Claremont Community School of Music is honored group for parade

Claremont Community School of Music’s Executive Director Matthew Keating in front of the school. He’s been the director since 2013. COURIER photo/Peter Weinberger

by Mick Rhodes |

When the City of Claremont notified the Claremont Community School of Music it was named the honored community group for the city’s 2022 Fourth of July celebration and parade, executive director Matthew Keating went digging through the 52-year-old nonprofit’s archives.

It had been about three decades since the school’s last float made its way along the parade route.

“I actually found old boxes of decorations and things in storage from that, got to kind of go down memory lane and see what it was like,” Keating said.

The school is going to be re-using many of those vintage decorations in this year’s float, which will feature a 14-member student trumpet ensemble (and a drummer) being pulled on a 26-foot flatbed trailer.

The annual parade will begin at 10 a.m. at Memorial Park, travel down Indian Hill Blvd., turn right at Harrison Ave., and terminate at Larkin Park.

Keating, 38, has been the school’s executive director since 2013. He played trumpet in public school while growing up in Upland, and learned to play cello at CCSM, beginning his lessons there in 1985. He, his wife and two daughters live in Claremont now.

Keating has been a parade spectator, of course, but this will be his first as a participant, and the honor carries with it some extra gratitude related to the pandemic’s toll on his school and students.

“It’s really exciting, especially after two-and-a-half years of not being able to do much at all, to be able to be part of this event,” Keating said. “And the kids get to do something in the community. That’s the main joy I’m finding.”

“It’s hard to have a performance without an audience, and this is going to be one of the best audiences that we’ve had in a long time, and that’s why the kids are even more excited.”

Things began to change about six months ago, Keating said.

“It’s really starting to bounce back, and it’s really an exciting time for us,” he said.

The school is back up to 57 teachers and about 1,000 students, which is just about where it was before the pandemic reduced its pupils by half.

“But we found ways to exist in an online environment, and exist in a way where we could still do collaborative audio in a way that didn’t have delay or things inherent to Zoom of FaceTime, where you’re in a walkie-talkie kind of approach,” Keating said. “And that made a big difference.”

Edgar Salas, left, Ethan Negus and Bryan Chen during rehearsal with trumpet instructor Cheri Cole at the CCSM> COURIER photo/Peter Weinberger


The online efforts helped to keep some of its chamber music groups and smaller ensembles alive.

The school offers a mixture of private lessons, group classes, ensemble, workshops and special activities. Nearly 15% of the school’s students receive scholarships, a fact Keating is quite proud of.

“They’re getting the instrument if the need it, including a piano, as well as funding to provide individual private instruction on their instrument, which is really special to be able to do,” he said.

“As you know, anything that you do privately is expensive. And especially with music, the kind of attention it takes per instrument to really learn how to do things well, with music theory, part writing, note reading, improvisation, chart reading — anything — it takes a lot of effort and can be expensive. We’re fortunate to be able to allow this opportunity for many, many students to be able to do it who may not to be able otherwise.”

To donate to the school’s scholarship fund, go to

Claremont Community School of Music was founded in 1970 by a group of local music instructors. Since then, its helped to educate thousands of students from all walks of life, some of whom — like Keating — have returned as instructors.

Keating had nothing but praise for Claremont public school music programs. He sees CCSM as a place where kids can make a deeper dive into their music education, and perhaps speed up the process of becoming well-rounded musicians.

“You can’t learn to play piano, for example, in public school, or guitar,” he said. “When you’re a music teacher — and I’ve been in this position many times — you get 40 minutes to work with 80 kids on all different instruments, once or twice a week. That’s a different experience for the kids and the teacher than if you’re able to spend 40 minutes with one person and really help them individually with what they need.”

“It’s special for us to be able to do this, and help, especially with all the kids in our community that can’t afford to buy an instrument, or can’t afford to do lessons and couldn’t do it otherwise. We’re able to help them.”

Keating earned his bachelor’s degree in orchestral studies with an emphasis in cello performance from California State University, Northridge, in 2007. He then attended the Staatliche Hochschule für Musik Trossingen in Germany, where he continued his education in orchestral conducting and cello performance. He was a part-time cellist in the Honolulu Symphony, and a full-time director of the orchestra program at Honolulu’s Punahou School, where he worked with 500 students in eight different orchestras. He also worked as an adjunct professor at Hawaii Pacific University. Keating and his family moved back to California in 2011, and he began teaching cello at CCSM in 2012. He became executive director in 2013.

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