Primary tabs

Movers & Shakers From the 'Hood

December 10, 2013

Musical America's December issue of Movers & Shakers: 30 Key Influencers in the Performing Arts, includesSan Francisco Opera General Director David Gockley, San Francisco Symphony Executive Director Brent Assink, Cal Performances Artistic Director Matías Tarnopolsky, former Stanford Live Artistic Director Jenny Bilfield, and former San Francisco Opera Artistic Adviser Francesca Zambello.

Brent Assink: mover & shaker Photo by Janos GerebenSays Musical America of Assink:

Many of the initiatives Brent Assink has set in motion during his nearly 14 years leading the San Francisco Symphony have been picked up by others in the field: "Keeping Score," the award-winning radio, TV, DVD, and interactive website series hosted by Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas that has introduced millions to classical music; the launch of the ensemble's own label, SFS Media, in 2001, which accounts for seven of the orchestra's 11 Grammys; the revitalization of "Adventures in Music," now part of the San Francisco public school curriculum for grades one through five; sfskids.com, a web site devoted specifically to the younger crowd; and much more.

Especially with the economic expansion prompting major development in downtown San Francisco, Assink is channeling much of his energy into capturing a larger audience. "There's more residential construction than since the 1906 earthquake," he says.

"So what's happening is young, highly educated professionals are moving into the city, and the question facing our orchestra in this particular environment is, how do we become a part of their lives?"

He also is sensitive to the Bay Area's ethnic communities, launching such programs as the Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) community concert and celebration, the Chinese New Year Concert, as well as Community of Music Makers, a program for amateur musicians.

Assink, 56, runs an institution with a budget of $72 million that, like most of its major-league peers, has posted deficits for the past four years; it also weathered an 18-day strike last season. But he says there has never been talk of compromising the artistic product: "The orchestra here is generally seen as playing better than ever before, and that has been reflective of the way in which we've been attentive to making ourselves irresistible."

Among other honorees: executives of the Chicago Symphony, Opera Theater of Saint Louis, Teatro alla Scala, The Juilliard School, Salzburg Festival, Boosey & Hawkes, Boston Symphony, Glimmerglass Festival, Royal Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, Naxos, Lincoln Center, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Carnegie Hall, Kennedy Center, and Lincoln Center.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].