Berkeley's Crowden Music Center Celebrates 30 Years

By Sean McCourt
Saturday May 24, 2014 - 03:32:00 PM

For more than three decades now, the Crowden Music Center in Berkeley has provided unprecedented access and support for young Bay Area student musicians.

Founded in 1983 by Anne Crowden and Piero Mancici, The Crowden School, which incorporates music into a regular daily educational curriculum, started out with just 13 students. Today the school and associated music center serves more than 10,000 people a year through classes, lessons, workshops, camps, concerts and more.

Staff, alumni, local officials and fans will celebrate the 30th Anniversary of the center with a special concert this weekend and a book examining the history and influence that the institution has had not only on the Bay Area, but its far-reaching impact on the music world at large.  

Today the "Crowden Music Center's 30th Anniversary Concert" will take place at Hertz Hall on the UC Berkeley campus, featuring a wide variety of school alumni performing, as well as a world premiere of a new piece commissioned to mark the milestone.  

Samuel Carl Adams, who graduated from Crowden in 2000, went on to earn a Master's Degree from the Yale School of Music, and has had his work performed by the San Francisco Symphony and the St. Lawrence String Quartet among others, composed "musica" to pay tribute to the school. 

"What can I say about Crowden? It was an incredible experience going there, it's an incredibly supportive community, with ferociously talented students and faculty," Adams said. 

"It had a profound impact on me, not only playing in the orchestra, but taking theory classes and understanding how music functions on a theoretical and compositional level -- there were high expectations for everyone, not only for their music making, but also the intellectual and academic achievements," he said. 

When he was asked to compose the piece, Adams wanted to incorporate what he took away from his time at Crowden, and the importance of what music can mean to people. 

"I thought for a very long time about what the piece might be, and what it would celebrate exactly, and how it would function, and what text I would use," Adams said. 

"I thought the only topic that was appropriate for the piece was to look at music itself, to write a piece about music itself -- and not just music as organized sound, but also as an activity that allows us to grow and develop our curiosities as humans," Adams said. 

In addition to the concert, the Berkeley Historical Society is publishing a book, "You've Got to Make It Happen!: Anne Crowden's Musical Legacy in Berkeley and Beyond" to coincide with the anniversary.  

The Crowden Music Center's 30th Anniversary Concert takes place today at Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley, starting at 7 p.m. Tickets range from $15-$475. For more information visit www.crowden.org.