Skip to main content

SFCM Returns to Campus in Hybrid Learning Model

Latest SFCM News

Testing for All, Safety, and Bowes State-of-the-Art Technology Underscore Return Plans

July 14, 2020 by Tim Records

Last update: March 12, 2020.

Updates from the San Francisco Department of Public Health and tuition relief

This page will be updated as new information becomes available.

Korean Translation | Mandarin Translation

We are excited to launch the new academic year with you and have worked diligently to create a healthy campus environment. With safety as the top priority for students, faculty, and staff, and based on what we know and the resources available to us now, we have outlined the following plan for the Fall 2020 semester.


The San Francisco Department of Public Health (SFDPH) has ordered revisions to the directive for Institutions of Higher Education

  • In-person private lessons, with teacher and student in the same room, can resume again for masked musicians: strings, keyboards, percussion, harp, etc.
  • In-person piano and chamber music coachings can also resume with faculty in the same room as students, provided they follow social distancing standards and maximum room capacities.
  • Performance classes (for instruments that can mask) in large classrooms and performance halls can resume with faculty in the same space as students, provided the follow social distancing standards and maximum room capacities.
  • Woodwind, brass and voice group rehearsals can take place, unmasked, again on the outdoor terrace.
  • The health order has not changed yet for singers and wind players, but we will let you know if and when it does.

Back to Top ^



As we continue to work with the San Francisco Department of Public Health, the city is demonstrating the utmost caution. Rehearsals and performances per city guidelines are approved, and SFDPH has asked us to hold off on hosting in-person instruction for now. In the interim, we are pleased to say that we have secured additional resources to support all of our students this semester. The following outlines the plan for when classes begin on October 5:


  • All students (both online and in-person) enrolled in the fall semester will receive a 10% COVID-19 related reduction to their billable Fall tuition (more details below. This discount is available only to students registered for semester one).
  • We will expand our May Festival with activities that include applied lessons, small and large ensemble work (for instrumentalists and vocalists), and readings for composition and TAC majors. All students enrolled in the Fall semester are eligible. There will be no additional cost to participate and housing at the Bowes Center will be provided and funded by SFCM.
  • Following the current SFDPH guidelines for performing arts venues, in-person rehearsals for masked players is allowed, provided it leads to a performance. Wind and Voice ensembles will need to utilize Dante- enabled rooms and halls in order to mitigate risk.
  • Following the current SFDPH guidelines for Institutes of Higher Education (IHE), we will utilize the Dante Audio network for all lesson instruction that would have been in-person with the teacher and student in the same room.
  • San Francisco continues to see good progress in limiting the spread of COVID-19 and we expect that when the Health Officer of the City and County of San Francisco eases restrictions for in-person instruction for colleges and universities, we will immediately allow same-room, in-person instruction to safely happen.
  • The Bowes Center remains open and will house students.
  • Both 50 Oak and the Bowes Center will be open and available to students to use under the safety protocols we have already set forth.

Further information:

The 10% COVID-19 tuition relief is calculated as follows - Per-semester tuition is $23,900, to calculate your COVID-19 tuition relief amount, subtract half of your scholarship amount from $23,900—the remaining amount is what the 10% is calculated against. In other words, if you have a $10,000 annual scholarship (meaning $5,000 in SFCM scholarship for Fall 2020), you will subtract $5,000 from $23,900. The remaining amount is $18,900 and 10% of that number is $1,890. That is the amount you will be credited. This amount will be applied to your bill with the language “COVID-19 tuition relief.”

The May Festival will take place May 24 to June 11, 2021. This will be an intensive period of music making. All programming will be conceived and led by SFCM faculty with guest artists to be announced.

Since we knew it was a possibility our appeal would be denied, we have been preparing 50 Oak and the Bowes Center with Dante-enabled rooms. We can teach through this technology while not in a face-to-face setting; in other words, students will be in one room, and the instructor in another room with a real-time audio connection. This can be used for all instrument areas. More information will follow next week on the frequency of these lessons.

Following the city guidelines set forth for performing arts venues, onstage performances with no more than 12 people in the same space at any one time is permitted. Student-led string and piano chamber music rehearsals will still be permitted (no more than 12, masked and distanced) to take place in-person and in the same space. Brass, voice and wind ensembles will involve students in separate spaces, performing together using Dante. Coaching of these ensembles will require the use of Dante, so that the instruction is not in-person. Ensembles led by a conductor will be allowed to occur in-person.

