Skip to main content
Latest SFCM News
News Story

SFCM Pre-College Program on Writing the Prelude to Success

Chair Daniel Wood gives an inside look at the incredible growth of the beloved program and its budding maestros. Applications for Pre-College are due March 1.

February 12, 2024 by Alex Heigl

Daniel Wood, SFCM's Chair of Musicianship and Composition for the Pre-College division, is a case study in saying "yes." After having subbed at the Conservatory, he took over teaching a musicianship class, and in short order expanded that to composition and brass. 

For years Wood has loved the magic of teaching an age group at this crucial developmental time, where they pick up skills faster and have fewer preconceived notions than older students. "They often go from zero to hero in the span of a few years. When you work with a collegiate student, they've already had all this education and their previous teachers. But for me, there are a lot of them I'm seeing for the very first time, and so there's so much to mold and direct."

Wood was a large part of shaping the Pre-College program into what it is today, guiding it towards the current all-day model and age groups served. "When we moved to that comprehensive model, suddenly not only did it create a much better education for all of these young students, but it fostered a huge sense of community because now everyone's around each other consistently." 

"It's been super cool to see what's come out of that," he adds. "Student council, going from one recital to now three recitals every day; electives that have started to spring up, everything from Alexander technique to music business, improvisation, to what we're doing with the TAC [Technology and Applied Composition] department."

Growing the composition department has been easy, Wood says, in part because of changing attitudes in successive generations: "Today's population really wants to get their hands dirty. They feel differently than maybe 20 years ago, when you were a performer or you were a composer. Now they're like, 'No, I want to do everything. I want to perform the music, write the music, produce the music.'" 

Daniel Wood and and SFCM student.

Daniel Wood and and SFCM student.

But that doesn't mean Wood is shirking his other love: The Pre-College brass department recently hired five new faculty members, and they're gearing up for Brass Day on March 10, which will feature Jessica Valeri, Tim Higgins, and Aaron Schuman of the San Francisco Symphony giving masterclasses and workshops. (Higgins and Valeri are also faculty members at SFCM.)

SFCM Pre-College's Brass Day 2024

One of the more interesting statistics Wood brings up from the Pre-College program is that SFCM produces more students who go on to study at an Ivy League school than any other he's aware of. Regardless of whether his students go on to study music full-time, Wood says this figure is "just an indicator that the program attracts very accomplished young individuals."

Ultimately, he says, what makes the Pre-College program great is the dedication he sees from both sides. "The faculty are so incredibly dedicated to it. They continue to be a part of it because of the community and the incredible quality of students who participate. It just feels like 'There's something really happening here and this is a place I want to be a part of.' And we have students coming down from Sacramento every week because this is the place to go."

Learn more about the Pre-College program at SFCM, Applications are due March 1, 2024.