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The San Francisco Conservatory of Music Acquires Distinguished Record Label PENTATONE

PENTATONE joins the alliance between SFCM and Opus 3 Artists to expand opportunities for students and further musicians’ access to exceptional ideas, talent, and facilities.

May 9, 2022 by Mark Taylor

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) announced today that it is the new home of PENTATONE Music, a partnership that will enable students, artists and the public to benefit from the combined resources of a leading conservatory and a legendary label.   

PENTATONE joins an existing alliance between SFCM and Opus 3 Artists, the renowned management company that the Conservatory acquired in October 2020. As a trio, SFCM, Opus 3 Artists and PENTATONE present an innovative platform to reimagine the model for professional music education and to invent the performance experience of the future. 

“Bringing PENTATONE in–house creates an extraordinary backdrop to explore new ideas for performing, recording and distributing music. For the first time, professional artists have access to a research and development engine in the form of SFCM’s students and PENTATONE’s skill and creativity producing musical experiences of quality and enduring importance,” said SFCM President David Stull.  

PENTATONE, which is based in Baarn, Netherlands, will continue to operate as an independent company. Like SFCM students, its artists now have access to SFCM’s state–of–the–art recording studio in the Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts in San Francisco’s Civic Center Arts District. The facility, Studio G, is adjacent to the Conservatory’s multipurpose, black box Technology Hall; both were inaugurated in November 2021 and quickly became two of the most desirable spaces to create, capture and listen to immersive audio.  

As one of its first formal collaborations with SFCM, PENTATONE will record and release a performance by the National Brass Ensemble (for which Stull serves as executive director) during Summer@SFCM’s National Brass Ensemble Academy. The performance will be conducted by San Francisco Opera Music Director Eun Sun Kim inside the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall; it will include the debut of a commission by Jonathan Bingham, a winner of the Emerging Black Composers Project sponsored in part by SFCM and the S.F. Symphony. 

In addition to sharing engineers, orchestral talent, educational resources, masterclasses and professional development sessions, SFCM expects to invite the PENTATONE team to campus to participate in a project with students and faculty during the Conservatory’s 2023 Winter Term, ultimately resulting in the release of an album.  

“The team at PENTATONE is excited for the potential that comes with a profound partnership with SFCM and the constituent companies of its larger organization,” said PENTATONE Managing Director Sean Hickey. Hickey was appointed in early April after nearly 20 years leading sales and business development at Naxos of America; he is also an award–winning composer and a frequent lecturer on new media. “We are pleased that it affords us the potential for meaningful collaboration in the areas of higher education, recorded music, and music management and the shared resources that we hope to enjoy as a result. The record industry is changing drastically and now is a good time for one of the largest and most–celebrated independent classical labels to forge deeper and more strategic partnerships.” 

The label—known for its exceptionally high–quality recordings, its pioneering use of surround sound and its embrace of streaming and other current technologies—released acclaimed recordings by pianists Pierre-Laurent Aimard and Denis Kozhukhin, cellists Alisa Weilerstein and Johannes Moser, vocalists Magdalena Kožená, Ian Bostridge and Piotr Beczała and ensembles including the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin. In 2017, its Ghosts of Versailles by John Corigliano, part of the American Opera Series, won multiple GRAMMY Awards; in 2019, its premiere recording of the opera The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs, by SFCM composition faculty member Mason Bates, won a GRAMMY for “Best Opera Recording.” It will release five additions to its catalogue this month. 

PENTATONE was awarded “Label of the Year” in 2019 by Gramophone magazine and in 2020 by the International Classical Music Awards. 

Its acquisition was made possible because of a private donation. 

“Our collaboration will provide invaluable opportunities to students while giving new life to one of the world’s greatest labels,” said Stull. “Together, we will continue to push boundaries that advance the cause of music worldwide.”