San Francisco Performances (SFP) is recognized as one of the leading presenters in the world. Founded by Ruth A. Felt in 1979 with a season of seven concerts, the organization is now in its 38th season and runs under the artistic direction of its President, Melanie Smith, who succeeded Ms. Felt in August 2016. SFP proudly features more than 60 mainstage performances of chamber music, recitals, contemporary dance, guitar, vocal, and jazz in a variety of venues in San Francisco including Herbst Theatre, Davies Symphony Hall, YBCA Theater, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, SFJAZZ Center, the Strand Theater and St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Berkeley. The organization also presents two smaller series; one held at the Hotel Rex in Union Square called Salons and the other held in varying venues throughout San Francisco, called PIVOT. Through the years, SFP has presented more than 100 premieres and San Francisco debuts, introducing such acclaimed artists in recital as composer/pianist Thomas Adès, cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, pianist Evgeny Kissin, and soprano Dawn Upshaw as well as presenting single choreographer-led international dance companies such as Ohad Naharin’s Batsheva Dance Company from Israel and Company Wayne McGregor from England.
Through successful partnerships with artists, Bay Area schools and community organizations, SFP has established one of the most recognized and respected performing arts education programs in the country. Anchored by an artist residency program that brings artists into classrooms and community workshops, the arts education projects help expose new audiences, young and old, to the great performers of our time. SFP’s outreach promotes active engagement with the performing arts, deepening the experience while opening events to diverse audiences.
The Story of San Francisco Performances
When pianist André Watts walked onto the stage of the brand-new Davies Symphony Hall on November 23, 1980, more than 2,500 people witnessed the birth of what is now internationally recognized as a remarkable success story: San Francisco Performances.
From the beginning, San Francisco Performances has been much more than just another arts organization in a city that is a world cultural capital. Founded by Ruth A. Felt and a small group of dedicated music patrons, San Francisco Performances set out with an ambitious program designed to make an important and much-needed contribution to the growth and vitality of an already vibrant arts scene.
In the succeeding years SFP has presented hundreds of acclaimed and emerging international artists in classical chamber music and recitals, contemporary dance and jazz to complement the Bay Area’s own live performing arts.
From a first season of just seven performances, SFP’s annual seasons have grown significantly and now feature more than 60 mainstage performances, and boast a record of more than 100 important debuts and premieres in nearly four decades. In addition, dozens of arts education and community outreach programs that take San Francisco Performances and its artists beyond the footlights directly into schools and neighborhoods.
Artists whom San Francisco Performances has introduced in San Francisco recital debuts include cellist Yo-Yo Ma, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, pianists Evgeny Kissin, András Schiff, Mitsuko Uchida and Ivo Pogorelich, soprano Dawn Upshaw, violinist Gidon Kremer, violist Yuri Bashmet, and bassist Edgar Meyer, to name just a few. Important San Francisco debuts in dance include the Paul Taylor Dance Company, Ballet Preljocaj from France, Sweden's Cullberg Ballet and Batsheva from Israel.
Designed specifically for the community, unique, multi-year Artists-in-Residence programs sustain an ongoing presence throughout the year. The Alexander String Quartet—for more than a decade SFP’s String Quartet-in-Residence in association with San Francisco State University—established innovative chamber music studies for high school students and created an inspiring Saturday morning series with lectures by Robert Greenberg for adults. Other significant education programs developed by past artists-in-residence including jazz artists Regina Carter and Stefon Harris, guitarists Manuel Barrueco and Antigoni Goni, the Stephen Petronio Dance Company, and baritone Christòpheren Nomura continue and thrive.
San Francisco Performances has garnered many awards and honors over the years from organizations including the Association of Performing Arts Presenters, Western Arts Alliance, The Kennedy Center, Chamber Music America, The National Dance Center, California Department of Education, San Francisco Chamber of Commerce and others.
Looking forward under the leadership of President Melanie Smith, SF Performances continues to build on its substantial strengths and successes to engage new audiences in new ways that address the Bay Area’s rapidly changing demographics, including co-presentations with other organizations and presentation of younger artists in new formats and alternative venues.