2020-21 marks our milestone 50th anniversary season. For 50 years, the Contemporary Players have been the Bay Area’s go-to ensemble presenting and performing thought-provoking and virtuosic contemporary music. For 50 years, the Players have found new and innovative ways to connect with our community and the world around us.
Each week, we’ll share stories about our music, our community, and some highlights from season’s past in addition to updating you on our anniversary fundraising campaign. We send a warm thank you to the many of you who have generously donated and for those who have not yet donated, we thank you in advance for considering a gift in support of this milestone anniversary season.
Thank you for being part of our community and thank you for joining us in the #next50.
As the makeup of the Contemporary Players’ roster of musicians has changed over the years, the group has continued to reinvent itself and build on prior success with the integration of each new artist and colleague into the whole. More than just a performance ensemble, it’s a tightly-knit community of friends and collaborators in multiple settings, whose passion and expertise for the contemporary medium brings them together for the excitement of performing some of the newest – and sometimes most challenging – music that exists.
From the very start, the San Francisco Contemporary Players have strived for as broad an artistic scope as possible. Through intersections with faculty composers at nearly all of the major institutions for musical training on the west coast – from the early connection of founder Jean-Louis LeRoux and Darius Milhaud at Mills College, to sustained relationships with the teaching communities at UC Berkeley, Stanford, SF Conservatory, UCSD, UC Davis, USC Thornton School, University of Oregon, and many more – the Contemporary Players’ mission has carved out an essential role in bringing work beyond the confines of academia, and helping to integrate the latest developments in contemporary music from composers of national and international stature with emerging communities of musicians in centers of learning.
The framework of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players is unlike almost any other ensemble of its kind – a performance group dedicated wholly to the presentation of contemporary music, employing exclusively local AFM Union musicians, and creating concerts that straddle the bounds between solo performances, chamber music, and large ensemble works that utilize the full resources of its stellar roster of instrumentalists. Through the combination of impeccable skill and flexibility of configuration, the Contemporary Players offers composers and audiences alike a kaleidoscopic and varied field for immersion in the moment, and the members of its roster today can speak to that variety.
In addition to its activities in the community, a crucial part of the Contemporary Players’ mission is to open doors of access to the creative process for those in the learning phases; one of the mainstage concerts each season always includes opportunities for pre-professional students to engage in side-by-side performance with the professional musicians of SFCMP, and a series of annual masterclasses brings outstanding musical instruction from members of the Contemporary Players’ roster into various schools of music throughout the Bay Area. At each concert, our series on ‘How Music is Made’ connects audience members directly with composers to hear about the inspirations, motivations, and most important personal experiences behind the creation of their works.
The artistic scope of the Contemporary Players has included commissioning as a major component – even as this essential mission has demanded more in terms of resources leading up to the present day, the ensemble has remained unswerving in its efforts to empower creation and expand the repertoire for posterity. Some of the earliest projects have been launchpads for works of benchmark stature, including pieces by some of the Bay Area’s own brightest luminaries such as the 1992 commission of Chamber Symphony by John Adams. In 2014, the entire season centered around ten commissions, aptly named project Ten-Fourteen. In recent years, the Contemporary Players have made a special effort to encourage the voices of composers in the early stages of their careers with a focus on California-based composers to create and amplify the context around their work. As of the 2020-21 season, the Players have performed just over 1300 pieces, by 611 composers, 263 premieres, and 91 commissions including Earle Brown, John Cage, John Adams, George Crumb, Mario Davidovsky, Fred Frith, Gabriela Ortiz, Mel Powell, Olly Wilson, Julia Wolfe, Du Yun, Myra Melford, Michael Gordon, Caroline Shaw, Tyshawn Sorey, and so many more.
As the ensemble’s level of activity and reputation has grown over the years, the reach and influence of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players has extended throughout California and around the globe. The Contemporary Music Players are a 2018 awardee of the esteemed Fromm Foundation Ensemble Prize, and a ten-time winner of the CMA/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming.The group has appeared on leading festivals and concert series such as SF Performances, Los Angeles Monday Evening Concerts, Cal Performances, the Stern Grove Festival, the Festival of New American Music at CSU Sacramento, the Ojai Festival, and France’s prestigious MANCA Festival, all in the effort to spread awareness of the ensemble’s vital mission in San Francisco and to connect with the arts community at large in meaningful and mutually beneficial ways.
