The Crowden Music Center knows how to put on a show.

This year promises to be no different, even as the Berkeley music school shifts its popular Community Music Day online for the first time in 21 years. The free, family-friendly event will feature performances by Crowden students, an interactive concert with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, music-themed arts and crafts and the instrument “petting zoo” — all with a virtual twist.

“I’m very grateful that we can do it at all,” said Director of Artistic Administration Michel Taddei, who is organizing this year’s event. “It’s great that we have this technology, no matter how imperfect,” to continue producing concerts.

The rollicking “musical carnival” has always been a local favorite, with up to 2,000 Bay Area families attending every year to enjoy the Berkeley event’s suite of live performances and hands-on activities. While this year will be different in many ways, Taddei assures much of the programming will be the same as previous years. 

In part, that’s because the school has been able to continue offering on-campus classes for many of its 65 students. Faculty, students and community members are required to take coronavirus tests each week before they come on campus and must practice social distancing and wear masks; but it has allowed students and community members to socialize, practice and even perform “live” concerts that are recorded and later uploaded online. 

Many of those performances will be featured at the virtual Community Music Day.

“There will be wonderful performances by our students and community members,” said Taddei, who also performs as the principal bassist for the Berkeley, Fremont and Pacific symphonies, as well as the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra. “Some of the things will be more hands-on. We want to have the possibility of interactivity.”

Prior to the pandemic, Crowden served 12,000 students of all ages through various music education offerings, concerts, rehearsals and events like Community Music Day. (Photo by Sam Breach)

That includes a free, downloadable coloring book that allows kids to participate in the event’s first concert. Titled “Plus One,” the performance will gradually feature instruments from the different musical families — strings, percussion, brass, woodwinds — prompting kids to color in the instruments as they’re introduced. Another segment will teach kids how to create percussion instruments using everyday materials at home.

Meanwhile, the “petting zoo” will give viewers an option to select different classical instruments — such as violins, flutes, saxophones, pianos and more — and watch pre-recorded segments with musicians demonstrating how the instruments work and how to play them. 

The digital format may not be ideal — “my ideal way of experiencing music is live and acoustic,” said Taddei — but it will nevertheless offer viewers “a flavor of the real thing.”

“They’re seeing (the performances) in a real concert hall, they’ll hear some applause,” he said. “It’s more live and real than watching ‘America’s Got Talent.’”

Usually held in October, Community Music Day was postponed until after Thanksgiving to provide families who get together “a safe option for something fun to do together (after the holiday),” Taddei said.

The event will also serve as a demonstration and reminder of best practices during the pandemic. With the exception of participants working from their homes, all performers featured on the stream will be wearing masks and practicing social distancing despite having tested negative for the virus.

“We’re sending the message that we’re being safe and keeping music alive,” said Taddei. “Just seeing these kids gathered together, seeing people make tentative steps to get back to normal — I hope that it’s heartening for our audiences.”

The free event will be streamed on Crowden’s YouTube page, where it will also be available after the event is over. Join the musical fun on Saturday, Nov. 28, 10 a.m.-noon.