Understand Each Other
Sing Our Song
Inspire our communities
As an organization, we are committed to working after school with St. Paul’s most disadvantaged youth and families, providing young people an equitable opportunity to experience rigorous community music-making and a safe, caring community where youth can freely express themselves. Considering many of our youth have challenging home lives, we also help to address systemic barriers to access including tuition waivers and scholarships, meals, transportation, and academic support.
To empower urban youth with skills for success through music, service, and community.
CMC builds relationships among St. Paul Promise Neighborhood residents by utilizing community partners through an intensive youth development choral program encouraging family involvement and community engagement. Our goals are:
● To provide a high-quality, intensive community music-making experience that demographically represents the
communities we serve
● To build community across schools, cultures, and in greater St. Paul through frequent community performances
To be available and accessible to all youth with a commitment to musical excellence.
To be a community space exemplifying an inclusive, safe, welcoming environment for young people and families.
To live as examples of the life skills and characteristics that we seek to instill in our youth.
We believe that collaborating with our families, supporters, city-wide partners and youth is the best way to bolster our resources and maximize our impact in the communities we serve.
We are intentional in making decisions regarding music selection, programming and policies so that every decision will add to our musical excellence and empower our youth to be actively engaged in their commmunity using their voices in a beautiful, healthy way.
We believe that CMC is an ever-evolving entity that will continue to strive for excellence. We measure our impact and evaluate programming and staff regularly to keep improving our organization.
We love our music - but the youth come first. CMC nurtures a youth's development as a whole person. We treat them as a respectful, engaged young person first and foremost.
We are rooted in our diverse community. Our office is in the St. Paul Promise neighborhood and we have neighborhood, parent and community members as representatives on our board.
We value all voices; no child will be turned away. We encourage parent involvement and remove transportation and cost participation barriers for families.
Inspired by working with Boston Children’s Chorus, Venezuelan El Sistema children’s choirs and her time teaching in Tanzania, Sara Zanussi returned home to the Twin Cities with a mission: to provide access to a high-quality music ensemble for all youth and empower them with the keys to their city through teaching them lifelong skills through music. During the Sistema fellowship at New England Conservatory, Sara discovered her strong passion for choral excellence and realized the lack of diversity in the Minnesota choral landscape. Upon graduation of the fellowship, Sara returned home to learn Minnesota has the largest achievement gap in the country and there is an absence of secular youth choirs in St. Paul.
Sara was inspired by the El Sistema philosophy because it is a global phenomenon that uses a rigorous, holistic, ensemble approach that uses musical excellence to teach lifelong skills that cultivate good leaders, citizens, and musicians.
Sara did two months of extensive community mapping and decided to do a vocal program in St. Paul due to the instrumental scholarship programs available and the existence of a youth choir in Minneapolis. She then partnered with St. Paul Conservatory of Music, St. Paul City School, St. Paul Public Schools, Sprockets Youth Development Network and the St. Paul Promise Neighborhood (SPPN), the neighborhood where ComMUSICation is based, and ComMUSICation was born.
ComMUSICation piloted programming in January of 2014 at St. Paul City School with the hiring of Founding Music Director Ryan LaBoy as per the recommendation of his graduate conducting professor and Minnesota Chorale Artistic Director Kathy Romey. In fall 2014, ComMUSICation extended programming to a full school year, serving 5 schools.
In 2015, ComMUSICation moved to the Mt. Airy Boys & Girls Club (BGC) and piloted Crescendo and a piano program, in addition to a youth leadership group.
In 2016, we hired a 0.5 Operations Manager and a 0.25 Piano Teaching Artist to teach weekly piano lessons to CMC Choir.
In 2017, we piloted our middle school offerings and summer camps for various levels.
In 2018, we launched our first school satellites and first recording studio camp.
In 2019, we hired our first Full Time Music Director and launched in-school middle school choirs.
ComMUSICation (CMC) is a music youth-development program. CMC accepts all students and strives to attain a high level of artistic excellence by giving frequent community performances and providing youth with a time-intensive musical experience.
Youth participate in a music ensemble up to 10 hours weekly. Performance collaborations have included Orchestra Hall, VocalEssence, MPR, Ordway, and the Mall of America. Youth also receive homework help, transportation to rehearsal, snack, and dinner.
ComMUSICation believes that regardless of one's background, everyone deserves the opportunity to create beauty, which we do through music-making. We help develop young people from St. Paul's most vulnerable communities with skills they need to succeed including emotion management, empathy, initiative, responsibility, and focus. We provide them an opportunity to express themselves by performing in their own communities and exciting venues.
