Music Immersion 
a better way to become a musician   

"Immersion:  instruction based on extensive exposure to surroundings or conditions that are native or pertinent to the object or study; especially, foreign language instruction in which only the language being taught is used." 

It takes more than a series 30- or 45-minute weekly lessons to become a musician. Immersion provides the best chance for a student or emerging artist to connect with music and the wider community in a meaningful and sustained way.  This is the founding and guiding principle of the CMC Atlanta GAP and ART programs.    

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Piano lessons include performance opportunities
Gap Year and Apprenticeship Programs for young adults

It's no secret, college is very expensive.  it's also obvious to clear thinking folks that not every high school graduate is ready to enroll in college immediately. Sometimes a year spent doing something valuable or personally meaningful is the ideal last step in college prep.  Some college graduates or undergraduates also need a year off before continuing studies or moving on to grad school or into the work force.  And frankly, many creative and talented people are better off not going to college at all.  The latter statement is a bold, maybe even radical proposition, but it's one worth considering.  

We developed our Gap and Apprenticeship Program (GAP) for young adults who love music, who want to explore musical creativity and performance deeply, who would like to be part of a musical community, and who may be interested in community service, but for whatever reason, are not enrolled in college or university degree-granting studies, musical or otherwise.  For young adult musicians, outside of expensive college programs or often under resourced and limited home studios or music stores, there aren't many exciting options.  


GAP fills that space.  The CMC Atlanta Gap Year and Apprenticeship Program immerses the student in our diverse community of practicing musicians and music educators.  Students can enroll for a term, an academic year, or even for two, three or more years.

Under the guidance of CMC Atlanta Director and co-founder Phil Sims, who was a student and then award winning teacher at the top ranked Eastman School of Music, and then subsequently a music professor at Mercer University and Emory University, GAP students are enrolled in a schedule comprised of lessons, classes, small ensemble rehearsals and more. Students meet with CMC faculty on an individually crafted schedule, usually each day of the week in the morning or early afternoon for training and coaching, and they also use Center space for practice and rehearsal between classes, appointments and also during evening and weekend off hours. CMC Atlanta GAP provides the chance for students to dig into their musical studies without the pressure of expensive per credit courses or grades .  GAP also offers a variety of opportunities to perform traditional or new music in venues around Atlanta, both large and small, in formal and informal arrangements.     

CMC Atlanta is comprised of teachers, players and writers who hail from many parts of the globe, from across the musical universe, and whose musical interests and backgrounds span modern art music to jazz standards to traditional rock and folk.  This means GAP students can cultivate their musical voices as classical, jazz, rock or folk musicians by working with faculty who have dedicated themselves to their own musical craft and also to teaching.   Because of the diversity of interests in our community, GAP also supports both traditional and modern approaches to these styles. 

For students who are interested in collegiate music studies, but not quite ready, or not quite sure what school to attend, GAP provides guidance and resources essential to preparing.  GAP helps students cultivate skills, concepts, prep audition repertoire and build a music portfolio or resume.  Our faculty have graduated from a variety of top conservatories and many different local and regional colleges and universities, which gives us some experience to help us reach our goal for the college bound musician: we want to help match the GAP student with the right program, the one that is best for the student's interests and both short and long term goals.   

In addition to training and performance, GAP offers other exciting opportunities.  We have a limited number of paid internships for GAP students.  Opportunities range from facility management and upkeep, administrative support, to camp counselor and teaching assistant.  For GAP students who are interested in music outreach and social change, we work to establish community service projects based around music.  Over the years, we've collaborated with organizations like the Center for Pan Asian Community Services, the Global Village School, Grady High School to offer under served children free instruction, and we've recruited students who are hungry to learn but lack the funds to pay for private training in a music studio or school like ours.  This added dimension of community service and engagement can be a rewarding and life changing experience for GAP musicians. 

For GAP students with sufficient training themselves, and who are interested in becoming music teachers themselves, GAP provides the opportunity to enroll in a Studio Internship.  Through this program, the student prepares for and then begins teaching small group classes and private lessons.  Over the years, we've had student teachers leave after several years of GAP training and teaching to open their own studios in other parts of the state and country.  GAP is not a degree-granting program, but there are many opportunities for musicians that do not require a degree, but instead, rest on skills and insights gained from hard work and personal, artistic integrity within a community of other serious musicians and music educators.

