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Share Your Memories: Alumni Reminiscences

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music Library & Archives has the goal of collecting, preserving, and providing access to materials of permanent historical value to the Conservatory. In preparation for its upcoming Centennial, the Conservatory’s Archives has begun a project titled “Share Your Memories.” This project is devoted to collecting and preserving personal memories from alumni of their time at the Conservatory. Submissions by alumni will be used for a variety of Conservatory events and materials. They will also become a permanent collection in the Archives, alongside the records and files of illustrious Conservatory members such as founders Ada Clement and Lillian Hodghead, and former Director Ernest Bloch.

Featured Alum:

Robert Symmonds


Robert Symmonds at the Conservatory, April 2013

On April 29, 2013, Robert Symmonds visited the Conservatory to participate in our Oral History Project, which has the goal of seeking out and collecting memories of historical significance to the Conservatory through recorded interviews with members of its community. Robert was asked to participate in this project because in 1948 he became the Conservatory's first classical guitar student. Below are a few excerpts from Robert's interview, the transcript and audio from which will become available via the Conservatory's website in the fall of 2013.


"Most of the students there were veterans like myself who were studying on the GI bill because that's the only way they could get a musical education - because they couldn't afford it otherwise. It was filled with mostly men, I would say twenty-percent women students and about eighty-percent men who were out of the Army and Navy. We really wanted an education because we weren't the typical college age, say from eighteen to twenty-two, we were all older. I was twenty-seven at the time, and most of them were just about the same. Everybody wanted to work, and the classes were just jammed-packed with people."


"The teachers were strict and they demanded a lot out of you. We didn't have so much as homework, but we worked hard during the time we were in classes."


"I've been through all the phases of the guitar, for example, my first love and my true love was classical guitar, but when I found out I couldn't make the stretches anymore I branched out into other things and I played flamenco for quite a long time. Even Hawaiian slack-key guitar, popular guitar -never electric guitar. Never. I just didn't want the electric guitar. I'd play country - I went from - as a boy I played mountain music, then into hillbilly music, then into country-western music, then cowboy songs, and then country, and into attempts at jazz. I've been on all the kinds of guitars that there are. It still intrigues me, and I just love to hear people play."

Share your own memories and photos here!