Additional information will be provided as we continue to confirm plans for the fall semester. In the meantime, new students should direct immediate questions to Director of Admission Lisa Nickels and returning students should direct immediate questions to Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Ryan Brown. As always, we will embrace this challenge and meet it with opportunity.

Back to Top ^


As the construction team is putting the final touches on the new dorm rooms at the Bowes Center, we must update the move-in days to October 10 and 11. Within the next week you will receive a survey which will help our team plan for your arrival, including quarantine and testing.

All Orientation activities, including Auditions, will be done online. Information on Orientation and Auditions will be out by August 21.

For students residing off campus who are already in the Bay Area, SFCM will provide free COVID-19 testing at 50 Oak Street on September 28. Details will be sent to these students.

Due to construction delays at the Bowes Center, we must delay the move-in days to October 10 and 11. This means that from October 5 to October 9, all students will take coursework entirely online. In order to maintain a safe arrival, quarantine, and accommodate COVID-19 testing, some students will arrive directly to a room assignment at the Bowes Center, while other students will arrive at a hotel in San Francisco. Students residing on-campus will be tested on October 11 at either 50 Oak or the hotel. After test results are received, and if negative, students will move to their Fall semester room assignment at the Bowes Center on October 13. The Office of Student Affairs, Residential Life team will email student residents a return plan by August 21.

The COVID-19 testing, quarantine, and delayed move into the Bowes Center is requiring us to take October 12 and 13 from instruction. This means that SFCM will cancel class on October 12 and 13 and make up the instructional days on Monday, November 23 and Tuesday, November 24, which were originally scheduled as Fall Break. SFCM encourages all students to not travel during the Fall Break; those students that do travel will need to register with the Office of Student Affairs and may need to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return to the Bay Area.

An updated Academic Calendar that reflects these new dates is available here.

Back to Top ^


SFCM has invested in technology to allow for the delivery of education to take place in a hybrid model both in person and online. We have used what we learned from this past spring semester to develop a guide for best practices in online education, ensuring all faculty are prepared to deliver curriculum no matter if in person or virtually. This allows students who consider themselves to be at risk to continue their education from home. Faculty members who consider themselves to be at risk have the option to teach from home.

Please note:
It is because San Francisco has significantly fewer Covid-19 cases than Southern California and has responded with the most stringent policies in the state that we are able to offer this hybrid model. This combined with SFCM’s low faculty to student ratio makes these plans possible.

Ensembles, which will meet and rehearse in person, will be small enough to allow for maximum physical distancing. In cases where students have decided to continue their education off campus, SFCM will provide alternatives to in-person ensemble rehearsals and performances, to maximize opportunities for music-making and learning to work with new technology. These will include performance practice seminars and workshops, as well as recording projects, such as chamber music recordings and orchestral repertoire classes. Additionally we will have a mix of online and in person masterclasses as well as live streamed performances.

Lessons will be delivered in person and virtually, depending on the instrument and whether at-risk students and/or faculty are on campus. We anticipate that piano, percussion, guitar, composition and string lessons will occur in person. In all cases faculty and students will be required to adhere to all safety protocols (details below). For wind instruments and voice, we plan to offer at least 50% of this instruction in person. These lessons will take place in large ensemble spaces to provide a substantial distance between faculty and students. Staff collaborative pianists and vocal coaches will join in-person lessons in large spaces when social distancing can be maintained. Again, all safety protocols described herein must be adhered to by students and faculty in this process.

Online lessons, if/when needed, will utilize teaching facilities with exceptional video and audio resolution through a highly sophisticated internal network. The Bowes Center and 50 Oak Street are equipped with the Dante Avio Network Adapters and MADI, respectively, which effectively eliminates latency issues and dramatically increases audio resolution. Use of this technology will ensure that quality lessons from different spaces will remain high. Note, this is a different experience from lessons last spring after the pandemic began.

Classroom courses will primarily be delivered online in order to maximize the use of space at both facilities for the practice, rehearsal and performance of music (in other words, courses that would normally take place in classrooms will move online so that those large spaces can be repurposed for lessons and ensembles). TAC and Composition students will experience both online and in person courses in small group settings.

