SFCM to Host Fifth Biennial Rubin Institute for Music Criticism

Rubin Institute Rasberry

Announcing the 2022 Rubin Institute For Music Criticism at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

Esteemed critics, acclaimed musicians and promising music journalists will return in-person for a week of performances, workshops and conversation hosted at the new Bowes Center.

By Beth Giudicessi 

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, OCTOBER 25, 2021—The fifth biennial Stephen and Cynthia Rubin Institute for Music Criticism will take part in June 16-20, 2022—the first time the Institute will be held in the spring and the first time it will be hosted at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s (SFCM) Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts, a new home for creativity in San Francisco’s Civic Center Arts District.

Founded in 2011 by Stephen Rubin, renowned book-publishing executive and SFCM trustee, the Rubin Institute is the only of its kind and features the nation’s top critics and concerts at acclaimed performing arts institutions. The performances—which will be given by the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, SFJAZZ and an additional partner to be announced—will be reviewed by a selective group of student fellows and critiqued in private workshops. The Institute culminates with the awarding of the $10,000 Rubin Prize in Music Criticism to the fellow who demonstrates exceptional promise in music criticism.

Leading critics, editors and music journalists comprise the Rubin Institute’s faculty, or Writers Panel. The roster’s newest additions include Opera Canada Classical Music and Dance Critic Natasha Gauthier, Washington Post Arts Editor Janice Page, former National Sawdust Log Editor Steve Smith, and New York Times Classical Music Editor Zachary Woolfe. In addition to teaching and mentoring, faculty members deliver keynote addresses and discussion panels that are open to the public, details for which are forthcoming.

“After nearly two years of impact from COVID-19 and in the context of social and racial reckonings, the power of music to awaken our humanity is critically important,” said Mr. Rubin. “We’ve changed during this time—and so have performing arts and criticism. The 2022 Institute provides an especially enriching occasion for lively dialogue about each.” This spring’s program was originally scheduled for fall 2020, but was postponed because of the pandemic.

Applications are now open and are due January 31, 2022. There is no fee to apply and fellowships are all-expenses paid.

As a premier training ground for emerging music journalists, the Rubin Institute is primarily designed for enrolled collegiate and postgraduate-level students from any major or area of study. However, recent graduates from an accredited college, university or music conservatory or those with a degree and employment experience are not discouraged from applying. 

Additional details and information about eligibility can be found at sfcm.edu/rubin-institute. 

Rubin Institute alumni are currently affiliated with the Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, and Boston Globe, among other newspapers. Fellows have also contributed to the Washington Post, New Yorker, and National Sawdust. This fall, members of the fellows network shared insight about how their work evolved in recent months.

Since 2014, the San Francisco Classical Voice (SFCV) has offered six-month paid internships to the winner and runner-up of each Rubin Institute as part of their Emerging Writers Program. Interns write one review a month and receive mentorship from some of SFCV’s most highly accomplished music critics.

In addition to the every-other-year convening for young writers, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation supports an annual grant to the Rubin Institute for the purpose of partnering with publications to employ classical music critics. To date, the Institute partners with 17 organizations, including the Boston Globe, Dallas Morning News, Baltimore Sun, Chicago Tribune, Star Tribune (Minnesota), and the Seattle Times. The publications retain editorial control over their news content and supplement the initiative with their own funding, creating a joint, financially sustainable model for advancing the profession.

“Because of the generosity of our benefactors and the innovative thinking of the Rubin Institute and Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, we’ve seen many outlets not only continue their music coverage during this challenging time, but enhance it,” said SFCM President David Stull. “What’s more, they’ve sustained a quality of discourse and enhanced the plurality of voices in the field. We are immensely grateful and are eager to welcome the critics of tomorrow to our campus to join them."


The Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, the $10,000 Rubin Prize in Music Criticism, and a $1,000 Rubin Prize in Music Criticism-Runner Up is made possible by the generosity of Stephen Rubin.