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SFCM Inaugurates the Bowes Center with Mayor London Breed and Yo-Yo Ma

San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Mayor London Breed inaugurate the Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts, a new hub for music, performance, and collaboration in the heart of San Francisco.

November 12, 2021 by CHenderson

The celebration included a special performance from Yo-Yo Ma and the announcement of $130 million raised to complete the Center.

San Francisco, CA, November 12, 2021—The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) inaugurated the Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts today, welcoming members of San Francisco’s civic and cultural community, including Mayor London Breed and pianist Garrick Ohlsson, to experience this new hub for music and collaboration in the heart of Civic Center. Designed by Mark Cavagnero Associates, the Bowes Center doubles the size of SFCM’s campus, amplifying opportunities for students and creating deeper engagement with the city. It also acts as a laboratory for projects and workshops between SFCM and its newly-acquired management company and partner, Opus 3 Artists.

Guests at the day-long celebration of the building’s completion enjoyed a special performance by Yo-Yo Ma—who is represented by Opus 3 Artists and also led a master class on campus—as well as music and demonstrations by SFCM students and faculty members activating the Center’s stunning recital halls and state-of-the-art facilities.

“The Bowes Center is the manifestation of our vision for a space that connects the next generation of musicians and performers with unique opportunities to create innovative projects,” said SFCM President David Stull.

“In addition to serving as a home for SFCM students to live, study, perform, and create, the Center will continue to partner with Opus 3 in the creation of new endeavors as well as undertake exciting projects such as our work with members of the Recording Academy in our world-class recording studio. Early next year, we are eager to welcome members of the public who will be immersed in our craft through programs, performances, and the Center’s transparent, open design.”

A $200 million project, the Bowes Center is named in honor and recognition of the $46.4 million gift from the William K. Bowes, Jr. Foundation, the largest capital gift ever made to a music school. In total, SFCM raised more than $130 million to complete the project. The Bowes Center will feature hundreds of performances each year, 90% of which will be free and open to the public.

“Our design of the Bowes Center prioritizes transparency to allow passersby to witness the commitment and diligence involved in the careers of these young professionals, which in turn energizes the surrounding street life,” said Mark Cavagnero, founding principal of Mark Cavagnero Associates. “Considering the building’s proximity to the Davies Symphony Hall, the project was an especially wonderful opportunity to convey and elevate the lofty pursuits of these music students.”

Cavagnero’s team designed the Bowes Center as a “vertical campus” that emphasizes openness, engagement, and light through its exterior of white and glass.

The building’s features include highly acoustically controlled music education spaces, designed by Kirkegaard Associates; a jewel-box recital hall on the ground floor visible from the sidewalk through floor to ceiling windows; and a 200-seat penthouse recital hall offering views of City Hall and other landmarks. In addition to residencies for around 400 SFCM students, the Bowes Center provides housing for students at the San Francisco Ballet School, short-term accommodation for visiting faculty and guest performers, and apartments for tenants of the building that was previously on the site.

“We have the opportunity to practice in stunning spaces such as the Osher Recital Hall, where I will actually be performing my master's recital this spring,” said voice master’s degree student Jordan Avellino. “SFCM has gone above and beyond in accessibility for students, not just having freedom of spaces, but also in the new self-recording equipment available in the rooms at Bowes. The ability to record practice sessions and even videos for auditions has allowed me to become a better singer and advance my professional career with ease.”

During the inauguration, Stull announced a new collaboration with the Aquila Theatre Group, which is also part of Opus 3 Artists’ roster and is one of the foremost producers of innovative interpretations of classical theatre. Aquila’s winter/spring 2022 national tour—which will visit 25-30 American cities between January and April—will include a new, racially, and ethnically diverse adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. Their February performance at SFCM will feature music composed by students from the SFCM Technology and Applied Composition program and recorded by those studying Chamber Music and Roots, Jazz, and American Music.

On February 12, 2022, the public is invited to experience the Bowes Center at an open house featuring performances and tours throughout the day. Prior to the open house, as part of pandemic-related safety precautions, performances held at the Bowes Center will be open for in-person attendance by members of the SFCM community only and will be streamed live for broader audiences.