Students who cannot come to San Francisco due to travel restrictions or health concerns can fully enroll at SFCM and take private lessons and academic coursework from their home in the Fall of 2020. SFCM will offer make-up ensemble work for these students (both large and small ensemble), during the four-week festival starting May 24, 2021 to June 11, 2021. More on this below.

We currently expect to be back in person for the Spring 2021 semester, which begins on Monday, February 8, 2021. Continuing students planning to attend by online instruction only should reach out to Associate Dean for Academic Affairs Ryan Brown. New students should discuss the online option in their required July check-in call with the Office of Admission.
Back to Top ^


SFCM will comprehensively test all students, faculty and staff for COVID-19 and COVID-19 antibodies during the period of time that students return to campus. Testing protocols will be released prior to arrival

SFCM has reserved private spaces in the Bowes Center for students who test positive for COVID-19, where they can safely isolate if needed. Procedures for students, faculty and staff who display symptoms and/or test positive are detailed below.
Back to Top ^


All students enrolled in Fall 2020 are invited to take part in a special three week, year-end Festival at no additional tuition or housing cost. Previously this was only open to students enrolling online-only for the fall, and we are now happy to open this to all students enrolled in the fall as it will take the place of our planned Festival in September.

Taking place May 24, 2021 to June 11, 2021, this Festival will replace the learning experience that is missed during the Fall 2020, but in some cases it may not replace the end product (e.g. in opera, there may be scenes performed, but not a full production with costumes and sets). SFCM faculty will curate opportunities for intensive ensemble work over the Festival period: instrumentalists will have opportunities in small and large ensembles, vocalists will have opportunities to participate in non-staged performances and composers will have opportunities to have their pieces played. In the coming months we will provide more details, including guest artists.

There will be no additional tuition for this period of time, the cost of which will be included with Fall tuition. There will also be no housing charge for students to live in the Bowes Center during these weeks in May and June.
Back to Top ^


For our students in China, we are excited to announce a partnership with the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, along with the Manhattan School of Music and the New England Conservatory, in which all enrolled SFCM students who are unable to travel to San Francisco for the Fall semester will be eligible to participate in large and small ensemble work under the guidance of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music.

SFCM will assist students in finding housing in Shanghai and will also provide academic support in the form of a tutor in Shanghai. Please contact Dean Ryan Brown for more information. This opportunity is currently only available for the Fall semester, and participating students should plan to come to San Francisco for the Spring semester.
Back to Top ^


Starting this fall, the SFCM campus consists of two buildings located in the heart of San Francisco. Both 50 Oak Street, where administration is headquartered and where most classes and lessons take place, and the new Bowes Center two blocks away at 200 Van Ness Avenue, where students will be housed, are state of the art facilities that easily adapt to mitigate the risk posed by COVID-19.

The Bowes Center provides students who live there with brand new suites that have their own bathrooms and individualized venting and filtering.

The HVAC system at 50 Oak Street is highly filtered and regulated. Fresh filtered air flows in and out of SFCM in a variety of ways, and filters are routinely monitored and changed as needed.

Practice rooms, studios, classrooms and offices are all supplied with fresh outdoor air which is filtered and tempered. These rooms also have a local fan unit which continuously filters and tempers further to provide air quality and comfort. Additionally, to address current health concerns, we have increased the amount of filtered fresh outdoor air supplying these rooms and added a portable air purifier equipped with a HEPA filter and a UV sterilization light.

UV Lights and HEPA filters in practice rooms

All performance halls at SFCM are supplied with 100% fresh filtered outdoor air which is tempered for comfort. Our performance spaces are designed to exhaust air, rather than recirculate it, which increases air changes and helps to maintain a healthy environment. To address current health concerns, we will be increasing the volume of filtered fresh outdoor air supplying these halls.

We are in the process of adding polycarbonate plastic panels where needed to mitigate the possible spread of infection when people are together in shared spaces. Deep cleaning of all spaces occurs on a regular basis and sanitizing stations for keyboards and all communal services are readily available.

Lastly, our security system tracks each member of the SFCM community as they enter and exit the building as well as any space they badge within the facility. The addition of contact tracing integrated with the security system allows us to immediately respond if a member of our community tests positive for COVID-19. All students, faculty, staff, and Pre-College students will be required to use a contact tracing mobile app that utilizes Bluetooth LE to assist in tracking significant close contact between SFCM community members. The mobile app will also assist in daily symptom check-ins which will be required when entering a building or leaving a student unit, as well as the ability to report positive COVID-19 test results to SFCM case managers.
Back to Top ^


Campus Security & Access: All SFCM community members will be required to badge in and out of SFCM buildings and rooms with keycard access in order to enhance safety and to increase our contact tracing abilities.

