SFCM Students Sound Off at San Francisco Silent Film Festival Premiere

barbro osher recital hall

Students rehearse in the Barbro Osher Recital Hall at the Bowes Center

Students premiered a new score with members of the Club Foot Orchestra in accompanying the 1929 film "Pandora's Box" ahead of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival.

By Mark Taylor

The movie may have premiered during the Roaring '20s, but it was today's SFCM students making noise this month at the Paramount Theatre score premiere of Pandora’s Box.   

“Performing as the accompaniment to a silent film was really exciting. I had never done that before, nor had I been in the pit of a theater!” student Jon Lee said. Lee was one of just under a dozen SFCM students to perform at the special event on May 6 in advance of the San Francisco Silent Film Festival (SFSFF), set for July 12 to 16. Lee is a piano student studying with professor Yoshikazu Nagai

SFCM students outside the Paramount Theatre.

Club Foot Orchestra co-founder Richard Marriott composed the new score, which expanded on his original score written back in 1995. The combination of a silent classic film with a modern sound was thrilling for students, “I thought it was exciting to have new music underscore the film, rather than trying to recreate what might have been performed at the time of the original screening,” Lee added. Pandora’s Box stars Louise Brooks, whose performance would later catapult her to worldwide fame into the 1930s, in a dark and dramatic morality tale. 

Louise Brooks in a promotional poster.

“It was so cool to play works by people in the ensemble, and see how excellently the music was crafted to not only match but enhance the movie,” said Eddie Virtgaym, a percussion student studying with professor Jacob Nissly. Students and Club Foot Orchestra musicians spent several days rehearsing inside SFCM’s Bowes Center ahead of the event. 

The collaboration came together after organizers from the SFSFF reached out to SFCM, “SFSFF was thrilled to work with SFCM. The student musicians are top-notch and our festival veterans, musicians and composers who have years of experience accompanying silent films, sing their praises,” said SFSFF Artistic Director Anita Monga. “It is deeply gratifying to be able to introduce such talented young people to the enchanting art form of live cinema,” she added. Students were also compensated for their work with the orchestra. 

SFCM students inside the Paramount Theatre.

This was not the first time SFCM students have collaborated with the SFSFF, but it was a first for many of the students involved, including Virtgaym, for whom it was a full circle moment. “It was so amazing to play at the Paramount Theatre, where in the course of a year I went from seeing Snarky Puppy sitting in the back of the balcony to playing on the stage. What an excellent experience!” he said.

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