For students who are coming from out of state or from abroad, we have a limited number of CMC Atlanta affiliated housing units available.  These range from efficiency apartments at our Center in Little 5 Points to one and two bedroom apartments a block from CMC Little 5 Points.  Rental rates for the units vary depending on location, size, and whether the student lives alone or with a room mate.  Little 5 Points is a commercial district adjacent to Inman Park, which is considered by many people to be one of the most desirable areas for young people to live in Atlanta.  The densely populated area is known for historic homes and loft conversions, ready access to the Atlanta Beltline, an incredible tree canopy, many restaurants, coffee shops, clubs, theaters and concert venues.  In addition to CMC Atlanta housing options, we are also often able to assist students coming from outside Atlanta  find privately owned apartments nearby.  More information about CMC housing options, including pictures and pricing, is available upon request. 

If you're interested, please take the time to review the Elements of GAP enrollment.  If you have questions or would like to schedule an interview and planning session for a student, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.        

If you're ready to enroll, you can register online here

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Register for GAP

Register for GAP: CMC Atlanta Gap Year and Apprenticeship Program 

Music Performance, Composition, Theory, Apprenticeship, Community Service, Music Outreach & More 

  • Why GAP? +

    A creative musical output requires an approach that immerses the student in a community of practicing musicians and encourages the student to engage in a crucial set of activities with teachers and peers.  GAP is not only more effective, but also a more inspiring and socially meaningful method for developing musicians than the alternatives.  In fact, there's no empirical data to suggest that the old-fashioned approach-- scheduling a student to meet a teacher once a week for 30, 45, or even 60 minutes in home studio or back hall of a music store-- is a serious or even thoughtful approach
  • Who is eligible? +

    Since GAP curriculum and schedules are designed on an individual basis, GAP is suitable for relative beginners through Pre-Professionals.  Since the program immerses the student in music, music education, and music outreach experiences, students who enroll are passionate about music and in most cases have had at least a foundational education, whether formal or informal.    Students are divided by interest and skill level, so we are able to accommodate diverse skill levels without undermining the experience for advanced students or putting a less experienced student in an unnecessarily intimidating situation. GAP students are mostly recent high school or college grads,
  • Where? +

    GAP is based primarily at CMC Little 5 Points; however, elements of GAP (private lessons or internships) are offered in all three CMC Atlanta locations: CMC Little 5 Points 1127 Colquitt Ave NE Atlanta, GA 30307 CMC Decatur 116 E Howard Ave Decatur, GA 30030 CMC Dunwoody  5518 Chamblee-Dunwoody Rd Dunwoody, GA 30038 We also use a variety of community resources and local performance venues, as needed 
  • When? +

    GAP is offered year round: Fall Term: August - December Winter Term: January - May Summer Term: June - July Although we operate on a traditional academic term cycle, students register and begin at any time.  
  • What style of music? +

    We offer training in Classical Music,  Jazz Music, Rock and Pop Music, and American Folk & Roots Music Traditional and experimental approaches within these fields are supported. Students are taught to read and understand music using the terminology and conceptual frameworks used by professional musicians.   
  • How much? +

    Term tuition: August-December, $4000 paid in full or $800 monthly installments January-May, $4000 paid in full or in $800 monthly installment June-July Summer Term, $1600 paid in full or in $800 monthly installments Please note: there is an annual registration fee of $250 per student; other fees and restrictions may apply. Tuition rates are subject to change with 60 days notice.
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GAP Housing

It's one of the most frequently asked questions: what about housing?

CMC Atlanta GAP draws local, regional, national and international students.  Local Atlanta students often live at home with parents or other family members, but any student who enrolls is welcome to consider living in one of our apartments or to consult with us for support arranging suitable housing.  

CMC Atlanta has a limited number of efficiency apartments available at the Little 5 Points location.  Rent for these furnished, dormroom-like units includes all utilities, internet, and more, and varies, depending whether the student lives alone or with a roommate.  CMC Atlanta also has a limited number of unfurnished and potentially furnished one and two bedroom apartments a block from the Little 5 Points Center in highly desirable Inman Park.  These apartments are more expensive, reflecting the rental market in gentrified neighborhoods of the northeast/Atlanta Beltline corridor.  For students who wish to find more independent housing, CMC Atlanta Directors and GAP Faculty are also able to provide guidance by helping connect students with property management offsite and consulting with those unfamiliar with Atlanta neighborhoods and commuting options and patterns.