Performances: Until the COVID-19 crisis has stabilized, the SFCM campus will be closed to all visitors. All performances will be either streamed or recorded for later broadcast to the general public. Students, faculty and staff have limited seating concert attendance options detailed in the concert protocols below.

Self-Monitoring: Every member of the SFCM community will be required to utilize an approved app for self-monitoring their health. This will involve taking one’s temperature and answering a series of questions. Instructions on installing this app will follow later in the summer. Any member of the community who shows symptoms is required to stay home and consult with their health care provider. Any collegiate student who shows symptoms must immediately contact the Office of Student Affairs.

Students are encouraged to bring their own thermometers so they can monitor themselves daily. SFCM will provide thermometers to students who do not have their own.

Security will verify that individuals who enter the building have undergone the self-monitoring procedure described above.

SFCM Branded Masks

Masks: All members of the SFCM community must wear masks when in 50 Oak or the Bowes Center. This includes shared offices. This not only complies with city ordinances but also minimizes the spread of viruses from one person to another. No one will be permitted to enter SFCM without wearing a mask, and disposable masks will be provided at Security if needed.

Staggered Work Schedules & Physical Distancing: All students, faculty and staff should make every effort to maintain a distance of 6 feet (1.83 meters) from one another. This will require staggered work schedules, adjustments to ensembles as detailed above, and strict limits regarding access to shared spaces that promote gathering. New capacity limits will be established for recital halls, classrooms, conference rooms, and offices to ensure the enforcement of physical distancing. Virtual meetings will continue to allow for physical distancing between people on campus and participation by people off campus.

Stairwells will be labeled for one directional use to minimize unnecessary contact. All community members are encouraged to use the stairs over the elevator when reasonably possible.

Sanitization: All areas of SFCM will be routinely cleaned and disinfected. To the extent possible, classrooms, studios, practice rooms, recital halls, and offices will be sanitized between each use. Protocols and materials will be in place to ensure the individuals who use a shared location wipe down the space before and after use.

Hand sanitizer will continue to be available in all locations at SFCM.

Employees who handle mail and/or other high touch objects or materials are to wear gloves, which will continue to be available at Security.

Pre-College Sanitization: On Friday and Saturday evenings, the 50 Oak building will be thoroughly cleaned and disinfected to accommodate Pre-College sessions on Saturdays. During the Pre-College session on Saturdays, 50 Oak will be reserved solely for the Pre-College community.
Back to Top ^


Practice Rooms

  • All practice rooms have been equipped with a UV HEPA air filtration system. These filtration devices provide extra protection against airborne particles, but do not completely eliminate the risk of infection.
  • Most practice rooms will be available by reservation only, and times will include buffers in between for the air to be filtered before the next use. Certain spaces will be prioritized to certain majors, such as piano and percussion students. Students living in the Bowes Center residence hall should take advantage of practicing in their soundproof rooms during non-quiet hours.
  • Students are expected to wash hands before and after each use of a practice room, as well as using materials supplied by facilities to wipe down piano keys after each use.
  • Most practice rooms will only allow for one person to occupy the room at a time. All ensemble rehearsals should be scheduled in larger spaces in advance.
  • Janitorial staff will clean each room daily, which will include the use of disinfectant in wiping door handles, light switches, thermostats, chairs, music stands, and piano benches. Piano keys will also be sterilized with isopropyl alcohol daily.
  • Signs will be installed outside of each practice room to remind students of these protocols.

