SFCM to Host Fourth Biennial Rubin Institute for Music Criticism

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) today announces the fourth biennial gathering of the Stephen and Cynthia Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, a groundbreaking initiative for educational and financial support that identifies and engages emerging young writers in the art of classical music criticism and creates a sustainable funding model for professional journalists at news organizations across the U.S. Taking place October 25–29 at SFCM and surrounding Civic Center venues, the Rubin Institute will, for the first time in its history, include jazz in its lineup of world-class concerts. Award-winning author, critic, essayist, and producer Gary Giddins will join the cadre of industry-leading journalists as guest critic.

“We are thrilled to finally include jazz criticism as part of our program,” says Rubin Institute benefactor Stephen Rubin, president of Henry Holt & Co. and SFCM Trustee. “This was an easy decision to make once we invited Gary Giddins, the multiple award-winning critic, biographer, and filmmaker to join our ranks. Among Gary’s versatile endeavors is a genuine love of classical music. He is the perfect addition to our distinguished assembly of critics.”

“I’m honored that Steve Rubin and the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism selected me to represent—at long last!—jazz criticism at SFCM,” says Giddins. “It will be exciting and illuminating for me to workshop student reviews and participate in panels and even lecture. The Rubin Institute will help advance our understanding of this American-bred music by setting high standards for the way it is reviewed and chronicled.”

The Rubin Institute’s week-long series will feature keynote addresses and a public panel by the nation’s top critics (Writers Panel), and public concerts by acclaimed musicians from the jazz, contemporary, orchestral, and operatic stages. The performances are reviewed by a select group of student writers (Fellows) from colleges and conservatories across the country and abroad, and their work is critiqued by the Writers Panel 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. The runner-up will receive an award of $1,000. Rubin Institute Fellows have gone on to write for distinguished publications such as The Boston Globe and The New Yorker.

Performance Partners

This year’s outstanding lineup of acclaimed performance partners include: the International Contemporary Ensemble (October 26 at 8:00 PM), San Francisco Symphony (October 27 at 8:00 PM), and San Francisco Opera (October 28 at 2:00 PM).

SFCM is excited to add SFJAZZ to its roster of renowned partners with a concert that opens the Institute on October 25 at 7:00 PM. Jazz critic Gary Giddins will present the pre-concert talk.

“The Rubin Institute continues to inspire all of us through sheer quality of program and its dramatic expansion into a hub for professional music criticism throughout the United States,” says SFCM President David H. Stull. “The notion of expanding opportunity for music critics seemed a distant and impossible dream and now it is a reality. I am honored to welcome our partners at SFJAZZ into this program and delighted that Gary can be with us to launch this new initiative.”

“We are thrilled to partner with SFCM and the Rubin Institute in assisting in this important mission,” says SFJAZZ Founder and Executive Artistic Director Randall Kline. “Embracing jazz will broaden the Institute’s reach, serving to highlight and support both student and professional writers in the industry. Gary Giddins is a giant in the field of jazz criticism, and we are particularly pleased to welcome him to SFJAZZ.”

Writers Panel

Members of the 2018 Rubin Institute Writers Panel represent some of the most respected journalists in the music industry: Gary Giddins, author of Bing Crosby: Swinging on a Star, The War Years 1940–1946 (Brown, Little, 2018); Joshua KosmanSan Francisco Chronicle critic; Anne MidgetteThe Washington Post critic and author; Tim Page, professor, former Washington Post critic, and special contributor to Past / Forward: The LA Phil at 100 (Los Angeles Philharmonic, 2018); John Rockwell, writer, critic, and former editor of The New York Times Sunday Arts & Leisure section; Alex RossThe New Yorker magazine critic and author; Stephen Rubin, Institute benefactor and president of Henry Holt & Co.; and Heidi WalesonThe Wall Street Journal critic and author of Mad Scenes and Exit Arias: The Death of the New York City Opera and the Future of Opera in America (Metropolitan Books, Henry Holt and Company, 2018). Members of the Writers Panel will present pre-concert lectures (tickets required) and a public panel discussion (free/no ticket required) over the course of the five-day symposium, offering the public the chance to hear firsthand from those at the forefront of music criticism.

Rubin Institute Fellows

Eighteen aspiring young writers from colleges, universities, and conservatories around the U.S. and abroad have been selected by the Writers Panel through an open application process, marking another first in the history of the Rubin Institute; previously, fellows were nominated by leadership at five partnering schools. The 2018 Rubin Institute Fellows are: Philip de Oliveira–Kent State University; Timothy Diovanni–Dublin Institute of Technology; Hannah Edgar–University of Chicago; Tamzin Elliott–University of Southern California; Peter Feher, John Masko, and Evan Pengra Sult–San Francisco Conservatory of Music; Jennifer Gersten–State University of New York at Stony Brook; Patrick Jankowski and Amanda Vosburgh–Yale University; Alice Koeninger, Rory O’Donoghue, and Parker Ramsay–Oberlin College and Conservatory; Jason McCool–Boston University; Grace Odell–University of Missouri–Kansas City; Madison Schindele–Goldsmiths, University of London; Brin Solomon–New York University; and Alexander Sutton–University of Virginia. Through the application process, these writers demonstrated an exceptional level of intellectual energy and an original approach to criticism, and, collectively, they represent an emerging vitality and renewal of spirit for the future of music journalism.

In addition to competing for a total purse of $11,000, select Rubin Fellows will have a unique opportunity to publish future reviews in a major Bay Area music publication. In a partnership that began with the 2014 Rubin Institute, San Francisco Classical Voice (SFCV) will offer six-month paid internships to the winner and the runner-up of the 2018 Rubin Institute. Part of SFCV's Emerging Writers Program, the interns will write one review a month under the mentorship of some of SFCV's most highly accomplished music critics.


Founded in 2011 by Stephen Rubin, president and publisher of Henry Holt & Co., the inaugural edition of the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism was held at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 2012 and featured performances by the Cleveland Orchestra, pianist Jeremy Denk, Apollo's Fire, and the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE). The Writers Panel included critics Alex Ross, Anne Midgette, Heidi Waleson, John Rockwell, Tim Page, and Stephen Rubin, and special guest panelists Greg Sandow, Denk, and Claire Chase (artistic director of ICE).

In 2016, the Rubin Institute for Music Criticism teamed with the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation to create a new initiative for advancing and maintaining the qualitative discourse on music. Through this innovative approach, the nonprofit consortium partners with news organizations to provide a financially sustainable model for supporting thoughtful and critical journalism across the profession. In the program, news outlets retain complete editorial control over assignments and content, and they provide some funding, as well. Current partnering organizations include The Boston Globe, Houston Chronicle, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Seattle Times, and Toronto Star, among others.

For the full calendar of events, concert ticket, and program information, as well as a “who’s who” guide of the Fellows and Writers Panel, please visit sfcm.edu/rubin-institute.

The Rubin Institute for Music Criticism, the $10,000 Rubin Prize in Music Criticism, and the $1,000 Rubin Prize in Music Criticism–Runner Up is made possible by the generosity of 
Stephen Rubin, president and publisher of Henry Holt & Co.


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