The continued innovation and professionalism of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players has been driven and sustained from the start by an entire community of individuals making contributions in countless and vital ways. Through the dedication of long-time supporters the Contemporary Players have grown into an organization that rests on firm footing and continues to benefit from the ardent contributions of individual sustainers and grant foundations, directly touching the lives of audience and community members in the Bay Area and beyond.
From the outset, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players has been a driving force in the creation of new trends in American music, helping to create a distinctive west coast school of composition. By partnering with famed composers like Earle Brown, Morton Feldman, Lou Harrison, Olly Wilson, and John Cage, to the leading voices of successive generations like John Adams, Julia Wolfe, and Du Yun, the group has served as a workshopping ensemble and lightning rod for ideas that have helped shape the music of the last several decades, in the Bay Area and the U.S., and elsewhere across the world.
SFCMP was founded by Jean-Louis LeRoux, Marcella DeCray and Charles Boone in March 1971 and incorporated as a nonprofit in 1974. Founders Charles Boone, Jean-Louis LeRoux and Marcella DeCray built an ensemble and organization dedicated to music that pushes boundaries, redefines expectations, innovates and comments on the world in which we live. From a series of ‘bring your own pillow’ concerts where audience members sat on the floor, to the presentation of decades worth of concerts in key venues throughout the Bay Area and beyond, the same motivation has driven the work of the ensemble from its earliest efforts to the present day: to advance the cause for new music, to build new audiences, and to provide living composers with those crucial first opportunities in the early lives of their works.
Our celebratory 50th Anniversary Season continues, and so does our focus on the phenomenal musicians that make up the SF Contemporary Music Players! Oboist Sarah Rathke maintains a busy and enthusiastic performance presence in Northern California and beyond, as a member of the Sacramento Philharmonic and Chamber Orchestras and a regular performer with the symphonies of Marin, Fremont, Santa Rosa, Vallejo, California, Berkeley, Monterey and Santa Cruz. She was a member of the Avenue Winds, a Bay Area woodwind quintet committed to new music, and has also has performed with various orchestras including the San Francisco Symphony and the San Francisco Ballet. Born into a musical family in Alberta, Canada, and a lifelong new music enthusiast, Sarah received her B.M. from Northwestern University where she studied with Ray Still, and her M.M. from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music under John DeLancie. Rathke is a Professor of Oboe at U.C. Berkeley, and joined SFCMP in 2012.
Flute player Tod Brody is principal flutist with SFCMP, as well as with local new music groups Earplay, Eco Ensemble, and The Empyrean Ensemble, with an extensive career that has included performances of numerous world premieres and many recordings. He is also principal flutist of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, the Sacramento Opera, and the California Musical Theater, and makes frequent appearances with the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet orchestras, and in other chamber and orchestral settings throughout the region. Active as an instructor, Tod teaches flute and chamber music at the University of California, Davis. In addition to performing and teaching, Tod is an active arts administrator, currently serving as Executive Director of the Marin Symphony, and he joined SFCMP in 1997.
Peter Wahrhaftig is Principal Tubist of the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, and is a founding member of the Grammy-nominated Bay Brass. He appears frequently with the San Francisco Opera, the Oakland-East Bay Symphony and numerous other local organizations, both in concert and in recordings, including those of Alvin Curran, Christian Wolff, and electro-acoustic composer Chris Brown. Past engagements have been with the Israel Philharmonic, the Chicago Symphony, the St. Louis Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, the Ringling Brother-Barnum and Bailey Circus, and heavy metal legends Metallica. In addition to his performance career, Wahrhaftig has performed on the soundtracks of numerous movie and video games. An Oakland native, Peter received his degree from Northwestern University, where he studied with Arnold Jacobs, and has also studied with Floyd Cooley. He can be heard on Alvin Curran’s eclectic CD Animal Sounds, and he now teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, U.C. Berkeley, and privately in the Bay Area. Peter joined SFCMP in 1982.
