Alan Alda to Deliver Keynote Address at Virtual Commencement

The seven-time Emmy winning actor is only one of the many exciting things about SFCM’s online celebration.

Commencement is a celebration of years-long work as well as the start of an exciting new chapter. It’s a moment for students to reminisce about their time at SFCM—an impactful jury performance, that amazing side-by-side with members of the San Francisco Symphony, or those late-night jam sessions—while looking ahead to the future. The ceremony offers a chance to learn about an influential speaker’s life path, as well as hear from fellow peers whose journeys are just beginning.

This year’s online commencement will feature all this and more. To be streamed on SFCM’s YouTube channel (with real-time comments) and website Friday, May 22 at 5 PM Pacific, the celebratory event will virtually send off the Class of 2020—at home worldwide—to bright futures.

Here are some things to look forward to at this year’s online ceremony:

Alan Alda.

Alan Alda, an Academy Award nominated-actor, writer, and director, will give the keynote address. A seven-time Emmy winner, Alda is best known for his work on MASH and The West Wing. He most recently starred in Marriage Story alongside Adam Driver and Scarlett Johansson (nominated for six Academy Awards in February).

Beyond the entertainment world, Alan is a science advocate. He teaches scientists how to use storytelling to talk about their achievements.

You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You can't get there by bus, only by hard work and risk and by not quite knowing what you're doing, but what you'll discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover will be yourself.” —Alan Alda

Although Alda has given multiple inspiring (and quotable!) commencement speeches, May 22 will be the first time he’s addressing graduates from the comfort of his own home—virtually. And after decades of making his mark on the world, Alda has a lot to share.

Jeremy Denk will perform.

He’s normally touring the world’s biggest stages, so his time at home is SFCM’s gain. Straight from his apartment in New York, Jeremy Denk—one of America’s foremost pianists and an SFCM faculty member—will play a special piece in honor of the Class of 2020.

When students can’t walk the walk...

They talk the talk. SFCM wants to celebrate all graduating students the way they want to be recognized, so graduates get the last word of their choice.

Students are submitting 10-second videos—like the ones in this sample—sharing their favorite SFCM memory, faculty member shout out, or words of wisdom to be featured in a reel with fellow peers. Literally never before has every graduate been given a chance to speak at an SFCM commencement. Videos can be submitted here through May 11.

A different Pomp and Circumstance.

Get the melody out of your head now, as this year the brass department has a different processional prepared: an original composition by faculty member Jonathan Ring.

Speeches and awards, because some things never change.

For fans of tradition, attendees will hear speeches from the President, Board Chair, and selected students, as well as see presentations of the Dean’s Award for Academic Achievement and the President’s Award for Academic Achievement and Leadership. What you can count on to stand out in these remarks, however, are fresh words that rise above the oft repeated graduation platitudes, specific to this milestone at this particular time in our global history.

Connecting members of the SFCM community globally.

Graduating students, parents, faculty, and friends—no matter where they are in the world—can virtually celebrate together. YouTube comments will be open starting just before 5 PM Pacific for real-time well wishes. Audiences abroad who can’t access YouTube directly can join the broadcast via the commencement page.

Mailing the Class of 2020 a special pre-show package.

All graduating students should check their mail—their actual snail mail—over the next couple weeks. They will be receiving a package of (surprise) goodies from SFCM that may come in handy during the virtual commencement.

Alan Alda’s speech, students sharing their favorite memories, musical performances, bringing together members of the community worldwide—all of these things and more make SFCM’s virtual commencement a special moment to recognize the Class of 2020. No matter where you’ll be watching from and no matter what’s going on in the world around us, this year’s graduates have earned this ceremony, worked hard for this moment, and all are invited to celebrate.

Learn more about and watch SFCM’s virtual commencement on May 22.