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Hot Air Festival Sends Up Trial Balloons

January 26, 2017

The Hot Air Music Festival in San Francisco has become a launch pad for a number of new music groups over the years. The festival is largely an expression of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and was founded by three SFCM students in 2010.

This year the main festival, which will be held at the conservatory on March 5th, is preceded by a 90-minute “preview” concert on Sunday, Feb. 12, at the Center for New Music.  The Center, at 55 Taylor Street, on the edge of the Tenderloin District, seats about 50 people, and suggests the ambiance of underground.  It’s long been a haven for New Music enthusiasts.  

“The idea behind the Center has not been to recreate Davies Hall or the Herbst Theater,” says Bryan Lin, the festival director, “but rather to revive the role of small music venues downtown.”

Lin, 25, is getting his M.A. from the conservatory, and notes that the festival theme this year is “Mixed Media” — including performance art, video, and interactive electronics.  “We didn’t set boundaries in the submission criteria but we encouraged diversity and so we’ve gotten a wide variety of both acoustic and electronic music. “

The festival focus on technology is in part a reflection of the conservatory’s growing interest in the topic; last year the conservatory initiated a new technology and applied composition program.

The Preview concert includes two parts. The first features performances by two ensembles: Ignition Duo (David Gonzalez and Ramon Fermin playing electric guitar) and the Lazuli String Quartet. Members of the quartet are Joseph Christianson (violin); Yuqian Zhang (violin); Justine Preston (violist); and Evan Khan (cellist). 

The quartet will perform Escalay (The Water Wheel), a piece released in 1968 that helped establish the reputation of the great Egyptian composer and oud player, Hamza El Din.

The program for the second part of the concert grew out of the festival’s collaboration with the Guerrilla Composers Guild.   

The Guild promotes young performers and for this preview festival is featuring soprano Winnie Nieh and cellist Matt Schwede, who will be premiering six new works by Bryan Lin, Rita Zhang, Matt Boehler, Colin Martin, Aaron Gervais, and Nick Benavides.

All musicians at the preview concert will also perform at the main festival in March.

For more information: Tickets are $15.

Mark MacNamara, a writer and journalist based in Asheville, North Carolina, has written for such publications as NautilusSalonThe Stanford Social Innovation Review, and Vanity Fair. From time to time, his pieces in San Francisco Classical Voice also appear in  Noteworthy examples include a piece about Philip Glass’s dream to build a cultural center on the Pacific Coast; a profile of sound composer Pamela Z and an essay on the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. MacNamara recently won several awards in the 2018 Greater Bay Area Journalism Awards presented by the San Francisco Press Club.  His website is