This week, we’re featuring clarinetist and composer Peter Josheff who has been on the front lines of the northern California new music scene for more than thirty years. He is a founding member of Earplay and Sonic Harvest, and is a core member of The Empyrean Ensemble (UC Davis), the Eco Ensemble (UC Berkeley), and the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra. He performs frequently with Opera Parallele and has worked with many other groups including Other Minds, West Edge Opera, Melody of China, the Ives Collective, Mills College Contemporary Performance Ensemble, the Paul Dresher Ensemble, and Composers, Inc. He has appeared on numerous recordings on the Albany, Bridge, Centaur, Innova, Arabesque, CRI, Rastascan, Tazdik, and Electra record labels. He joined the SF Contemporary Players roster in 1999.
Double bassist Richard Worn has been a member of the SF Contemporary Players since 2002, and also performs extensively with the San Francisco Opera and SF Symphony. With his Worn Chamber Ensemble, founded in 1996, he has performed works for both solo bass and ensemble by such composers as Andriessen, Cage, Harrison, Henze, Revueltas, Scelsi, Varese, and Xenakis. Richard holds degrees in double bass from California State University, Northridge and the New England Conservatory, and currently teaches and provides orchestral coaching at UC Berkeley.
Harpist Meredith Clark is a San Francisco-based artist whose varied interests have taken her all over the world to perform. Recent performance highlights include appearing as Guest Principal Harpist with the San Francisco Symphony at Carnegie Hall, a residency at the Lou Harrison House and soloing with the conductor-less chamber ensemble One Found Sound. As a chamber musician, Meredith has been featured in the Other Minds Festival and with San Francisco new music group Earplay. Meredith is Principal Harpist for the Oakland Symphony and plays frequently with other Bay Area orchestras. She earned harp performance degrees at The Oberlin Conservatory of Music and The Cleveland Institute of Music, studying under Yolanda Kondonassis. As one of the newest members of our roster of virtuosi, she joined the SF Contemporary Music Players in 2020.
Contemporary Players percussionist Loren Mach is passionate about 21st-Century music. A graduate of the Oberlin and Cincinnati Conservatories, he has premiered countless solo, chamber, and orchestral works. He teaches at the University of California, Berkeley and is principal percussionist of Eco Ensemble, principal timpanist of San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, and co-founder of Rootstock Percussion. Mach was awarded a 2011 Investing in Artists grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation. Mach’s other passions involve our fundamental relationship to food as a form of communion with others and our inter-connectedness with the natural world around us. Loren joined the ensemble in 2015.
A member of the Contemporary Players since 2015, Hrabba worked as a freelance violinist in Berlin for five years, regularly playing with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, Deutsche Oper, and Deutsche Symphonieorchester. Hrabba also participated in a world tour with the Icelandic pop artist Björk, and a tour of Germany with violinist Nigel Kennedy. Joshua Kosman of the SF Chronicle has praised her performances, and called her violin playing “delicate but fervent.” In 2004, Hrabba moved to New York, playing on a regular basis with the Metropolitan Opera, New York City Opera, Orchestra of St. Luke’s and New Jersey Symphony Orchestra among other orchestras. She also played with the Either/Or ensemble in NY in close collaboration with Helmut Lachenmann. Since August 2008, Hrabba has been based in Berkeley, California, where she performs as a soloist and with various ensembles including New Century Chamber Orchestra, The Empyrean Ensemble, the Eco Ensemble. Hrabba is currently a Violin Lecturer at UC Berkeley and at Mills College.
Trombonist Brendan Lai-Tong is a lifelong appreciator of all things that create sound. As a versatile performer, he collaborates with a myriad of ensembles spanning multiple genres of music including classical, contemporary avant-garde, rock, jazz and reggae. Throughout his career, he has had the opportunity to perform with world-class ensembles including the San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet, sfSound, ECO Ensemble and the Paul Dresher Ensemble. Additionally, Brendan enjoys imparting music to future generations through the Oakland Symphony’s MUSE Program: a multi-component music education and enrichment initiative that serves young people at public schools and community sites throughout Oakland. Brendan studied trombone with Mark Lawrence, former principal trombonist of the San Francisco Symphony; and Tim Conner and Hugh Harbison, the principal and bass trombonists of the Florida Philharmonic. He is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the University of Miami, and joined the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players in 2020 as one of our newest members.
