50th Anniversary Season
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.
Keep checking our web site! 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.