GAP Elements

  • Studio Lessons
  • Comprehensive Musicianship Program
  • Performance and Music Projects
  • Intern & Externships
Piano lessons include performance opportunities
Studio Lessons 
private lessons for students of all ages and skill levels

Whether your interests are Classical, Jazz, Blues, Rock, or American Folk & Roots music, traditional or experimental approaches, lessons with our faculty provide the means and the motivation for developing musical skills and understanding.  When you arrive, if not before, we match you with the desired resource-- a great teacher-- and pair you up in an inspiring setting.

Options include:

  • piano lessons
  • singing lessons
  • guitar and bass lessons
  • drum lessons
  • lessons on a string instrument, including violin, viola, cello, and upright bass lessons
  • lessons on a wind instruments, including flute, clarinet, saxophone, trumpet, and trombone lessons
  • composition lessons 

GAP Students generally meet with their Studio Instructor weekly for 60-minute sessions to study the instrument of choice, vocal technique and performance, or composition & improv.  Many students share lessons with a partner on a secondary instrument of choice.  

The Studio Instructor serves as one the student's primary contacts with CMC Atlanta and provides the most direct, consistent feedback.  CMC faculty are not only practicing professional musicians themselves, but also educators who have the desire, the training, and the experience to cultivate music in others.

We have created playful, though comfortable Studios for students and teachers to meet.  CMC Atlanta facilities are equipped with either new upright studio or grand pianos, and a variety of other instruments and equipment, as needed.  During lessons, teachers and students have access to our wi-fi networks, and thus, a vast array of relevant on-line resources, including audio and video recordings of performances, drills and exercises, and information about music and performance.

CMC studios themselves are spacious and filled with natural light.  The walls of studios and corridors, even the grounds, at all locations are populated with unique works by local and regional visual artists, recruited for exhibition by the Music Center's own curators for the purpose of inspiring students, faculty, and visitors alike.

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Comprehensive Musicianship Program 
music theory, musicianship skills, history, composition & more

The Comprehensive Musicianship Program (or CMP) Courses and Workshops provide essential support for CMC Atlanta students. Time spent one-on-one or in small group classes taught by music theory, harmony, composition and improvisation specialists works in tandem with private lessons to foster musical understanding, skills, and ultimately, the framework for performance and creation. 

CMP Overview

For each of our CMC GAP students, we develop a unique curriculum that meets the students needs and interests.  

We cultivate genuine musicianship through CMP courses that first isolate individual musical parameters, and then put each new skill and concept back into a larger musical context.  Currently, we offer courses for students in each Division and Department in four distinct but overlapping areas of musicianship, each of which is critical to being a creative, skilled, and literate musician.  The four areas of focus are:

  • Reading Music or Music Notation and Literacy
  • Singing in time, in tune, and with sensitivity
  • Harmony: understanding, feeling, hearing, and creating tonal relationships
  • Rhythm:  understanding, feeling, hearing, and creating rhythmic patterns and relationships

Regardless of stylistic interests, we teach students to read music. While there are valuable oral/aural musical traditions in which reading music does not play as critical a role, we believe reading music is a gateway for experiencing and expressing music across wider historical periods and more cultural practices than otherwise possible.  We also encourage all students to sing, not necessarily like an operatic or rock star, but we think carrying a tune is a valuable and meaningful basic life skill.  Plus, any accoplished instrumentalist will tell you that making an instrument sing is an essential aspect of virtuosity in many musical styles.  Moving in control, and with direction and ease is another important skill in music and in life.  We also support all students in cultivating their understanding of rhythmic notation and developing the skill to move well in drumming courses.  At the CMC Atlanta, students learn the nuts and bolts of tonal relationships first in Notation class, then through Scale, Chord & Key, and finally through courses in Harmony, Improvisation, and Composition.

CMP Courses & Workshops

Most CMP Courses meet weekly for 12-14 week sessions during the Fall and Winter/Spring Terms.  Elementary Division Courses usually meet weekly for 30-minutes; courses in other Divisions vary from 30 to 60 minutes in length.  During the summer months, we synchronize courses for elementary students with our Day Camps for Kids, and courses meet more frequently for a shorter period of time (30 to 45 minute classes, daily for one or two weeks, for example).

