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Hire SFCM Celebrates Busy Semester for Students with Chris Potter, Kronos Quartet and Pro Wrestling

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All told, this year Hire SFCM performances have paid out over $100,000 to SFCM students.

May 9, 2023 by Alex Heigl

The Conservatory's "Hire SFCM" program is winding down one of its busiest semesters, after having placed students in performances with high-profile artists like Chris Potter, the Kronos Quartet, and All-Elite Wrestling, the nation's second-largest professional wrestling organization.

Many of the shows took place thanks to SFCM's connections with SFJAZZ: Students performed with with drummer Terri Lynne Carrington in February, clarinetist Anat Cohen in March, and saxophonist Chris Potter in April, all as part of their artist residences' at SFJAZZ. 

Potter's piece, Generations, was a world premiere scored for his quartet and a chamber orchestra, conducted by SFCM conducting student David Baker. 

"I have rarely, if ever, seen a string section of professionals, let alone students, absorb complex jazz rhythms and swing with such confidence abandon, and musicality," SFCM Music Director Edwin Outwater said of the performance. "It was one of the most innovative and inspiring collaborations I have seen at SFCM since my time here."

April also saw Outwater and SFCM students at SF Performances—a first for Hire SFCM—for a program paying tribute to Bay Area composer Ingram Marshall. Marshall, who died last May, had visiting positions at SFCM in the 1970s; his friend and fellow Bay Area icon John Adams conducted the students alongside pianist Timo Andres for a performance of Andres' piece Flow.

Perhaps the highest-profile event of the season involved SFCM joining the Kronos Quartet—possibly the world's most famous string quartet, celebrating their 50th anniversary this year—for performances with the Post:ballet group. A quartet of students from SFCM's woodwinds department will be continuing the Kronos connection in June, joining them for their Kronos Festival. 

SFCM students rehearse with Anat Cohen at SFJAZZ on stage

SFCM students rehearse with Anat Cohen at SFJAZZ.

"I loved working with the Kronos Quartet—it was very inspiring to play in the same concert with these contemporary musical giants that I've looked up to for so long," 2023 master's graduate Alyssa Tong said. "We had a coaching with Paul Wiancko, their new cellist, and the way he thinks about music is different from what I've experienced previously; he talked about seeing things from a composer's point of view and getting that depth of tone and gesture, rather than what's written exactly on the page. The project itself was beautiful; to see dancers move to the music we made live was powerful, especially since this kind of collaboration is rare!" Violist Hannah Wendorf added, "Working with Kronos Quartet was a really fantastic experience—they’re all very kind and generous, and they provided some great insight about performing contemporary music."

students wearing masks pose holding their instruments at chase center

SFCM students rehearse for AEW at the Chase Center.

Another rare collaboration: SFCM musicians and professional wrestlers. But that was the scene at the Chase Center in March, where strings players joined All-Elite Wrestling as part of the company's first-ever California pay-per-view show; a cold-call to the school that wound up as a memorable experience for everyone involved. "I get a lot of calls like this," SFCM Community Engagement Manager Kevin Rogers said of the AEW booking, "where a lot of people are saying, 'I was recommended I come to the school.'"

All told, this year Hire SFCM performances have paid out over $100,000 to SFCM students. "Just looking at our budget numbers, we're getting more gigs than we've ever gotten," Rogers continued. "And it makes me optimistic about how students will do when they graduate," he continued. "As someone who graduated in 2011 at the end of the last financial crisis, that's a really good feeling, that students aren't being thrown into the deep end."

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