Christian McBride’s Commencement Address Offers Sage Advice to SFCM Grads

Christian McBride with Bass

The seven-time GRAMMY winner shares advice with SFCM’s Class of 2021 at a virtual ceremony on May 29.

World-renowned bassist Christian McBride inspired the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s Class of 2021, including the first graduates of the Roots, Jazz, and American Music program, with an encouraging and thoughtful speech during a virtual commencement on May 29.

Throughout a year of challenges and change, SFCM students continued to excel, participating in high-profile master classes and innovative film and orchestra experiences such as Stay On It, What We Do On the Stage, and Music for Hard Times. Saturday’s commencement celebrated 113 graduates who are moving on to bright futures.

McBride’s message was honest, straightforward, and grounded in his own experience, yet simple: “Be fearless. Be selfless. Make harmony. Be nice to each other. Keep your goal in mind. Pay attention. And remember that it’s the people in your life who matter, not the likes and retweets. Life is all about making harmony.”

He began: “For me, these three things always ring true, no matter your age, where you’re from, what type of music you play, or whether there’s a pandemic: Fearlessness, Humanity, and Harmony.

In 2021, it may be difficult to be fearless...but don't join the moshpit of social media. Pick your goal, set your vision, be intentional, and don’t let anything get in the way of reaching it. Obstacles are only obstacles if you let them be obstacles.”

After sharing a few personal anecdotes from his life in music, McBride offered that fearlessness goes hand in hand in hand with selflessness. “Be nice to people, it’s part of being fearless. It’s part of humanity, and humanity matters. Think of the world as a piano, and the people in it are all notes,” he suggested. “How do you make harmony from something that may not work at first?” he posited, then explained that in that same way you could change the notes a bit to make something musical more interesting, people can shift a little to accommodate others—which ultimately makes harmony. “And that’s what life is all about.”