S.F. Conservatory of Music Is Now a Youthful Centenarian

Janos Gereben on August 10, 2017
SFCM headquarters on Oak Street | Credit: SFCM Archives

From Isaac Stern to Barbara Eden (yes, star of I Dream of Jeannie), from Gordon Getty to Gwendoline Yeo (of Desperate Housewives), from Terry Riley to Aaron Jay Kernis, from Jeffrey Kahane to Robin Sutherland, and on and on, alumni of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music have made an impact on the world and continue to do so today.

Faculty and visiting artists have included Ernest Bloch, Yehudi Menuhin, Arnold Baller, Alfred Brendel, Leon Fleisher, Placido Domingo, Beverly Sills, Pinchas Zukerman, John Adams, Bonnie Hampton, and Yo-Yo Ma.

The school begins a year of celebrating its centennial, although some might argue that they are jumping the gun by a few years: It was incorporated in 1923. What happened in the fall of 1917 was the opening of the Ada Clement Piano School at 3435 Sacramento Street. Clement and Lillian Hodghead, two pianist friends, started what eventually became SFCM, but back then they had only four pupils. Today, students number over 400.

SFCM’s Sunset home from 1956 to 2006 | Credit: SFCM Archives

Constant growth saw the school’s widespread instructional programs in instruments, voice, composition, theory, and more bulging against the walls of its home at 19th Avenue and Ortega in the Sunset for decades. In 2006 came the big move into the school’s current palatial home at 50 Oak Street in the Civic Center, with several small performance venues and the concert hall. David H. Stull became president in 2013, and immediately started preparations for the centennial year.

The season will offer a varied, rich series of performances, beginning Sept. 16 with a free open-house event, including the Conservatory Orchestra, conducted by Eric Dudley, performing works by Mason Bates, Stravinsky, and Respighi.

The orchestra will give a number of concerts throughout the season, performing works by Shostakovich, Rachmaninoff, Strauss, Bartok, Julia Wolfe, Anna Clyne, and others. The Conservatory’s opera wing will present productions of Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied, Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia, and John Musto’s Bastianello.

Contemporary music, always in focus at SFCM, continues in the season as the New Music Ensemble performs works by John Adams, Louis Andriessen, Clarice Assad, Pauline Oliveros, Tyondai Braxton, and others, led by Nicole Paiement, Alan Pierson, and Christopher Rountree. The SFCM Historical Performance department, led by Corey Jamason, presents several concerts in different genres this year, including orchestral works by Corelli, C.P.E. Bach, and others, a concert version of Handel’s Rodelinda, vaudeville and early Broadway songs.

Artists-in-residence and guests include Sergio Assad, Dusan Bogdanović, Hank Dutt, Jake Heggie, Eliot Fisk, Pamela Frank, Steven Isserlis, Jeffrey Kahane, Martin Katz, Kronos Quartet, Jerome Lowenthal, Meredith Monk, Edwin Outwater, John Perry, Alan Pierson, Patricia Racette, Christian Reif, Christopher Rountree, Spanish Brass Quintet, Takács Quartet, Nelita True, and Randy Weston.

The Takács Quartet is among visiting artists for the centennial season | Credit: Ellen Appel

For a complete roster of performances, venues, and ticket details, please visit the SFCM performance calendar. Some of the season’s highlights:

  • Sept. 30: Students perform alongside faculty and the SFJAZZ Collective in a program of originals and standards from the “Great American Songbook”

  • Oct. 16: Faculty Centennial Concert with Giacomo Fiore, Lawrence Ferrara, Marc Teicholz, Jeff Anderle, and others.

  • Oct. 23: Residency by pianist/accompanist Martin Katz.

  • Oct. 26: Concert by guitarist and former faculty member Sergio Assad.

  • Oct. 30: Public master class by pianist Jerome Lowenthal.

  • Nov. 2: Public master class by Kronos Quartet violist Hank Dutt.

  • Nov. 15: Public master class by Pamela Frank.

  • Jan. 28: Faculty Centennial Concert with Jack Van Geem, Jacob Nissly, Shinji Eshima, and others, including music composed by Elinor Armer and the late Conrad Susa.

  • Jan. 31: “Roots, Jazz, and American Music”

  • Feb. 25: “Sunday with the Sopranos” — Patricia Racette, Frederica von Stade, Deborah Voigt, and guests

  • March 19: Centennial Gala