Ensemble Rehearsals and Performances

  • Face masks are required at all times. Vocalists, brass, and woodwind players can only remove face masks when singing or playing their instrument.
  • Social distancing is also required during rehearsals and performances. Non-brass and woodwind instruments will distance 6 feet apart, and brass and woodwinds will distance 10 feet apart. Ensemble rehearsals larger than trios will only take place in classrooms and performance halls, and should be scheduled in advance with the Scheduling Office.
  • Brass and woodwind players will also have plexiglass shields (6’ x 3’) placed to each side, along with being distanced 6 feet apart.
  • Brass players will be provided disposable towels to empty valves of condensation.
  • Large ensembles for the fall semester will not be larger than 20 to 25 musicians, depending on instrumentation, to allow for distancing on the Hume Concert Hall stage. Most large ensembles will consist of 10-20 musicians on stage at a time.
  • Large ensembles rehearsing and performing in Hume Concert Hall will be provided specific instructions for entering and exiting the stage. Students in each ensemble will be assigned a specific location on stage, and all chairs and stands will be spiked and not moved from their locations except by production staff.
  • All three 50 Oak Street performance halls (Hume Concert Hall, Sol Joseph Recital Hall, Osher Salon) are supplied with outdoor air, which is double filtered and tempered for comfort and safety. The ventilation systems in these spaces are designed to exhaust air, rather than recirculate it, which increases air changes and helps to maintain a healthy environment.
  • Backstage areas will not be used as holding spaces for ensembles. Holding spaces will be assigned for performances.
  • Janitorial staff will clean rehearsal and performance spaces daily.

Studio and Performance Classes

  • Studio and performance classes will be scheduled in spaces that can accommodate the number of students and faculty for each class while socially distancing.
  • Larger performance classes, such as chamber music seminars and piano forum, may only involve active students and faculty in the hall for each class, with other students joining the class online via Zoom. The active participants on stage will have Zoom equipment set up on stage to interact with the online members of the class.
  • Face masks will be worn by all students and faculty in these classes at all times, except by wind and voice students performing.
  • Wind and voice studio classes will take place in performance halls and larger classrooms. A student performing in class will do so behind a 3-sided plexiglass barrier, with the other students sitting on the opposite end of the room and wearing face masks.
  • All students and faculty in these classes will sit 6 feet apart from each other. Wind and voice students performing in these classes will distance at least 10 feet apart from others.

Concerts and Audiences

  • In maintaining a supportive environment within the SFCM community, audience seating for concerts in the fall semester will only be open to SFCM current students, faculty and staff, and seating capacity in the performance halls will be limited to about 20% of general seating capacity in order to maintain social distancing. Concerts in both the 50 Oak Street and Bowes Center buildings will not be open to the general public for the fall semester.
  • Seats for concerts will need to be reserved in advance and by email. The Box Office will email faculty and students when seats can be reserved, and most seating will be prioritized to faculty and students from the department being represented in each performance.
  • Entering and exiting of performances will be very detailed for each performance space for one way traffic flow when possible, and Production staff will help with directing people.
  • Face masks must be worn at all times while entering performance spaces, watching performances in seats, and exiting the spaces.
  • Most concerts will be live streamed or recorded for later broadcast, which will allow for reaching larger audiences in the Bay Area and beyond. All student recitals will have the option for live stream, so that family members and friends can view these recitals.

Back to Top ^


Any student, faculty, or staff member who tests positive for COVID-19 or has come into close contact with an individual who has recently tested positive has a duty to immediately submit the positive results into the SFCM mobile app. This will notify a case manager in Human Resources, Student Affairs, or Pre-College.

Additionally, any SFCM community member who tests positive for COV-19 will be asked to provide a list of every individual they have come into contact with, and tracing associated with the badging software will be used to identify spaces they have accessed, along with others who entered or shared spaces with the individual.

Response Specific to Students: Students who test positive for COVID-19 will be provided with a private space where they can comfortably isolate and continue their lessons and classes virtually until results establish that they do not have COVID-19 and they do not exhibit symptoms. Students who have come into close contact with someone who is positive will be required to self-quarantine and continue their lessons and classes virtually until results establish that they do not have COVID-19 and they do not exhibit symptoms. Student Affairs staff will stay in regular contact with students and ensure adequate access to medical resources such as the OneMedical telehealth service, appointments with doctors and testing facilities, and follow-up care.. Students will be permitted to end their quarantine after 14 days without symptoms and/or testing negative for the virus.

Response Specific to Faculty and Staff: Faculty and staff members who are infected or have come into close contact with someone who is infected will be asked to refrain from coming to campus for 14 days or until they have tested negative for the virus.
Back to Top ^


We are excited to launch the new academic year with you, and we know the precautions and procedures outlined here are only temporary. No matter what, we remain dedicated to your education and degree progress. SFCM has always been a place of creativity and support, which allows us the facility to maintain health and safety while fulfilling our mission to deliver a transformative education that carries you well beyond this pandemic.

We can’t wait to welcome you back to campus this fall!
Back to Top ^