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SF Conservatory of Music Celebrates Topping-Out Its New Building

December 13, 2019

On Wednesday afternoon, Dec. 11, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music held a topping-out celebration for the Ute and William K. Bowes Center for Performing Arts. Named in recognition of William K. Bowes Foundation’s generous $46.4 million donation, the building will serve as an extension to the conservatory’s Oak Street home, with practice rooms, classrooms, a recording studio, conference facilities, and two recital halls. It will also provide housing for 420 students, suites for visiting artists and guests, and rent-stabilized apartments for the location’s previous tenants.

The celebration began with building donors and conservatory representatives signing a final beam to put their mark on the building. Despite the rain, the crowd was in exceptionally good spirits to have made so much progress on the construction of a project that began more than five years ago. As Conservatory President David Stull thanked everyone involved, he noted that they are “investors not only in our future, but also in the future of music.” Trustee Camilla Smith shared a similar message, writing “Music will save the world!” on the beam.

The event also featured student performances, with the Barbary Coast Brass Quintet playing “Y.M.C.A.” while construction workers danced with SFCM signs on the building; “Village People will be in residence next year,” Stull joked. Faculty member Clairdee and jazz students also led a rendition of “I left my heart in San Francisco” while a three-story-tall heart banner was unfurled on the building’s facade.

The Bowes Center’s prime location at 200 Van Ness is conveniently near the existing conservatory, Davies Symphony Hall, and the War Memorial Opera House, and will allow students to become immersed in all the Civic Center has to offer. This $193 million performing arts center is a remarkable investment in not only the school, but also the entire arts community of San Francisco. The project was ambitious, far-sighted, and practical. Scheduled to open next year, it mayl inspire other organizations and foundations to similarly endow the future of music and art in the city.

Catriona Barr is a musicologist and music teacher based in San Francisco. She holds a B.M. from Peabody Conservatory and a M.M. from King’s College, London.

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