San Francisco Performances has been a leader in the Bay Area cultural scene since our founding in 1979. With a strong curatorial vision and adventurous programming, we are the city’s premier presenter of intimate concerts and solo performances.
We have introduced hundreds of established and emerging classical music, jazz, and dance artists to audiences, including Yo-Yo Ma, the Juilliard String Quartet, Philip Glass, Wendy Whelan, and the Paul Taylor Dance Company. We also champion a new generation, committed to building a contemporary and equitable repertoire. Performers like violinist Jennifer Koh, tenor Lawrence Brownlee, and pianist/composer Vijay Iyer are moving their art into the present and future, making it accessible to younger audiences while converting many traditionalists to new possibilities. They represent the path forward.
Through our nationally recognized artist residencies, we provide opportunities for audiences—from those who attend our concerts, to public school students who encounter music and dance for the very first time—to engage personally with artists and gain a deeper understanding of their work. And we always aim to provide the culturally curious with an insider’s look into the history, context, and practice of an art form.
Quality, intimacy, access, and connection are the hallmarks of San Francisco Performances. We nurture unique relationships with today’s best artists to create an accessible, warm, and engaging arts experience.
San Francisco Performances provides the world’s best artists space and support for innovation in music and dance, and offers the community a transformative experience and a deep connection to the arts through the timeless power of live performance.
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.