ArtsGood Works

Funding the Next Generation of Mozarts

By Michelle Konstantinovsky

Opera Scouts, a year-round arts ensemble for students aged 12 to 18, visited Rome in April 2018. (Caroline Altman)

As Bay Area arts patrons prepare to take in the auditory delights of this season’s San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera offerings, the organizations themselves are preparing to give back to the community — offstage. In addition to wowing crowds with world-class talent, the SF Symphony and Opera continue to honor their tradition of supporting local music education programming.

“This season marks 100 years since the symphony established a Concerts for Children series in 1919, and today we remain as committed as ever to education as a founding principle,” says Symphony CEO Mark C. Hanson. “By providing free and comprehensive music education to every elementary school student in the San Francisco Unified School District, the symphony equips our city’s children with tools for creative thinking, listening and for teamwork and collaboration toward a common and beautiful goal. Witnessing the direct and powerful impact that access to live music has on young minds is one of the biggest joys of my career.”

Parents of San Francisco public elementary schools can thank the symphony for providing five consecutive free years of music education for all students through Adventures in Music, and comprehensive support of all band and orchestra programs in the City’s public middle schools and high schools through the Music and Mentors program. The symphony’s philanthropic efforts also extend beyond city limits, with Concerts for Kids, family-friendly performances throughout the Bay Area, plus opportunities for young musicians to participate in the prestigious, tuition-free SFS Youth Orchestra.


— Symphony CEO Mark C. Hanson
Young concertgoers observe a performance at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco. The Symphony’s Concerts for Kids program helps inspire budding musicians.

Down the street, the San Francisco Opera Guild is also hard at work ensuring that the iconic institution continues to invest in student enrichment. “Now in its 80th year, the guild has been a core arts provider to the San Francisco Bay Area, serving more than 60,000 students annually in over 200 schools,” says Creative Director Caroline Altman. “Their menu of K-12 programming includes opportunities for early exposure to opera through visiting interactive singers, performing side by side with professionals in an assembly setting, composing and performing original operas on literary or social justice themes, and attending mainstage dress rehearsal sat San Francisco Opera.”

Another important branch of the guild’s work is Opera Scouts, a year-round arts ensemble for students aged 12 to 18. Through once-a-week meetings, young artists receive coaching and training while working on individual projects. They also attend performances in the community and take part in the teen council of Opera America, the national service organization for opera. This fall, the scouts program will expand to include The Madrigals, a new ensemble for students aged 7 to 11 that focuses on folk songs, creative composition, vocal technique and storytelling.

And, of course, the opera’s lavish season kick-off on September 6 helps to support the company’s overarching goals. “The Opera Ball is a wonderful celebration of the opening of the opera and the community,” emphasizes co-chair Jane Mudge. “It serves a larger purpose in that the proceeds from the ball benefit and fund San Francisco Opera Guild’s education programs, which are impactful and essential in helping the youth of today prepare for tomorrow. They will enter the community as empathetic and caring citizens with a deep appreciation of beauty and diverse points of view.”

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