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SFCM Announces New Building: Bowes Center for Performing Arts

Latest SFCM News

April 25, 2018 by Shase Hernandez

William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation Donates $46.4 Million to
San Francisco Conservatory of Music

Groundbreaking Slated for Summer 2018

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, APRIL 25, 2018 — The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) announces the expansion of its campus and the construction of the Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts (The Bowes Center) in San Francisco’s Civic Center. The $185 million performing arts center and residential tower will be located at 200 Van Ness Avenue and construction will begin in the summer of 2018. The opening of the new building is slated for the fall of 2020 when it will welcome its first class of residents to a facility that will transform students through the study of music at the highest level. The name of the building is in honor and recognition of a financial gift of $46.4 million from the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation, which is the largest single gift ever made to a conservatory or music school for a new facility. To date, $96 million has been raised toward a fundraising goal of $110 million. The existing SFCM building at 50 Oak Street will remain in active use through the construction of the new building and after it is completed.

The new, 12-story building, designed by Mark Cavagnero Associates, will provide housing for 420 students and accommodate two concert halls (featuring hundreds of performances annually with over 90% of them free and open to the public), a restaurant with a live performance space, multiple classrooms and rehearsal spaces for ensembles, practice rooms, a recording studio and technology hall, a large observation deck and garden, conference facilities, a student center, and several apartments for visiting artists and faculty. In addition, the new building will include 27 apartments to replace the rent-stabilized residential units currently on site.

The SFCM expansion is driven by the dynamic evolution of the school’s curriculum that began in 2013 with the implementation of a strategic vision to build the conservatory of tomorrow with the following objectives:

  • Fuse world-class training with intensive, creative work driven by imagination
  • Develop critical thinking skills essential to a prosperous and rewarding life
  • Require business courses and professional development experiences that are applicable to any field
  • Provide defined curricular space for experimentation and risk and build self-reliance
  • Create a program to launch new ideas and innovative artistic models
  • Harness strong partnerships with the technology sector, the San Francisco Symphony, Opera, and SFJAZZ to propel student experiences unmatched within the profession
  • Launch the Technology and Applied Composition (TAC) program, preparing classically trained composers to score for film and games with a focus on collaborative work and linked to Silicon Valley partners
  • Launch the Roots, Jazz, and American Music (RJAM) program in partnership with SFJAZZ, and with performance opportunities in conjunction with the SFJAZZ Collective
  • Provide an education for life and prepare students for success in any endeavor

The Conservatory asserts this curricular platform as the model for the great music school of the next century: a program designed to transform students and inspire their best work. The Bowes Center for Performing Arts will serve as a critical lynchpin and crucible for imagining the future as the school embarks on its second century as a singular destination for aspiring young artists.

“This project will fuel the unlimited potential of this institution and serve as a beacon for the innovative artists who will lead the next generation,” says SFCM President David H. Stull. “Bill Bowes believed that music and beauty are essential to life and that education offers the best promise for tomorrow. I am profoundly grateful to both Bill and Ute for their inspiring investment and their transformative impact on our school. We miss Bill very much and none of this would have been possible without him.”

“The new building on Van Ness Avenue for the San Francisco Conservatory of Music has been a singular and exemplary effort in many ways,” says Mark Cavagnero. “It will provide a completely integrated environment where students will live, learn, rehearse, perform, socialize, and engage the larger community. There has been extraordinary attention paid to detail and the craft of building, to materiality and light, as these will inspire each student in different ways at different times. This building, this organism, will be alive 24 hours a day, filled with the sights and sounds of music and people, propelling the Conservatory forward for generations to come, in the very heart of the San Francisco Performing Arts District.”

William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation and SFCM

William K. “Bill” Bowes, Jr., who passed away in December 2016, was a longtime supporter of the arts and an SFCM trustee for 22 years. He co-founded the successful venture capital firm U.S. Venture Partners and established the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation in 1991, providing generous financial support for the arts, scientific research, the environment, higher education, and other areas.

The Bowes Foundation’s $46.4 million gift is the largest single gift ever received by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and is among the largest financial gifts ever given to a music school worldwide.

During Bowes’ tenure on the Board of Trustees, SFCM successfully relocated to its home at 50 Oak Street in San Francisco's Civic Center and, through his support over the last several years, founded two groundbreaking programs in Technology and Applied Composition and Roots, Jazz, and American Music, in addition to adopting a new curricular structure. He was instrumental in acquiring two parcels of real estate on the corner of Hayes Street and Van Ness Avenue, where the project will be located.

