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Alum Named Principal Conductor of San Francisco Chamber Orchestra

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October 13, 2023 by Alex Heigl

SFCM alum Jory Fankuchen (2000, violin) has been named Principal Conductor of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra for its 2023-2024 season.

"It's not only a group of world-class musicians, but they're really amazing supportive colleagues, and so many of them are my close friends," Fankuchen said. 

Fankuchen was a violin performance major at SFCM and served as concertmaster under Michael Morgan, the longtime Music Director of the Oakland Symphony. "Michael was truly inspirational," Fankuchen says of his time with Morgan. "He conducted with so much fire, passion and of course technical precision. "It was the first time I had worked with a conductor of his caliber. He became a friend and mentor to me, and we would spend hours talking about music and the world. I still feel his presence when picking up a baton." SFCM's Emerging Black Composers Project top prize was recently named the Michael Morgan Prize in his honor. 

"The reason I think I'm in music today is because I fell in love with playing and studying chamber music," Fankuchen continued. "SFCM has an incredible chamber music department; it  always has." Mark Sokol, former chair of the Conservatory's Chamber Music Department, "lived and breathed chamber music as much as anybody I think I've ever met," Fankuchen said. "He was not only able to mold a student group into something technically superb and musically compelling, but he also showed us how to do it for ourselves."

After graduating, Fankuchen took a few years off, taught, and played on the East Coast for some time before moving back to the Bay Area. He's been playing with the SFCC for 15 years as a violinist and violist, but actually made his debut on the podium with the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra through Ben Simon, the former Music Director of the SFCO.

The San Francisco Chamber Orchestra.

Fankuchen is excited about the season, and—aside from a number of alumni in the SFCO—there's another connection to the school: A commission by Sumi Tonooka, who won the Conservatory and the San Francisco Symphony's Emerging Black Composers Project in 2021. 

"In chamber music, we learn all of the things that we need in music," Fankuchen says. "We learn to listen. We learn how to communicate both with our playing and our words. We learn to lead, we learn to follow, and we learn to create something greater than the sum of its parts."

Learn more about studying chamber music, conducting, or strings at SFCM.