Performance is central to Conservatory programs. The Conservatory presents over 400 performances a year, representing the full range of music from solo recitals by students and faculty to small ensembles, fully staged operas and symphonic programs. A special highlight is the Chamber Music Masters series, where guest artists perform together with students and faculty members. More than 26,000 people each year attend Conservatory performances.
Conservatory ensembles provide students with the opportunity for concentrated study and performance. They are directed by notable faculty members: conductors Scott Sandmeier and Nicole Paiement; conductor/harpsichordist Corey Jamason; former San Francisco Symphony principal percussionist Jack Van Geem; San Francisco Symphony trombonist Paul Welcomer; San Francisco Symphony Chorus Director Ragnar Bohlin; and guitarist David Tanenbaum. Members of the ensembles perform at the Conservatory as well as other Bay Area locations. Ensembles also are led by well-known guest conductors.
Paul Welcomer, Brass Choir
Adam Luftman, Chamber Music Coordinator
Brass Choir is a weekly class required for all brass majors. Its principal purpose is to develop ensemble skills through regular reading rehearsals, orchestral repertoire readings and rehearsals for public recitals, which are presented twice annually. In addition, the class is used as a forum for master classes by faculty and guest artists.
The brass chamber music program is designed for students to learn about playing in different configurations of small brass ensembles. Students will learn techniques to prepare music independently, intelligently, and professionally while under the supervision and collaboration of an assigned coach. Groups perform regularly in masterclass settings to gain performance experience and exchange ideas about musical interpretation, styles, and ensemble. Each group's efforts culminate in a performance of music from varying styles and historical periods at the end of each semester.
Corey Jamason, Co-Director
Elisabeth Reed, Co-Director
The Conservatory Baroque Ensemble performs music of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries in orchestral and chamber settings. All instrumentalists and voice students are invited to audition at the beginning of each school year. The ensemble is divided between two courses, one for instrumentalists and one for voice students. No prior experience performing baroque music is required. Audition repertoire for instrumentalists is any movement of a work of J.S. Bach. Audition material for singers is announced at the conclusion of the previous academic year. Keyboard players and guitarists are required to enroll in the continuo course given each term during the same semester or to have taken the course in a past semester. Each year the ensemble performs one
major work (a baroque opera or oratorio) during the spring semester as well as several chamber and aria concerts in both fall and spring semesters. Class sessions are divided between two weekly sessions for instrumentalists and one weekly session as well as private coachings for voice students.
Ragnar Bohlin, Director
An ensemble dedicated to performing chamber choir music, from medieval repertoire to contemporary. The focus will be on a cappella music, including close encounters with the choral classics, with the objective of giving students a deep knowledge of the skills required of a professional choral musician.
Eric Choate, Director
The Conservatory Chorus performs three concerts annually. Works featuring student soloists are emphasized. Past repertoire has included Fauré's Requiem, Vivaldi's Gloria and Bernstein's Chichester Psalms. The Chorus also performs works by student and faculty composers, and participates in an annual Student Composition Contest in the spring semester.
Scott Sandmeier, Music Director
Alasdair Neale, Principal Guest Conductor
This course is an intensive experience in the rehearsal and performance of literature for the symphony orchestra from all stylistic periods. The Conservatory Orchestra presents several performances a year in which student soloists are featured frequently, and collaborates with Opera Theatre in the performance of a fully staged opera each year. Public orchestral workshops with distinguished guest conductors are also arranged. Recent guests have included Donald Runnicles, Carl St. Clair, Nicola Luisotti and Peter Oundjian.
David Tanenbaum, Director
The Guitar Ensemble performs works for large groups of conducted guitars, and also breaks into smaller guitar ensembles and mixed ensembles with other instruments. The smaller ensembles are coached regularly and perform each semester. The ensemble's programs regularly blend new compositions with transcriptions.
The Conservatory offers an improvisation course and several opportunities for the class to perform. Talented faculty and guest artists give periodic master classes and concerts.
Michael Mohammed, Director, Musical Theatre Workshop | Stage Director/Choreographer, Opera Program
The Musical Theatre Workshop provides ensemble experience to singer/actors with an emphasis on American musical theatre, examining one or more musical theatre composers and their works through rehearsals and performance. Its goal is for performers to receive a working knowledge of the technical, musical and dramatic elements that go into staging and performing a musical. Recent performances include such works as The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, She Loves Me, Company, Little Women, Urinetown and The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!).
