SFCM has certainly made a strong showing in New York City this month. Only a couple of weeks ago, the Telegraph Quartet—the Conservatory’s quartet-in-residence—performed a sold-out show at Carnegie Hall that drew critical acclaim. SFCM also hosted a panel discussion at the Greene Space that brought together some of the most visible figures in music programming, performance, and composition to tackle the challenges and opportunities in the music world. But this past week has seen the Conservatory’s students take center stage, both at Carnegie Hall and Davies Symphony Hall, with one of the most renowned composers living and performing today.
On February 16, seven SFCM instrumentalists joined Philip Glass and the Philip Glass Ensemble and the San Francisco Girls Chorus for the premiere of a new version of the composer’s legendary early work, Music with Changing Parts (1970), that features additional voices such as brass and a chorus. The program was repeated on February 20 at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco, a presentation by San Francisco Performances.
Both performances received rapturous applause from the audience and critics noted the genre-defining quality of this landmark work, even calling attention to the newly added instrumentation. In a review of the performance at Davies Symphony Hall, the San Francisco Chronicle noted “the sweet-toned contributions of the choral singers and the burnished sonorities of the Conservatory’s brass and woodwind players were critical.”
“It was such an honor and a privilege to work with the Philip Glass Ensemble in New York City,” said Kyle Pompei ’18, one of the students who participated in the performances. “For years, I have listened to and watched recordings of the Philip Glass Ensemble perform Glass’ music live. It was a wonderful opportunity to meet all of the musicians … I learned so much, musically and otherwise, from the rehearsals at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. The performance at Carnegie Hall was especially powerful. It was very moving and fulfilling to see the energetic reaction from the sold-out crowd.”
Another performer, Nicole Hillis ’18, was just as enthused. “This project was an experience that I and, I am sure, the rest of my colleagues from SFCM will cherish forever,” she said. “With a very quick turnaround between rehearsals and performances, things easily fell into place and provided a professional experience for those involved. The ensemble was very welcoming and polite and contributed advice, treating us as colleagues rather than students. Having the opportunity to play at Carnegie Hall in New York City can be considered a stepping stone for any rising musician and I am very fortunate to have made my debut there before I graduate! Davies Hall, although a local venue for us in San Francisco, cannot be overlooked either. Playing in both venues for such enthusiastic audiences was a pleasure and one of the most exhilarating performances I’ve been a part of.”
SFCM Provost and Dean Kate Sheeran was at both performances cheering on SFCM’s students. “I was thrilled to hear our students perform Music with Changing Parts in both New York and San Francisco,” she commented. “The electricity in the air for the sold-out performance at Carnegie Hall and the warmth of the hometown crowd at Davies Hall are both something that none of us will soon forget. In talking with our students afterwards, it was clear to me that they knew the gravity of the opportunity to work directly with Philip Glass, a founder of minimalism. I am so proud of how our students represented SFCM, alongside this American legend and our fantastic neighbors, the San Francisco Girls Chorus.”
While there is something undeniably special about this collaboration in particular, it is a clear representation of the wealth of professional opportunities available to SFCM’s students. Without a doubt, there are many more to come.