Pianist Kate Campbell performs frequently as a soloist and chamber musician specializing in contemporary music and interdisciplinary projects. She is at home with styles ranging from thorny modernism to “sleek and spirited” minimalism (San Francisco Chronicle). She is the pianist for Eco Ensemble in Berkeley, and co-founder and pianist of the interdisciplinary duo K A T E S, which intertwines new solo piano music with new dance. She is also one of the founding organizers for Omaha Under The Radar Festival, featuring new music, dance, and theater in her hometown of Omaha, Nebraska. Her recordings can be heard on New Amsterdam Records, Pinna Records, and New Focus Recordings. As an in-demand collaborative pianist, Kate has had the pleasure of working with many of the Bay Area’s top institutions, including the San Francisco Girls Chorus, West Edge Opera, UC Berkeley, Sacred & Profane, San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and at Mills College, where she serves on the faculty. Kate joined SFCMP in 2013.
Originally from Massachusetts, Adam Luftman is currently the Principal Trumpet of both the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet Orchestras. Prior to moving to SF in 2007, Adam held positions with the Baltimore Symphony, New World Symphony in Miami, and Civic Orchestra of Chicago. He has been a featured soloist with a number of orchestras across the country and is member of the National Brass Ensemble and The Bay Brass. An active and passionate educator, Adam is currently on the faculties of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, UC Berkeley, and San Francisco State University. He has presented masterclasses all over the country including at The Curtis Institute of Music, New England Conservatory, Cleveland Institute of Music, New World Symphony, and Tanglewood. He is an honors graduate of the Cleveland Institute of Music and the Interlochen Arts Academy, and joined SFCMP in 2010.
One of the most recent artists of stellar distinction to join SFCMP, multi-percussionist Haruka Fujii has become one of the most prominent percussionists and marimbists of her generation. Since 2010 Haruka has performed as a member of the Grammy Award-winning Silk Road Ensemble, joining a group of international musicians founded by Yo-Yo Ma. Haruka’s passion for introducing audiences to new percussion music has put her on stage with diverse orchestras and performing groups: she has appeared as a soloist with the Munich Philharmonic, Netherlands Chamber Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera, Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Nationale de Lyon, and the NHK Symphony Orchestra. Her world premiere recordings can be found on the SONY, Kosei, ALM Records, and Deutsche Grammophon labels. Born in Saitama, Japan, Haruka studied music at the Tokyo National University, the Juilliard School, and the Mannes College of Music. After several seasons performing with us as a guest artist, she joined the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players in 2020.
A pioneer in the world of low reeds, SFCMP’s Jeff Anderle is helping to popularize the role of the modern clarinet and bass clarinet through his innovative and diverse performances, ensembles, and commissions. He is a founding member of Splinter Reeds, the Bay Area’s first reed quintet, and is also half of the bass clarinet duo Sqwonk, which has commissioned and premiered a significant body of work infusing aspects of classical, folk and popular music into its own distinct style. Through various projects and ensemble memberships like REDSHIFT contemporary music ensemble, the Paul Dresher Electro/Acoustic Band, and the virtuoso heavy metal bass clarinet quartet Edmund Welles, he has commissioned or premiered over 150 works and been featured nationally at festivals and masterclasses, and he is a founding co-director of Switchboard Music. He is chair of the woodwind department at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and has served on the faculty at U.C. Berkeley and, as a member of Amoveo Ensemble, holds a guest artist residency at California State University East Bay. Jeff has been a member of SFCMP since 2012.
SFCMP oboist Kyle Bruckmann’s work as a composer and performer spans from the Western classical tradition into the frontiers of free jazz, electronic music, and post-punk. With more than 80 recordings and a striking array of performance affiliations to his credit (Splinter Reeds, Quinteto Latino, the Stockton Symphony, sfSound, Eco Ensemble, Ensemble Parallèle, and others) he has been acclaimed as “a modern day renaissance musician,” and “a seasoned improviser with impressive extended technique and peculiar artistic flair.” Before relocating to the Bay Area in 2003, Kyle was a fixture in Chicago’s experimental music underground, collaborating regularly with electroacoustic duo EKG, the ”noise-rock monstrosity” Lozenge, and the Creative Music quintet Wrack. He teaches at UC Santa Cruz, UC Davis, UC Berkeley, and at The University of the Pacific, and joined SFCMP in 2012.
