It’s no secret that opportunities for composition majors are plentiful at SFCM. From multiple conservatory-wide awards and competitions such as the Highsmith and Hoefer prizes to recitals and cross-departmental collaborations, students see the premieres of their newly composed works on a consistent basis. However, periodically, a special set of circumstances presents itself and one student is given a chance to write for a unique occasion.
This is exactly what happened to Michael Smith (’18), a student of David Garner. To celebrate the construction of its first headquarters on San Francisco’s waterfront, the Commonwealth Club of California reached out to SFCM about sponsoring a competition to compose a fanfare for its opening ceremonies. The competition saw entrants from all four composition teachers’ studios (Elinor Armer, Mason Bates, David Conte, and David Garner). Smith was selected to write the fanfare, which will be performed by a brass quintet comprised of San Francisco Symphony musicians on September 12 at 110 The Embarcadero in San Francisco. The commission comes with a $1,000 prize.
“I was very happy to have the opportunity to write for this event,” says Smith. “I was inspired by the great fanfares of the past and the power of their directness and simplicity, and it led me to explore the expressive power in a small harmonic and motivic world. I am very grateful that I was chosen to represent the Commonwealth Club of California and the historic opening of their first home.”
“The SFCM Composition Department was delighted to be offered the opportunity for one of our composers to write a fanfare for the opening of the new building of the Commonwealth Club to be played by San Francisco Symphony musicians,” says David Conte, chair of the Conservatory’s composition department. “Each studio teacher put forward a student to be considered and four strong fanfares was the result.”
Gloria Duffy, President and CEO of the Commonwealth Club of California, says Smith’s Fanfare for the Commonwealth Club is “bright, soulful, and communicates the positive progressivism that has characterized the Club’s work for 113 years.”
At its new headquarters, Duffy notes “the Commonwealth Club will continue to bring the diverse elements of our community together in a civic forum, to address tough problems such as terrorism, gun violence, homelessness and civil rights, and to enjoy the arts, culture, problem solving in business, technology and medicine, and learning.” The new building was designed by architects Leddy Maytum Stacy.
Commonwealth Club Board Member Dr. Carol Fleming sponsored the fanfare competition and prize. Bill Ring, another Club board member, is sponsoring the Symphony players’ performance.