Purple Silk Music Education Foundation

Chinese folk music and opera

The mission of the Purple Silk Music Education Foundation (PSMEF) is “to instill in young people an appreciation of music from different cultures through instruction in traditional Chinese instruments, opera, and folk songs.” PSMEF provides music education to local public school students (grades K-12), offering underserved children and youth opportunities to train with professional musicians, increase their musical knowledge and proficiency, and perform in community and educational venues.

PSMEF was founded in 1995 when Sherlyn Chew, a music teacher at Lincoln Elementary School in Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood and an instructor of Chinese music at nearby Laney College, started a Chinese music program at Lincoln in response to cuts in school arts funding. PSMEF became a nonprofit in 1998 and now has eight teaching artists.

In 2021, a grant from ACTA’s Living Cultures Grant Program will support PSMEF’s Celebrating Cantonese Folk Songs of the Chinese Immigrants Who Built the Transcontinental Railroad project. The organization will hold classes focused on the Cantonese folk music traditions of the Chinese immigrants who worked on the Transcontinental Railroad in the mid-1800s.

In 2019, a grant from ACTA’s Living Cultures Grant Program supported the PSMEF’s afterschool music education program. In particular, grant funds supported the introduction of a special learning unit focused on Cantonese opera and folk music.

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