Community Composers Jazz and Beyond - Non-Classical Music Vocal and Choral Music Workshops

Juneteeth Choral Celebration

Don’t miss our second annual JUNETEENTH choral celebration, led once again by the wonderful Candace Y. Johnson. If you attended her Spirituals workshop last year, you’ll remember what a joyous occasion it was to sing Moses Hogan’s arrangement of Deep River on the first Juneteenth federal holiday. This June 19, Candace will lead us in singing a new work by Roland Carter, the esteemed choral composer and conductor whose arrangement of Lift Every Voice and Sing has become the iconic version of the Black national anthem.

Carter’s new work Make Some Noise, Get in Trouble honors the great civil rights leader John Lewis who admonished us to get in “good trouble, necessary trouble.” The piece draws its text from Congressman Lewis’s speeches.

It’s a first for AMN: we’re very excited to be part of a commissioning project to perform a new work. And in this case, it’s a project that’s totally aligned with AMN’s values of community participation, amateur music-making, and honoring our diverse American musical heritage. This exciting project was coordinated by the national choral advocacy organization Chorus America.

In a recent conversation over Zoom, Candace and Roland met with AMN founder Lolly Lewis to discuss the piece and the upcoming workshop. Candace noted that she heard a particularly fluid, almost river-like character in one of the sections of the music. Roland noted that yes, in fact he referenced the Spiritual Wade in the Water in that section. “I always like to quote a Spiritual if I can. One that has meaning, not just any Spiritual, but it has to reflect the text and it becomes an important part of what I do,” he explained. “Doing art songs – and I call my solo Spirituals art songs because I like the play of the piano with the voice – is all about the interpretation of the words.”

Listen to Candace and Roland’s discussion about the music and how to interpret the details of this new piece that incorporates traditional choral singing with elements of gospel and even hip-hop! And then join us on June 19 to lift our voices in a Juneteenth celebration of America.

Make Some Noise, Get in Trouble!

Community Talking about Music

Celebrating 50 years with Blue Bear

We were just doing this while we were waiting for the band to get famous,” says Steve Savage, who founded the Blue Bear Waltzes School of Music in 1971 with friend Steve Strauss and their colleagues in the rock band Wolfgang and Strauss. And now, 50 years and 40,000 students later, Blue Bear School of Music is a San Francisco institution.

A percussionist, recording engineer/producer, and musicologist, Steve is an avid student of how the very technology that has advanced our access to hearing music – recorded performance – has pushed active music-making to the sidelines. Before the ubiquity of recorded music, for most people music was something you DID, not just listened to. Recordings could be edited to achieve an artificial sense of perfection, making music more intimidating for amateurs to attempt. And over time, that division between being a musician and being a listener has widened dramatically.

With his own roots in rock, Savage sees playing in a band as a natural, welcoming path for amateur musicians. Blue Bear supports everyone who want to learn to play and sing for the joy of it, whatever their skill level or past experience.

Amateur Music Network loves this, of course, and we salute Blue Bear School of Music and wish them another successful 50 years – and many more!

Watch the whole interview with Steve and AMN founder Lolly Lewis in this video.

Blue Bear Executive Director Steve Savage, Ph.D., a Blue Bear founder and current President of the Board of Trustees, is an active producer and recording engineer and has been the primary engineer on seven records that received GRAMMY nominations, including CDs for Robert Cray, John Hammond, The Gospel Hummingbirds and Elvin Bishop.  He is former Chapter President and National Trustee of the San Francisco Chapter of the Recording Academy and teaches in the Humanities Department at San Francisco State University.  Steve has a Ph.D. in musicology from The University of London and has three recently published books: Mixing and Mastering in the Box from Oxford University Press, The Art of Digital Audio Recording from Oxford University Press, and Bytes & Backbeats: Repurposing Music in the Digital Age from The University of Michigan Press.  Steve also sits on the board of Spirit Series, which is a drama-based character education curriculum that brings inspirational biographies to life.  More at

Community Vocal and Choral Music Workshops

Family Sing!

