanding it this year.
  • More than 200 people gathered at CMCB’s Young Composers Festival, some for the first time, to learn about composing music. The festival had 14 presenters, 10 workshops, and a closing recital, called “Written & Performed By” where CMCB students showcased their compositions. 

We also received our first season sponsorship from Berkshire Bank, and they even gave some of our lucky families access to their box at TD Garden! Webster Bank once again sponsored the John Kleshinski Luncheon, and because of their support and the great work of our special events committee, we had one of the most successful luncheons ever. And to wrap up the year, First Republic Bank joined us as a sponsor for our annual Fete de la Musique, despite needing to shift the event online. We are incredibly grateful to our community of supporters!

Our faculty and staff continued to amaze with accomplishments:

COVID-19

When Massachusetts shut down in March, CMCB’s Board voted almost immediately to permit a special draw from our endowment for the work to continue. Within 24 hours of the BPS school closure, CMCB had online programming up and running. Shortly thereafter, the Boston Public Schools elected to honor all of its contracts, which meant we could continue to compensate faculty, teaching artists, and music therapists. 

We were extremely fortunate to have been at the tail end of our search for a new Chief Finance/Operations Officer, and Meghan Jasani joined the CMCB team during the week of the closure. Meghan brings deep finance and strategic planning expertise to CMCB from her time at JP Morgan Chase and VistaPrint. As a proud parent of an Early Childhood Program student, she is passionate about CMCB’s mission, so she hit the ground running!

We spent the latter half of the year re-envisioning the remainder of our programming, and this led to some remarkably innovative ideas. For FiddleFest, instead of a traditional concert in Allen Hall, our string students and faculty put together videos of student performances from home, sometimes with family members. This special concert featured a range of music incorporating the many cultures and sounds of America fiddle music from New England (Scottish and Celtic tunes) and the South’s Bluegrass (a mixture of Celtic and African American blues music).

Then, the protests against racial inequity began, following the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and Ahmaud Arbery. CMCB had already been working, gradually but diligently, to become more anti-racist, but this was a moment in which we realized that we still had a long way to go. Becoming more culturally responsive and culturally competent as an organization is a centerpiece of our new strategic plan which is being created under the facilitation of Boston-based firm, TDC. We are hoping to launch this plan in the winter, and we are excited that the future of CMCB will continue to honor and share the music of Western Europe while also creating opportunities to equitably amplify the music, artistry, and culture of those who are of a non-Western European descent. Special thanks to those of you who filled out the survey! 

THIS YEAR AND BEYOND… 

This year, we are still working to understand CMCB’s role in the unprecedented moment that we find ourselves in right now. What we do understand is that this is a time for us to remember that, although we are physically distant, we still exist within communities. And the strongest communities, like the Community Music Center of Boston, will continue to be there with you. One of the things that we know that we will do is to be a place that supports you as you all continue to muster up the strength to have hope each and every week. Because of that, CMCB has decided to open its physical doors to select programs, such as strings and piano. 

For those of you within these select programs, who want to have a moment to come and join our community in person, we’ll be here. We have a phased re-entry process, new safety protocols, and we are in the process of making upgrades to our HVAC system to allow for safer air quality in our space. 

For those of you who still want to engage in music instruction, but a) are not in one of our approved in-person programs, or b) are not yet ready to commit to attending weekly events outside your home, CMCB is committed to working with you via our virtual/online programming. Please know that we are already investing in ways to increase our efficacy as we navigate this new landscape. 

For those of you who are still trying to figure out next steps for your families, and think that you need to take some time away from music instruction to process and plan for the future (in as much as one can plan for the future right now), please continue to engage with our online media. Know that you are still part of our CMCB community, and when the time feels right for you, we will welcome you back with open arms. We at CMCB look forward to engaging with you all as much, and in as many different ways, as possible this year. 

Just know that as long as there are individuals like yourselves who value having music in your lives, CMCB will still be here.

As I have thought about having hope, I am constantly reminded of my grandmothers. Both of my grandmothers were church-going women, and they went to church every Sunday. They put on their “Sunday’s best”, and got their children ready as well. They hot-combed all of the girls’ hair (my late mother was one of six girls!), and they tried to keep the boys from wrinkling their clothes before making it to the church building. I still remember the pictures of all of the kids standing in front of the house before church, my father with tape on his glasses along with his siblings, and my mother with her beautiful hair along with her siblings. 

Then, I remember that my grandmothers grew up in the Jim Crow South. They faced the oppression of that time every day. The children that they dressed were the same children that were sent into harm’s way to integrate schools in small-town Texas. And yet, there were my grandmothers, meticulously taking care of their children to get them to church every Sunday, and I mean EVERY Sunday! They went there because it was a safe space to get rejuvenated for the week ahead.

I have taken so many lessons from the stories that they shared with me, and those lessons are at the top of my mind right now. The primary lesson was that one should always have hope. When times are the most challenging and the future has an uncomfortable degree uncertainty, one must always be able to find one’s way to the village of hope. Speaking of villages, the other lesson that I learned from them was the value of community. If you remember to remain part of a community, then that community will be there for you when you need them. 

None of us is strong enough to weather this storm alone, but if we can learn to problem solve together, we might come out of this moment stronger than we’ve ever been. As we all move into the uncertainty of the next several months, please know that CMCB will be there in whatever ways that we safely can.

Please stay safe and healthy.

Lecolion.

image of Lecolion Washington, Executive Director

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