CMC Choir is CMC's flagship and performance-intensive choir that fosters teamwork and responsibility. They rehearse daily and perform frequently for community events and at high profile venues across the Twin Cities. Their most recent claim-to-fame was Superbowl LII. Youth also receive no-cost piano lessons, developing self-discipline and perseverance. Returning youth may also opt into additional performance opportunities by being a cultural ambassador where they learn leadership skills and represent CMC in the larger community.
In addition, CMC has various training ensembles for 2nd-8th graders, all with the goal to develop empathy and emotion management through a variety of music mediums. All have a common goal to provide programming for those who cannot make the commitment of CMC Choir or are not developmentally ready. These groups are more project-based, but include training choir, recording studio classes, school residencies, music circles, and percussion.
El Sistema is a movement started in Venezuela by Dr. Jose Antonio Abreu. At the heart of El Sistema is the idea that being part of a musical ensemble can powerfully impact the lives of youth in a community. El Sistema (which grew into the National System of Youth and Children’s Orchestras and Choirs of Venezuela) has had a dramatic effect in its home country, turning music into a transformative tool to hundreds of thousands of young people in the country’s most vulnerable populations. Since El Sistema’s founding in 1975, over 100 programs crafted after Dr. Abreu’s vision have sprouted around the U.S. with over 200 programs worldwide. ComMUSICation is a member of El Sistema USA, the US Sistema-inspired program national alliance.
Outcomes of El Sistema-inspired programs across the country include:
Increased parent involvement
Higher attendance in programming
Increased focus & concentration
In July of 2018, El Sistema USA (ESUSA) identified 13 exemplary organizations nationwide to support through the Program for Rising El Sistema Organizations (PRESTO). As a member of PRESTO, CMC is so grateful for ESUSA who provides CMC with funding, networking and mentorship opportunities, and training for senior leadership over a three-year period. Learn more about CMC's involvement with PRESTO and El Sistema USA by clicking here:
El Sistema USA Census Report
ComMUSICation was founded in 2013 and and in early 2014 started programing at St. Paul City school. In 2015 moved to the Mt. Ary Boys and Girls Club, there ComMUSICation builded relationships among community partners through an intensive afterschool youth development choral program encouraging family involvement and community engagement. Many of our families struggle with transportation and the cost many afterschool programs require so CMC is a tuition-free program with all needed supplies, snack, and transportation provided.
CMC actively tries to help close the achievement gap by supporting academic achievement through character skill development, practicing reading/writing skills through multicultural music and encouraging parent involvement.
CMC forms collaborative community partnerships and introduce students to various cultures and genres of music.
How the ComMUSICation program responds to Saint Paul Promise Neighborhood needs:
All children have access to our program with provided transportation and tuition on a sliding scaled based on ability to pay.
We link families to desired social resources and engage families and community in addition to the participants.
We embrace all cultures through multicultural, family-influenced repertoire.
We are the only secular tuition-free youth choir program in the neighborhoods we serve.
CMC adheres to the principles of effective after-school programs identified by the National Alliance for After-School Programs: program practices support positive student outcomes through using a sequenced set of activities that are broken down and arranged to allow youth to learn, develop, connect to and master a specific set of skills that support academics.
CMC uses validated, nationally recognized and normed statistical tools to evaluate its impact: the Survey of After-School and Youth Outcomes Survey (SAYO) to evaluate effectiveness and the Youth Program Quality Assessment to evaluate quality. SAYO was developed by the National Institute on Out-of-School Time. CMC staff review SAYO results each year, utilizing a pre and post survey of students and staff to assess individual growth and aggregate results. The Youth Program Quality Assessment (PQA)® also reviewed annually, is a validated instrument designed to measure the quality of youth programs and identify staff training needs.
Here are some of our results,
CMC students showed up to a 50% decrease in school behavior incidents.
According to the Student Achievement Youth Outcomes (SAYO), 95% of students said CMC helped them to:
· make new friends
· feel better about themselves
· have a positive, caring adult with them whom they could trust.
85% said CMC has helped them to:
· complete their homework
· do better in school
· try harder in school
83% of students learn new things & feel challenged
80% of students believe they have a supportive adult who will listen to them
70% of students believe attending CMC has improved their social & personal
skills and helped them to make new friends
72% of students believe CMC has helped their competence as learners
75% of families have noticed a difference in their child's attitude and
90% of parents say their child enjoys CMC.