Singing: the best way to celebrate the holidays. And what could be better than singing with friends and family? Singing is the most joyous way to ring out the old year and look forward to the new, to gather with loved ones and share our deepest humanity through song. 

This year, we can sing together again, and using what we’ve learned over the past year, Amateur Music Network has devised a way to sing with friends and family near – and far — using a hybrid model that allows participation either in-person or on Zoom! We’re partnering with San Francisco Girls Chorus to present Family Sing: A Holiday Choral Sing-Along at the Kanbar Performing Arts Center (44 Page Street in San Francisco) and online on December 22, 2021 at 5:30 p.m.

This warm and welcoming choral experience, led by SFGC’s dynamic Artistic Director Valérie Sainte-Agathe, will feature some of your favorite holiday music, and even a couple of new carols to learn. The event is perfect for adults and for children ages 12 and up.

If you have little ones in tow, bring them along, too! SFGC will host a fun sing-along event just for kids ages 5-11, while the adults enjoy an hour of choral singing.

What about the rest of the family? Maybe grandparents or other dear ones don’t live nearby or can’t attend in person. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered: you can join us online via Zoom and we’ll all sing together. All will hear our hearty chorus and feel the connection that only music can create, even across great distances.

So, get the shopping done, get the presents wrapped, and join in with loved ones near and far, to lift your voice in celebration of the holidays.

Family Sing!



Once again, it’s the grateful time of year. We all have gone through a lot and have much to be thankful for, and as always AMN takes this moment of reflection and introspection to remember all the wonderful folks who have made our workshops so vibrant and nourishing in the past year.  

Thank you – mentors and volunteers!

We are so grateful for you who helped produce workshops and kept AMN running day-to-day. AMN has gathered musicians and music lovers together for over 50 workshops in just this past year. To the extraordinary artists who brought their amazing knowledge and talent to inform and enlighten workshop participants, we cannot thank you enough.

Thank you – donors, partners, and sponsors!

AMN is not only a community of musicians but also part of a larger community of organizations and individuals who support music and music-making. A huge thank you to this wonderful community that amplifies AMN’s reach and works every day to make the world more musical. 

Now AMN needs your help.

AMN has exciting news. Our very generous friends David Landis and Sean Dowdall have challenged us with a $10,000 matching grant: every new or increased donation will be matched one-for-one between now and January 1.

This challenge is a change-maker for Amateur Music Network. It will help AMN reach new audiences, present more ambitious programs, and increase opportunities for music-making. It’s a perfect time to amplify the power of your own contribution.

AMN is a very small organization that helps amateur musicians learn and play together.  We want to keep offering our unique workshops, mentors, and listings to as many musicians as possible. AMN’s network relies on the contributions of time and financial support from dedicated volunteers and donors. Won’t you join them in assuring AMN’s future in the community? Thanks to this challenge, your donation will have great leverage and will make a huge difference.

Community Vocal and Choral Music

“Virtual Amateur Chorus”

The woman with her mouth

shaped in a perfect “O” 

I imagine she sings opera 

or is in a fine classical chorus. 

I see Ellen in her 

Zoom’s square living room, 

the daughter of an old friend’s friend 

from Berkeley. The conductor is in 

his home country of Sweden. 

It is eleven San Francisco. 

It is night in Sweden, 

but I can see through his window pine trees 

and it is still light out. 

From eleven to twelve, 

I do not check virus numbers 

or watch the news. 

In our hundreds of soundless little spaces, 

The harmony, unheard, is perfect. 

Reprinted with kind permission from the upcoming anthology Pandemic Puzzle Poems, to be published by Blue Light Press, San Francisco. You can read more poetry by Alice Rogoff, and more poems about music, in Fog and Light, also from Blue Light Press.

Our April “Singing Saturdays” featuring Verdi Requiem starts April 10.