SFCM honored Bowes at its 2016 gala with an evening of performances and a video tribute to him. In his interview, Bowes spoke about his appreciation for the discipline of music education, sharing this simple fact: “music makes me happy.”

Housing for Students and Visiting Artists

The Bowes Center will feature student housing units that can accommodate 420 individuals. The suites, which are laid out in two- and three-bedroom configurations, are located on nine of the twelve above-ground floors of the building. Each suite contains a full bathroom, kitchenette, and living area, and is designed to accommodate small ensemble rehearsals and individual practice.

The twelfth floor includes several guest suites that will provide housing for visiting faculty, guest artists, and others hosted by the Conservatory.

Concert Halls and Classrooms

Featuring two spectacular concert halls designed to the highest acoustical standards by Kirkegaard and Associates, the Bowes Center promises to offer more performance opportunities and options for SFCM students as well as community organizations. In close proximity to the Conservatory’s 50 Oak Street location, which is three blocks away, the new building will allow hundreds of additional performances to take place.

The Jewel Box Recital Hall on the lobby level will seat just over 100 and feature sprung floors that will meet the needs of dancers and performances that require high elasticity on the stage. An accessible, public-facing space that can be configured for multiple options, the Jewel Box Recital Hall features floor-to-ceiling glass walls that extend to the second floor with views of Van Ness Avenue and Hayes Street.

The Penthouse Recital Hall on the eleventh floor will seat more than 200 people. Floor-to-ceiling glass walls will extend up through the twelfth floor, offering views of Van Ness Avenue and the Civic Center at large, including a spectacular vista of City Hall, Davies Symphony Hall, the War Memorial Opera House, and other landmark buildings. Outside the Penthouse Recital Hall will be a large reception area.

Lower Level One will contain multiple percussion rooms and ensemble rehearsal spaces in addition to a large keyboard lab.

Center for New Media and Technology Hall

The Center for New Media on the second floor will comprise studio space, lesson rooms, and listening booths available to SFCM’s Technology and Applied Composition (TAC) and Roots, Jazz, and American Music (RJAM) students. TAC was designed in partnership with leading artists working in the corporate sector of Silicon Valley, and RJAM in conjunction with SFJAZZ, now the largest presenter within its genre in the United States. The models for these programs are expansive: TAC offers curricular direction that includes video game and film music, experimental music, sound design, and production (a skill set that has become increasingly necessary in today’s diverse market), while RJAM provides a holistic view of jazz, delving into an early history of the art form—as far back as its roots in Africa—and connecting it to a contemporary musical zeitgeist.

Occupying the space between the lower two levels, the Technology Hall will offer a multipurpose performance and workshop space for multimedia projects and productions developed primarily by SFCM’s TAC program. The adjacent Recording Room will include state-of-the-art recording equipment that directly interfaces with all of the Bowes Center’s performance spaces.

Live Music Innovation Center and Restaurant

In addition to the Jewel Box Recital Hall, the lobby level will also house the Live Music Innovation Center, consisting of a restaurant and bar with a performance space suitable for small ensembles and lectures. The Live Music Innovation Center will regularly see guest chefs working with SFCM’s artistic team providing complementary dining and concert experiences that combine food, drinks, and music. The ground-level space, complete with floor-to-ceiling glass walls, will feature views of Van Ness Avenue and Davies Symphony Hall. Additionally, the lobby level will include a large student lounge with a self-service coffee bar and other amenities.

Terrace and Lounge/Study Areas

The top (twelfth) floor of the Bowes Center will feature an open, green Terrace that runs along Dr. Tom Waddell Place—the north side of the building—overlooking the Civic Center Plaza. The Terrace, directly facing the dome of City Hall, will be accessible to students and will offer a beautiful space for dinners and receptions. The Board Conference Room will also serve as a reading room.

Replacement Housing

In purchasing property at 200-214 Van Ness Avenue, SFCM has agreed to replace the 27 apartments currently inhabited by residents at 200 Van Ness Avenue. The third and fourth floors of the Bowes Center will consist of replacement housing at a rent-stabilized rate for the residents who have elected to remain at the location. They will be relocated to a neighboring high-rise building during construction and will be moved into the Bowes Center with the terms of their existing rental agreements.

Click here to read SFCM’s tribute to William K. “Bill” Bowes, Jr.

Click here to view renderings of the Bowes Center.

Click here to view SFCM’s centennial video and learn about the Conservatory’s trailblazing founders and the extraordinary women whose contributions have shaped the last 100 hundred years.