Martha Maletz and four music teachers, Beatrice Allen, Jean Fox, Judith Moyer and Marilyn Pinschmidt founded Community Music School in 1981. They incorporated CMS as 501(c)(3) non-profit music education organization on November 9, 1981, and formed a Board of Directors. Frank Cella, Chrysler First, was named the first Board President. The Board held its first meeting on January 18, 1982, and named CMS co-founder Martha Maletz as Executive Director.

The school launched operations in the Educational Building at St. John's Lutheran Church on Fifth Street in Allentown on September 8, 1982. In its first year, CMS had 7 faculty and 38 enrolled students in piano and voice. CMS offered monthly recitals and held a Gala Recital in June, awarding certificates of accomplishment to many students. CMS provided $5,604 in scholarships and financial aid during its first year, assisting 58% of its students.

In 2004, CMS moved operations from the Church to its current facilities in the Fowler Education Wing on the second floor of Miller Symphony Hall in Allentown. CMS leases its space from the Allentown Symphony. The 3,100 square foot custom-designed CMS space includes 12 private music instruction studios, each with a piano; two shared ensemble/meeting rooms with pianos for group classes; several administrative offices; and a reception/waiting area.

Today, CMS enrolls nearly 500 students for private and group instruction in nearly every instrument and serves another 500+ students through outreach programs to local public, charter, and independent schools. .CMS now teaches at six locations throughout the Lehigh Valley and Reading areas: Downtown Allentown in Miller Symphony Hall, West Allentown at Cedar Crest College, Center Valley at Penn State Lehigh Valley, Macungie at the Macungie Institute, Bethlehem at Moravian Academy Middle School – and now in Reading at the Goggleworks Center for the Arts, through the acquisition on August 1, 2015 of the former Community School of Music & the Arts.