While courses meet weekly, CMP Workshops are typically designed to be one to three days in duration, and they typically provide a targeted group of students and/or parents an opportunity to focus on a particular set of skills and/or concepts. Center faculty and guest instructors often share the teaching responsibilities in CMP Workshops.  Workshops are scheduled on a rolling basis by individual faculty. Invitations and announcements are forwarded to Center students and the general public as events are planned.


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Performance Program  
Chamber Music, Rock or Roots Band, Jazz Combo

While some students study music with no performances in mind, most people take lessons and classes with the goal of developing the skills and confidence to play for others, either friends and family members or an appreciative audience, small or large.  After all, who wants to be alone hour after hour in a practice room, taking lessons week after week, with no end, no purpose, no clear goals in sight?

Drawing on Studio Lesson and CMP Course & Workshop training, CMC Atlanta students form small ensembles of all kinds--  Chamber Ensembles, Jazz Combos, Rock Bands, Bluegrass, Folk, and Old-Time Bands, small vocal ensembles, and music theater troupes.  Through our ensemble program, we help aspiring musicians cultivate a stylistically and developmentally sensitive authentic performance practice.

We don't force students to perform, but we're serious about creating formal and informal performance opportunities that meet two goals: supporting the student's development and furthering the cause of living musical traditions.  For more invested students, in particular, this often involves performance off-site in community venues, as well as local galleries, coffee shops, and theaters.  We also arrange for students to perform at festivals (for example, on the Main Stage at the Atlanta Dogwood Festival) and in professional venues like the Variety Playhouse and 7Stages.  The concomitant benefits for the student include added motivation (a snow-balling of interest and skill development) and the simple pleasure of playing music with friends.

Through Performance Programs, we also host a number of Performance Events by professionals for the benefit and enjoyment of students.  Center faculty, guests, local and regional professional musicians visit the Center or a procured off-site venue to perform .  Guest performers often pair their performance with a CMP Workshop.

Details and Logistics

When a student enrolls in GAP, department coordinators and Studio Lesson faculty assess the student's readiness and when appropriate, match the student with an accompanist or place them in a small ensemble or band based on skills and stylistic interests.  Students who already play in a band or with one or more friends independently may request for their group to rehearse at the Center and/or receive Center coaching once enrolled.

Center faculty coach students to help them prepare to perform on any number of informal and formal, on- and off-site performances held each term.  We create performance events that fit well with each style of music and meet the educational and developmental needs of our student ensembles.  Recitals, Salons, Shows, Concerts, Festivals, Jams.

CMC Atlanta students perform on the Main Stage @ the Atlanta Dogwood Festival

Featured Video :: CMC Atlanta students at Variety Playhouse in Little 5 Points

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Music Practicum 
Internship and Outreach Opportunities

GAP students are encouraged to work with CMC Atlanta faculty and administrators to take on an internship or externship.  These arrangements are designed to meet the student's short and long term goals, and they can be either administrative or instructional in nature.  

Internships are sometimes, but not always, available as an element of GAP enrollment.  There are limited number of paid internships. The most common paid internships are working as a camp counselor, facilities manager, teaching assistant, or an afternoon desk receptionist or book keeper.  In-house paid opportunities will be directly affected by CMC Atlanta staffing needs at the time of enrollment and also by the student's background and preparation for paid work.   

Students who demonstrate a preprofessional or professional level of mastery on their primary instrument are afforded the opportunity to enroll in the paid Studio Internship Program.  Under close supervision and guidance of CMC administrators and faculty, Studio Interns serve as a teaching assistant, and then, when fully prepared, start teaching small group classes and private lessons using CMC curricula and resources.  Over the years, our Studio Interns have gone on to other areas of the country, fully equipped to start their own private, musical practice as a studio instructor.

In addition to CMC internships, we are also prepared to use our contacts and network of contacts to help students find exterrnal opportunities in the metro area.  Over the years, we have provided no or low cost lessons and training to under served communities through collaborative efforts.  Our community partners have included the Center for Pan-Asian Community Services (or CPACS), the Global Village School, and Grady High School.  We have also used direct outreach to under resourced families to match eager students with intern and extern faculty.  Many GAP students find this type of music outreach particularly appealing.  

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