SFCM Hosts Debut Performance by the International Pride Orchestra
Associate Dean For Academic Affairs Michael Roest has been laying the groundwork for the International Pride Orchestra's debut performance, which includes faculty, students and alumni, for over a year.
By Alex Heigl
The Orchestra's debut performance will be June 22 at 7:30 p.m. in the Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall at the Conservatory's 50 Oak Street building. It unites musicians from 25 states, SFCM students, faculty and alumni, visiting conductors and even local drag luminary Peaches Christ in a performance to benefit the San Francisco LGBTQ+ youth organization LYRIC.
It's a project that's been in the works for more than a year, with Roest reaching out to a nationwide network of musicians, as well as other prominent queer ensembles like the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony and New York's Queer Urban Orchestra. "We want to be able to show the world that what happens here can happen everywhere," Roest says. "And we hope that people who come to San Francisco and experience the beautiful LGBTQ+ community because we know that not everybody has access to a space where they can be out and open and authentic with who they are. So this is a really special opportunity for these folks to have this transformative experience."
The night opens with the world premiere of a commission by Jimmy López Bellido, as a key part of Roest's goal is centering original works by composers in the queer community. The evening's program is then split between more standard repertoire like Tchaikovsky's Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36 and arias by Offenbach and Puccini with works by Mary D. Watkins and Leonard Bernstein.
"In every program we want to have a commitment to bringing a new work to the concert stage," he says. "This first piece we've commissioned is called Loud, to represent how loud our protests and riots are and the struggle of our community to be considered human. It's a joint commission between the International Pride Orchestra, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the Seattle Youth Symphony. There will be three generations of musicians committed to bringing this piece to the canon."
Beyond Roest's involvement and that SFCM is hosting the Orchestra's inaugural performance, the performance features current SFCM students in its ranks, as well as alumni, prominently among them Breanna Sinclairé, the first transgender woman to earn a Master of Music degree in Vocal Performance (as well as the first trans woman to sing the National Anthem at a professional sporting event, with the Oakland A's). The evening will also be hosted by SF drag icon Peaches Christ—whose annual Holiday Gaiety event with SFCM Music Director Edwin Outwater is a seasonal highlight—and Memphis Symphony Orchestra Music Director Robert Moody, who is repped by Opus 3 Artists, SFCM's artist-management company acquired in 2020.
"The cross-section of the music industry that'll be represented within this orchestra and the diversity represented will be unprecedented," Roest says. "We'll have members of the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, Memphis Symphony Orchestra, Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, US Army Field Band, college and university professors, students, members of the Bay Area Rainbow Symphony, the Queer Urban Orchestra… you don't get that very often."
Roest allows that pulling together an orchestra representing half the country and a few international musicians and getting an original work commissioned and premiered "certainly has been a much larger undertaking than I had anticipated." But, he continues, "I certainly know that it'll be worth it because there are folks coming from, for example, Tennessee, where this would be their first time being a part of a community like this, and I remember that experience myself."