In 1925, Edna Lieber, a St. Louis piano teacher, founded the Community Music School, with a faculty consisting of members from the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra. With the guidance of Alice Gerdine, the school's board president in the 1930s, the Community Music School began to grow.
The conservatory arm of the institution closed in 1989, but the non-degree programs continued to thrive. The school turned its focus to providing the finest music education for students of all ages and abilities. The Suzuki Strings program, and Young Years and Kindermusik classes were established. The Young People's Orchestra and String Training Orchestra expanded to a sequential orchestra and ensemble system.
In 1974, the Community Music School merged with the St. Louis Institute of Music to form the Saint Louis Conservatory and Schools for the Arts (CASA). At the same time, the headquarters in University City opened. Originally a temple for over 40 years, the building became the Music School's spacious new home for more than 30 years.
Serving the St. Louis Region
In 1994, CASA merged with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra and became the Saint Louis Symphony Community Music School. At this time, the Herbert Hoover Boys and Girls Club branch and the Leon R. Strauss Center – West County branch in Faust Park were opened. In 1996, the Music School opened another branch on the Webster University campus.
In September 2001, the Community Music School joined with Webster University. Webster has a world-class reputation for leadership in the arts, and it provides the in-depth music educational experience and resources needed by the Community Music School. With this alliance, the Community Music School continues to offer outstanding music education to students of all ages and abilities.
In Fall 2006, the Community Music School moved to its new headquarters on the Webster University campus, with facilities that include a concert hall, teaching studios, rehearsal halls, classrooms, and administrative offices.
In Spring 2010, a partnership was formed with the St. Louis Public School District to provide an on-site After-School Music Program. McKinley Classical Leadership Academy was the initial site for this program, providing affordable, on-site individual lessons to support existing school music programs.
Over the years, the Community Music School has been honored to count such musicians among its faculty as members of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Webster University, and many other colleges and universities, as well as some of the most respected performing artists in the region. Students and alumni have successfully placed in such competitions as the American National Chopin Competition, Artist Presentation Society Competition, Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, Fite Family Young Artists National Competition, Saint Louis Area Music Teachers Association Young Artist Competition, and the Sphinx Competition, and have gone on to perform and teach around the nation.
Community Music School Vision
The Community Music School of Webster University will be known nationally as an exceptional music education institution with a reputation based on the talents and accomplishments of its students and outstanding faculty.
A culturally diverse CMS student population will represent all ages, abilities, and economic backgrounds drawn by a common love of music, a wide range of high-quality programs, and outstanding performance opportunities. The CMS will be a truly musical community where relationships are developed within a supportive environment of rich musical experiences. Integral to a thriving and accomplished arts program nurtured by Webster University, the CMS will benefit from strong relationships with both academic and professional faculty, insightful community stewardship, growing annual and endowed funding, and access to quality education and performance facilities.
Affiliations and Support
The Community Music School of Webster University is an accredited institutional member of the National Association of Schools of Music (NASM). NASM is an organization of schools, conservatories, colleges, and universities with approximately 639 accredited institutional members. It establishes national standards for undergraduate and graduate degrees, and other credentials for music and music-related disciplines, and provides assistance to institutions and individuals engaged in artistic, scholarly, educational, and other music-related endeavors.
The Community Music School is a member of the National Guild for Community Arts Education, which includes over 450 schools across the country. To be a member of the Guild, the CMS must meet stringent criteria, such as offering financial assistance and talent-based merit scholarships, and setting high standards for our faculty.
The Community Music School of Webster University is a part of the Leigh Gerdine College of Fine Arts. CMS shares the CMS Center with the Webster University Department of Music, and CMS students enjoy many campus privileges, including the use of the Webster University library, and free access to some Department of Music programs, like masterclasses and concerts.
The Community Music School of Webster University enjoys a partnership with Classic 107.3 to raise visibility of both organizations through radio interviews and sponsorship of some concerts and programs. CMS Director Carol Commerford sits on the Board of Directors and is the Chair of the Education Committee.
In 2019, the Community Music School of Webster University partnered with Chamber Project Saint Louis to be the resident ensemble for the 2019-2020 Young Composers Competition.
The St. Louis Public School District and the Community Music School of Webster University have partnered to offer individual lessons after school for voice and band instruments. This program is designed to support and supplement the existing music programs in the school. Students participating in the program receive weekly lessons throughout the school year and perform in an end-of-the-year recital. The St. Louis Public School District Partnership program is currently offered at McKinley Classical Leadership Academy.
The Community Music School of Webster University is funded in part by the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.
CMS students benefit through our partnerships with the Webster University Department of Music, the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, The Sheldon Concert Hall, and other arts and community organizations.