Community Music School of Raleigh

Piano melodies and guitar chords echo through the halls. A teenager high fives a younger student with a free hand as they both hurry to lessons. Their sheet music is tucked under their arms as they juggle instrument cases. At classroom doors you can hear the kind words of accomplished instructors tutoring the next generation of musicians. 

It’s late afternoon on a weekday at the Community Music School of Raleigh. 17 year-old Zane Souvanlasy warms up at the piano. The piano bench is where he grew up. “I was around age nine, I guess.” That’s when he found CMS after searching for music instruction that worked for his family. “Growing up in a low income family, money is always an issue, especially when you want to do music. It can get expensive quickly.” 

CMS provides opportunities for children and teens with limited financial resources to receive one-on-one music instruction. Souvanlasy praises his instructors and discusses the opportunities he’s had the chance to be a part of through the years. He said, “We have great instructors. Because of the Community Music School, I have been able to go to summer music camps that have been really enriching.” 

17 year-old Zane Souvanlasy at CMS. 

Founded in 1994 by a group of volunteers, CMS makes music lessons available to more than 100 students a year, often at a cost of only $1 a lesson for parents. Instruction is personalized with accomplished local musicians in brass, woodwinds, piano, strings and percussion. Students work hard to become part of jazz and string ensembles or take lessons in musical theater. In recent years, CMS partnered with the acclaimed Berklee College of Music in Boston to teach students more about the technical side of music and music composition. 

Her five weeks at Berklee are some of 18 year-old Lanif Azcona’s best memories. Through her years at CMS, she has taken lessons in violin, drums, saxophone and guitar. It was her time at Berklee that really inspired her songwriting. She strums her guitar and says, “I want to be a songwriter and be famous. Without Community Music School, I would not want to be a songwriter. I would not want to pursue a career in music.”

She is the first of the five Azcona children to go through programs at CMS. For her, music lessons go beyond blood relatives. “Community Music School is honestly like a second family for us.” 

18 year-old Lanif Azcona and her sister, 6 year-old Miram at CMS

A music community was what 15 year-old Gabriel Bravo was searching for when his family moved to Raleigh from Venezula nearly two years ago. “I had more than a year without any teacher to help me, but then I found CMS. It helped me a lot,” he said as he pulled out his violin before a lesson. Bravo began playing and everyone in the hall stopped to listen to him play with a loving determination. “It’s been a really good experience,” he said with a smile after playing his song. 

Gabriel Bravo, age 15, plays his violin at CMS.

We at Cameron Village knew that CMS would be the perfect partner for our 70th Anniversary celebration. With our theme of “Come Play With Us,” we knew the musical talents of the CMS students would be the sound of celebration we want to share with shoppers. 

Don’t miss a fantastic performance by CMS students at Cameron Village during our 70th Birthday Party October 12,  3 p.m. – 5 p.m. We’ll have free cake and lemonade for everyone! Join a chorus of “Happy Birthday” with 500 kazoos! Kids can get their faces painted or or get some fairy hair too. 70th Anniversary festivities continue October 11-19 with games and pianos painted by local artists. Don’t miss the giant piano stairs near Cantina 18! 

If you would like to keep the music playing, donate to CMS here. It’s donations like yours that change the lives of these young musicians. “CMS helped me find my identity and who I am as a person,” Aconza said. As Souvanlasy plans for his future, he knows he’ll be back at CMS as an instructor himself one day. He said, “I want to help others the way I was helped.”

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