SFCM’s annual Kick-off Weekend is always smorgasbord of musical offerings, exhibiting a taste of the Conservatory’s dynamic programs such as Historical Performance and Roots, Jazz, and American Music (RJAM). The 2018-19 academic year’s Kick-off Weekend, which took place September 29-30, featured performances by the Pre-College Division, New Music Ensemble, and Chamber Music, Historical Performance, and RJAM programs.
It all began Saturday afternoon when Pre-College students took to the Sol Joseph Recital Hall stage. Performing works by Mozart, Monti, Gaubert, Arcas, Bruch, Kodály, and Liszt, Pre-College pianists, violinists, flutists, guitarists, violists, and cellists gave stellar performances of repertoire that spanned hundreds of years. Pre-College students study the spectrum of musical style—a unique aspect of the program that explores music from baroque to contemporary periods—and this concert put their skills front and center.
That evening, faculty and students from the Chamber Music program performed in Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall to an eager crowd. Chamber Music Co-Chairs Ian Swensen and Dimitri Murrath joined Strings Chair Jennifer Culp for a spritely rendition of Beethoven’s String Trio in C minor. Samuel Weiser ’19 and Heemin Park ’19 performed Janáček’s Sonata for Violin and Piano directly afterwards, and then students Maria van der Sloot ’19 and Samuel Weiser joined faculty members Dimitri Murrath and Jean-Michel Fonteneau for a side-by-side performance of Dutilleux’s Ainsi la nuit.
In attendance was SFCM Trustee Gary Rust ’83, a frequenter of performances at the Conservatory.
“I always look forward to Kick-off Weekend, and I especially love the chamber music recitals where the faculty and students are mixed,” said Rust during the concert’s intermission. “I hear the students thriving and being inspired by the faculty, and we just had a superb example of excellence in student performance.”
“Every event I come to I’m just blown away by what a treasure the Conservatory is,” added Brian Grady, another concert attendee.
Performances continued into Sunday, first with a Historical Performance concert that celebrated the 150th birthday of Scott Joplin and the 130th birthdays of May Aufderheide and Irene Giblin. This concert that focused solely on ragtime featured a dozen works performed as solos, duets, and chamber ensembles.
“I was thrilled to organize a historical performance presentation celebrating the 150th anniversary of Joplin's birth for our Kick-off Weekend,” remarked Historical Performance Chair Corey Jamason. “The program included original arrangements of Joplin rags from 1910, solo piano rags, a ragtime song, and rags for xylophone as well, all performed with great style and energy by collegiate and Pre-College students. Ragtime music was created for the sole purpose of making us want to get up and dance, and I was delighted to see the audience moving in their seats to the rhythms heard in these terrific performances.”
A unique part of this year’s Kick-off Weekend was also the RJAM concert, which took place at SFJAZZ’s Miner Auditorium. Another side-by-side performance, students shared the stage in ensembles that included RJAM faculty and members of the SFJAZZ Collective playing standard and original tunes for over 90 minutes.
“It was pretty spectacular in terms of our students performing alongside seven mentors having worked together for 10 hours prior,” commented RJAM Executive Director Simon Rowe, referring the both the concert and rehearsals beforehand. “There was a nice crowd, and we had wonderful support from the SFJAZZ staff. I think the students felt that they were being treated with exceptionality and they responded in kind. The performance was warmly received by an enthusiastic crowd.”
And it wouldn’t have been a Kick-off Weekend without a contemporary element in the programming. Nicole Paiement led the SFCM New Music Ensemble in a recent work, Grand Central, by alumnus Ian Dicke ’04, in addition to Steve Reich’s City Life. With both works evoking a busy metropolitan sensibility, this concert brought the image of New York to San Francisco.
While Kick-off Weekend is just a sample of what’s on offer at SFCM, the full year includes much more. Operas, recitals of all kinds, master classes with world-renowned artists—there is never a week without an event to look forward to.