Since 2002, musician Chris Froh has been part of our musical family adding his unique skill set to our percussion section’s all-star cast. Also a member of Empyrean Ensemble, Rootstock Percussion, and San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, Chris has premiered over 100 chamber and solo works by composers from 15 countries. His rich and diverse career includes performances with the San Francisco Symphony at Carnegie Hall, Gamelan Sekar Jaya at the Stern Grove Festival, and session recordings at Skywalker Ranch. As a soloist, he has appeared at festivals and recitals across Japan, China, Turkey, Europe, and the United States, and he also teaches percussion and chamber music at UC Davis and CSU Sacramento.
Since 1976–almost since our founding in 1971–violinist Roy Malan has been a leading member of the group, bringing his talent, professionalism, and commitment to contemporary music to his participation in all five decades of our history and mission. Roy’s many other engagements, with the California Symphony, Opera Paralèlle, and as longtime concertmaster and solo violinist of the SF Ballet and founding director of the Telluride Chamber Music Festival, speak to his versatility, tirelessness, and consummate achievement in his craft. We celebrate Roy’s long and distinguished tenure, which has helped to chart the trajectory of the group.
The celebration of our 50th season is also a celebration of the musical talent and personal stories of the amazing musicians of the Contemporary Players, all soloists in their own right. In 2015, cellist Hannah Addario-Berry launched her Scordatura Project to commission and perform a series of new works all connected to Kodaly’s famous solo sonata through their unique tuning of the instrument. Hannah’s unique focus on the music of our time has shown through her work as a solo artist and chamber musician with groups like the Del Sol String Quartet, and, since 2017, as a member of the Contemporary Players.
Violist Nanci Severance has been a member of the San Francisco Symphony since 1982. She has performed with many Bay area ensembles, including the Stanford Quartet, Composers Inc, Chamber Music West, the Midsummer Mozart Chamber Players, and the Parlante Chamber Orchestra, with whom she was principal violist. She is also a member of the Donatello String Quartet, and she is a regular guest artist with the Stanford String Quartet. Over the course of her career, Nanci has performed with the Toledo Symphony, the Cleveland Opera orchestra, the Cleveland Ballet, as Assistant Principal violist of the Aspen Chamber Orchestra and rotating Principal of the Spoleto Festival Orchestra. A native of Michigan, Severance received her B.M. from Oberlin College and her M.M. at Northern Illinois University. She has performed with SF Contemporary Music Players since 1986, and became a member in 2008.
Guitarist David Tanenbaum brings passion and commitment to the creation of new repertoire for the instrument into the scope of the Contemporary Players’ activities alongside his teachings at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Many distinguished composers have written solos for David, including Hans Werner Henze’s guitar concerto “An Eine Äolsharfe” and Terry Riley’s first guitar piece “Ascención” as well as four works by Aaron Jay Kernis and the last completed work by Lou Harrison. David joined the group in 2008.
In celebration of our 50th year, we also celebrate the amazing musicians who through their skill and commitment have defined the quality, camaraderie, and stellar achievements of our ensemble. Two of those musicians are partners and power duo Susan Freier and Stephen Harrison, both well-established on the Bay Area music scene. Together, they are co-directors of the passionate and provocative Ives Collective, as well as active chamber and ensemble musicians and educators with a wide array of activities both individually and shared. Susan joined the Contemporary Players in 1993, and Stephen in 1984.
Since 2017, violist Meena has added her outstanding artistry to the group and become an energetic member of our community. Meena’s professional life has been diverse and varied. She is a co-founder of Decoda—now the affiliate ensemble of Carnegie Hall—which is dedicated to creating meaningful musical experiences through dynamic performances, education, and a quest for social impact. Meena is also a member of Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra and makes regular appearances with the SF Symphony, the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Boston-based chamber orchestra, A Far Cry.
Since 1988, percussionist William Winant has been a part of the SFCMP family and story, and his artistry has helped to shape the legacy of the group in myriad and incalculable ways. A Grammy-nominated percussionist, William is internationally regarded as a leading performer of avant-garde music. In 2016, William was awarded a prestigious grant from the Foundation of Contemporary Arts in recognition for his groundbreaking work as a contemporary percussionist.