Sunday, August 18, 2013

Center for New Music in the Tenderloin

The Center for New Music, a visionary new arts space, opened last fall in the heart of the Tenderloin District.

The two-story Center at 55 Taylor, a few doors down from the Golden Gate Theatre on Market Street, has been under construction since its inception...

...while still managing to offer 53 different concerts in its small performance hall.

In an explanatory post on their well designed website, Executive Director Adam Fong writes:
The phrase “radical collaboration” has been more frequently used in projects aiming to protect nature and its scarce resources. At the Center for New Music, what we’re proposing is protection for a different kind of endangered species: the creative musician...Here in San Francisco, I’ve felt a strong need for collaborative workspace, affordable rehearsal space, a small performance space for new music, and a platform for administrative support and collaboration. About two years ago, I posed a simple question to my friend and fellow composer Brent Miller: What would we do if we had a space that was all about new music? We started asking other musicians and music presenters the same question. In the fall of 2012, the Center for New Music was born.

Managing Director Miller above and Fong did their homework and planning, but essentially opened the space on a wing and a prayer, with a little startup assistance from public mid-Market improvement funds. After much coaxing over the last year, other arts groups have been moving their offices into the building. The tenants so far include the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, the venerable San Francisco Cinematheque experimental film/video organization, and the Rova Saxophone Quartet.

In the same post by Fong below, he concludes:
As a new non-profit with a street-level space and mighty-big windows, we’re asked almost daily, “so what is this place?” We usually talk about the daytime co-working, the rehearsal studio that’ll soon be built out, evening performances, and member workshops. We talk about the incredible display in the window of experimental musical instruments [currently Invented Instruments by David Samas above]. We talk about being musicians and composers ourselves, about learning, and about sharing lives in music.

What I hope we convey, though, is that we are offering a space for radical collaboration. Why should there be barriers between organizations and individuals? Shouldn’t it be easy for a young performer to meet and learn from a more established one? How else can we possibly learn from each other? This is why our mission statement uses the words “efficiency,” “integration,” and “community.” Yes, what we do in here is about music, but our purpose does not stop there. Our purpose is to build and improve the system that makes the music possible.

The programs we’re implementing are intended to bring in a spectrum of users: we have curated concerts, but anyone can join as an individual member and put on a show. There are private offices for established organizations, but there’s also co-working options for part-timers, and drop-in benefits if you just need to have a meeting or work for a few hours near a bunch of other musicians and producers.

Over time I believe the ethos behind all of this will become more apparent. Our theory is that all of this sharing and collaboration will build a stronger and more inviting new music community, a stronger new music scene, and ultimately more opportunities for everyone.
The philosophy sounds a bit like an updated Henry Cowell, who in his own time helped and encouraged more fellow composers than any other American.

No comments: