The Curtis Family: Generations of Music and Community

The curtis family

Being in a band is a lot like being in a family. You see each other often, whether you want to or not. You travel together, eat together, share laughs and fun, endure squabbles and conflict, and experience ups and downs. Music groups that are successful learn how to be together, much like a family. And those that can't put their differences aside often have their musical endeavors cut short. The Curtis Family aka the C-Notes not only act like a family, they ARE family. From the father and mother down to the youngest sibling, they all play instruments, sing, perform, and most importantly, support each other as a family should.

I first encountered The Curtis Family the same way 50,000 other people have, while scrolling on TikTok. Being a musician and music lover, my feed is naturally filled with a lot of musicians performing live. But something about this one was different. It was a room full of musicians of very different ages, with a lot of bright colors, and a whole lot of funk! There's a lot to love and learn from the Curtis Family. So we reached out to them to hear their story firsthand and to share a different yet very important message with our readers, the Curtis Family's message of unity, love, and community building through music.

Musical Roots and Family Dynamics

The Curtis Family Band Rehearsal
The Curtis Family rehearsing live every Monday night at 7:30 PM PST on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

The Curtis Family stands out as a unique musical ensemble with deep roots in American Classical music and the funk vibes of the '60s and '70s San Francisco/Oakland/Bay Area. The family band, comprised of Papa C and Mama C along with their five children—Zahara, Nile, Isis, Kiki, and Phoenix—epitomizes a rich tapestry of musical talent. Each member is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer, and vocalist, creating a dynamic and versatile musical unit. Their origin as a band is deeply intertwined with their family bond, making their musical journey a personal narrative of collective growth and artistic exploration.

Their journey in music began as a natural extension of their familial interactions, with each member drawn into music from a young age, guided by their parents. This foundation has allowed them to develop a sound that is not only diverse in genre but also rich in harmony and complexity. The integration of various musical styles has become a hallmark of their performances, resonating with a wide range of audiences and setting a profound example of how family dynamics can profoundly influence musical development and public appeal.

Rising Through Challenges

The Curtis Family's path to recognition was not without its challenges. Their potential breakthrough came during a halftime show at a Warriors game in March 2020, which was quickly overshadowed by the global pandemic. The shutdown of live venues forced the family to pivot to online platforms, initiating "Live Rehearsal Music Mondays" from their living room. These livestreams became a new way for them to connect with audiences, demonstrating their adaptability and resilience. Their online presence caught the eye of talent scouts, propelling them onto the national stage of "America's Got Talent," where they gained further acclaim.

Despite being eliminated from America's Got Talent, the family did not slow down. The very next day, they were selected for a major holiday campaign by JCPenney. This opportunity, along with their viral fame, helped them solidify their presence in the music industry, leading to sold-out shows and collaborations with renowned artists. Their journey underscores the importance of perseverance and adaptability in the face of unforeseen challenges, showcasing their ability to turn obstacles into opportunities.

Fostering Community Through Music

The Curtis Family is deeply committed to using their platform to address and highlight issues affecting marginalized communities in San Francisco. Through their nonprofit, Passing The Torch, they engage in community-building efforts that unite families, seniors, and youth through music. This initiative reflects their strong belief in the power of music to transcend social barriers and foster a sense of unity and purpose among diverse groups.

Future Aspirations

With the future release of their albums "Awaken II" and a holiday album, the family continues to look forward. They are not just focused on their musical careers but are also dedicated to enriching their community and using their growing influence to make a difference. Their work at the San Francisco Community Music Center further exemplifies their commitment to accessible music education, ensuring that individuals from all backgrounds have the opportunity to explore and develop their musical talents.

The Curtis Family C-Notes not only entertains but inspires, making them a profound force in the music industry and a beacon of hope and unity in their community. Their story is one of talent, resilience, and unwavering commitment to their collective and individual growth and to the broader societal good.

Band Pioneer's Interview with The C-Notes

The Curtis Family

How has TikTok changed the way you approach music?

With nearly 40,000 followers on TikTok and hundreds of thousands of likes, The Curtis Family have utilized social media to conduct live rehearsals that actively engage fans. We were curious how has the platform had shaped or influenced the way they approached music. They specifically highlighted how the platform had connected them to a diverse, global community, enabling them to spread their values of love and unity. Their "Live Rehearsal Music Mondays" have become especially popular, drawing the largest viewership on TikTok, which stay engaged with fans through extended interactions after rehearsal. While most family members feel that their basic approach to music remains unchanged, they acknowledge the unique opportunities for engagement that TikTok provides, particularly during live streams.

Papa C: TikTok hasn’t caused a change in the way we approach music, but it has allowed us to reach a great deal of people and it has also given us a platform by which we’re able to shrink this vast world into a community; It’s so important that people receive our message of love and family and the importance of community. TikTok bears a sense of confirmation for us that our message is universal and we reach a wide array ages, ethnicities, and backgrounds.

Mama C: We do weekly livestreams on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TikTok, “Live Rehearsal Music Mondays, every week 7:30pm PST” and TikTok is by far, our largest audience. After our rehearsals are over, we stay on a bit longer, only on TikTok, to answer questions and chat.

Zahara: No, not really, we know that we have newer eyes on us because of TikTok and we keep that in mind. We noticed how our TikTok followers love it when we start our livestreams with funk music.

Kiki: No, but our TikTok audience is the most active, especially during our livestreams.

What's the most notable breakthrough moment that helped you as a musician?

Every artist experiences pivotal moments that shape their career trajectory. For the members of The Curtis Family their musical paths have been deeply influenced by performing on significant stages and by collaborating with renowned artists. Papa C mentioned playing with the Count Basie Orchestra and working with Maurice White of Earth, Wind & Fire, while others discussed the importance of synchronized rehearsals, and cherished moments that come from making music with family members.

Papa C: Playing with the Count Basie Orchestra and producing music with Maurice White (Earth, Wind and Fire)

Mama C: A breakthrough moment… When we’re rehearsing, when we’re all locked, it feels like we’re taking off into outer space… we’re chasing that high when we perform, we want the audience to feel that too. Breakthrough moments, when you’re living music, it can happen a lot, if you’re good to the music, putting in the time, not to be famous, but to be free and connect… that’s when breakthroughs happen; they help fuel you when life is hard. Life and music are in these magical moments… a lot of the times, most of the time… no one else will see them, they’re just for you and the musicians that share them with you. I’m so lucky that I get to share these moments with my family.

Zahara: Playing with my family, because there’s a lot of growth that comes from it especially playing with Papa, whose pedagogy in music is exceptional, the greatest teacher, he taught us all how to play on our instruments (he plays any instrument you put in his hands). I know that being a musician and a musical artist, is a lifelong journey and my father is the standard that I aspire to be.

Nile: Learning about the bass player, Thundercat.

Isis: That’s a great question… Learning about polyrhythms and Squib Cakes by Tower of Power on drums.

Kiki: When Papa bought me my green Gretsch jazz guitar


Phoenix: When I learned Donna Lee (by Charlie Parker)

What advice would you give to aspiring musicians that are trying to build a following online?

Building a successful online presence is crucial for modern musicians. The Curtis Family have successfully nurtured their online following by being genuine and engaging with their community. They emphasize authenticity, continuous learning, and community engagement as key strategies for building a following online, encouraing musicians to be original while acknowledging their influences. They warn against the pitfalls of comparison, suggesting that true growth comes from nurturing a community.

Papa C: Stay original but borrow from everyone, credit those who teach and inspire you. Learn to play by ear and read music.

Mama C: “Comparison is the thief of joy”. It’s not about numbers, it’s about COMMUNITY. Nurture your community, focus on what connects you and your supporters, the growth will happen from there… but it’s got to start with you, being true to you.

Zahara: ALWAYS be in a learning mind set when you think you know a lot of something, there’s always something MORE to learn.

Nile: Just be consistent

Isis: As long as you trust the process and what you’re doing is good, people will start to appreciate and want to share it with their people.

Kiki: Do not get obsessed with validation, if you only post things for likes you will burn out fast.

Phoenix: As long as your narrative is positive don’t change it for anybody.

Experience the Curtis Family Live or Online

Curtis family awaken

The Curtis Family's story is one of dedication, community, and authenticity in music. In an era where digital platforms can elevate artistry to global heights, the family's approach exemplifies how true connection with an audience extends beyond mere performances to foster a sense of belonging and shared experiences. Their commitment to using their talents to not only entertain but also unite and educate through music highlights the powerful role artists can play in shaping and uplifting communities.

If you'd like to experience the magic of The Curtis Family live, there are ample opportunities to do so:

Leave a Reply!

Keep Reading!