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SFCM and Walter W. Naumburg Foundation Celebrate Partnership with Concert

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SFCM's faculty is populated with Naumburg competition winners, from Awadagin Pratt to Bonnie Hampton to the Telegraph Quartet.

February 23, 2024 by Alex Heigl

It makes sense for a foundation aimed at identifying the best classical musicians in the world to partner with SFCM. 

To that end, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music is inaugurating a new alliance with the Walter W. Naumburg Foundation with a concert from the Foundation's most recent winner, Jack (Yang) Gao and SFCM students, on Saturday, Feb. 24 in the Bowes Center's Barbro Osher Recital Hall. (The recital is underwritten by Mr. Sin-Tung Chiu, in honor of his parents Bella and P.P. Chiu.)

The Foundation dates back to 1925; Naumburg was an amateur cellist who wanted to help younger musicians and began a series of competitions to elevate young talent. There were few competitions on the order of Naumburg at the time—its closest "competitor," the Leventritt Competition, was founded in 1939— and the Naumburg chamber music award is believed to be the first one ever in the United States

Nicholas Mann

Nicholas Mann.

The organization is currently run by Nicholas Mann, a founding member of the well-regarded Mendelssohn String Quartet whose parents helped run the Competition for years. (Mann is delivering a masterclass on chamber music for students Friday, Feb. 23; it will be open to the public and live-streamed.)

The connection between Naumburg and SFCM runs deep: Bonnie Hampton, a professor of the Conservatory's String and Chamber Music department, won the first Naumburg chamber music competition with the Francesco Trio, in 1974. The Telegraph Quartet, SFCM's quartet-in-residence, won the competition in 2016, while Awadagin Pratt, a recent addition to the Conservatory's piano faculty, won the competition in 1992. Mark Sokol, a beloved educator in San Francisco and longtime chair of the chamber music program at SFCM, was also a Naumburg winner with his Concord Quartet. 

"On top of that, my father Robert Mann was also very closely tied to the Conservatory," Mann says. "For many years he would come to give residences, teach and play." Manns Robert and Nicholas were also tied to the Conservatory's Chamber Music West festival and were close with its longtime president Milton Salkind.

"The wonderful thing about this partnership is that it can only benefit both institutions," Mann says. "If you look at our winners, there's a certain caliber of artistry represented, and SFCM's work represents the future of that artistry."

Learn more about studying string and piano chamber music at SFCM.