Nicole Paiement, Director
Jacques Desjardins, Assistant Conductor
The New Music Ensemble involves students in the classical music of their own time. Members of the ensemble, who are accepted by audition, perform a variety of works written in the 20th and 21st centuries in four major concerts each year. The works range from 20th-century classics to brand new works by contemporary composers. Personal contact with composers is provided whenever possible. In addition, several concerts and readings of works by student composers are presented each year.
Jose Maria Condemi, Director of Opera
Curt Pajer, Musical and Managing Director of Opera
Darryl Cooper, Assistant Music Director
Heather Mathews, Associate Program Director
The Conservatory Opera Theatre draws exceptionally talented young singers from around the world and provides them with advanced training in vocal style, acting, stage movement and other essentials of operatic craft. Graduates go on to the professional stage well-served by their Conservatory background. Recent fully-staged operas have included L'elisir d'amore, Postcard from Morocco,The Rake's Progress, La bohème, Così fan tutte, faculty composer Conrad Susa's Transformations, A Midsummer Night's Dream, The Marriage of Figaro, Die Fledermaus, The Crucible, L'Incoronazione di Poppea, Count Ory, Tales of Hoffmann and Albert Herring. In addition, several programs of opera scenes with piano accompaniment are presented each year by the Opera Workshop program, which also includes an ensemble devoted to performing operas in their entirety. Opera students also have an opportunity to coach their repertoire with coaches from the prestigious San Francisco Opera music staff, as well as participate in productions tailored for school-age audiences in collaboration with San Francisco Opera's Education Department. In 2014 and 2015 SFCM opera students also participated in workshops of new operas by renowned composers Jake Heggie and SFCM faculty member Mason Bates.
Working professionals from the San Francisco Symphony, Opera and Ballet orchestras lead Conservatory instrumentalists in sectionals before each concert.
Jack Van Geem, Director
Percussion Ensemble members study performance techniques and works for percussion and present two performances each year, sometimes including performers from other music disciplines.
Jodi Levitz, Co-Chair
Chamber music ensembles for strings and piano are assigned following the audition period. The emphasis is on studying, hearing and performing the great variety of works in the chamber music literature. Ensembles receive individual coaching and incorporate players from the graduate chamber music program. Performances are given in informal and formal workshops and in numerous public concerts at the Conservatory each semester.
Faculty chamber music concerts held throughout the year include advanced students in mixed ensembles. In the Chamber Music Masters series, three master chamber musicians per year are invited to rehearse and perform with chamber music students and faculty and to conduct a chamber music master class. Recent visitors have included Robert Mann, founder and former first violinist of the Juilliard String Quartet, Joel Krosnick of the Juilliard String Quartet, Leon Fleisher, Menahem Pressler, Sharon Robinson, Timothy Eddy, Jeffrey Kahane, Peter Oundjian of the Tokyo String Quartet and Kim Kashkashian.
Jeff Anderle, Coordinator
Performance class dedicated to the study of woodwind chamber music. After groups are formed at the beginning of the semester they will receive weekly coachings, leading up to a performance at the end of the semester.
Elisabeth Lowry, Director of Community Outreach
The Community Service Program benefits both the performance needs of the students and the people of the Bay Area. For more than two decades, the Community Service Program has taken live music into schools, hospitals, retirement homes, children's facilities and other places where people of limited means and mobility are seldom reached. Approximately 280 performances are presented each year. Students audition for acceptance into the Community Service Program. Students receive academic credit, and attendance at seminars featuring guest speakers is required.
Elisabeth Lowry, Director of Community Outreach
The Conservatory in the Schools Program provides Conservatory students with invaluable classroom training while supporting music education in the San Francisco public schools. Conservatory student mentors teach instrumental lessons, lead sectionals, coach chamber groups and assist classroom teachers. Students are accepted into the program through an interview process for both paid and non-paid positions; attendance at seminars featuring guest educators is required.
Elisabeth Lowry, Director of Community Outreach
Student musicians are always in demand to perform at private functions throughout the year. Performances run the gamut from special events such as weddings to corporate celebrations or graduations. Students placed through the Conservatory's Music to Go! office are paid for their services. An audition is required.