Winter Term, a three-week-long period just after the new year prior to Spring Semester, is SFCM’s incubator for ideas. It’s a space for discovery and experimentation, an opportunity to take on a new project or to immerse oneself in the focused study of a subject. Winter Term 2017 just wrapped up, and this year—its second iteration—students and faculty proposed a dynamic spread of projects, from learning Baroque dance styles to building electroacoustic instruments, all in the spirit of furthering understanding.
SFCM holds a unique place among conservatories as its relationships with Bay Area organizations such as the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, SFJAZZ, and others are allowed to blossom through the faculty and special collaborations in performance and classes. The week-long Music Management for Musicians seminar, led by former San Francisco Symphony executive director Peter Pastreich and former San Francisco Opera general director David Gockley, covered everything from financial planning for artistic institutions to making the most of performance spaces to public relations and marketing to navigating labor relations. Current students and alumni were able to participate in the seminar.
“There's no substitute for experience, and spending a week with the people who have been in the trenches successfully running world-class organizations like the SF Symphony and SF Opera was invaluable,” says Cynthia Ryan ’17. “Music Management for Musicians was a unique 'master class' that not only provided us a rare opportunity to learn first-hand from experts, but also helped us create a network of professional relationships. I was really struck by the enthusiasm and generosity of the instructors. They all encouraged us to reach out to them any time if they could be of assistance.”
One of this year’s hit projects was, without a doubt, the Vienna Horn Intensive. Spearheaded by SFCM’s horn faculty, French horn players spent two weeks learning to play the Viennese F horn. Students put away their modern double horns and worked with guest artist Wolfgang Vladar, a member of the storied Vienna Philharmonic horn section, learning the history of the instrument and how it works.
“The Vienna Horn Intensive was an invaluable experience, from a historical perspective as well as a practical one, to learn more about earlier forms of the modern day horn,” says Kyle Pompei ’18. “Mr. Wolfgang Vladar was a great resource throughout the week while I was able to explore the Vienna horn in a hands-on way. After the project, I want a Vienna horn to always help with playing my double horn!”
It wasn’t simply learning to play the horn either that was beneficial. “The biggest highlight for me would have to be the lessons with Wolfgang,” remarks Elizabeth Antici ’19. “His method of breathing that he described and helped me to try out was much different from what I am used to, and I've been trying to implement it when I practice. I've noticed that it helps me to feel more relaxed physically, and by extension, less stressed mentally. Additionally, it seems to alleviate the back pain that I often experience when I practice sitting down.”
SFCM Voice Chair César Ulloa’s Practical Guide to a Professional Singing Career highlighted the many aspects involved in successful cultivating a burgeoning career as a vocalist. Ulloa worked with students to examine more than just talent and practice. Professional music careers require dedication, patience, and a working knowledge of the industry, and this class offered students the opportunity to learn from someone who has been where they are and prioritize their next steps as musicians.
“César’s career development class was very informative and eye opening,” says Andrew Ross ’17. “The vast amount of information he covered was very beneficial because we never have time to go into depth on these topics during the regular semesters. He provided us with a wide variety of options for becoming a professional singer: elaborating on the topic of singing abroad in Germany, how to obtain an agent, and various ways to get your name and brand seen by the right people in the business. He provided us with extensive information on how to become professional singers. I feel more prepared to start my career than I ever have before.”
These few projects are only a sampling of Winter Term’s offerings. Wei He and Yoshikazu Nagai led a class on musical elements in photography, students looked at art in new ways in Nikolaus Hohmann’s Art History Treasure Hunt at SFMOMA, Jose Maria Condemi and Catherine Cook explored the lives of artists after graduation as working professionals, David Conte and Sharon Mann matched composers with pianists to produce new music, David Tanenbaum’s and Marcie Stapp’s “Torres Project” saw the construction of a brand new guitar by a master luthier, and Taurin Barrera let students explore the art and technique of DJing.
Winter Term looks for the intersection of learning, creativity, and business initiative wherever it may exist, and this short semester serves as the bedrock of SFCM’s curricular vision. By melding artistry, intellectualism, professionalism, and individualism, students at SFCM are given the cohesive learning experience they need to succeed as musicians in the 21st century… and Winter Term ignites inspiration and discovery like nothing else.