San Francisco Conservatory of Music
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) is known as one of the premiere music schools in the world. Founded in 1917 in a private home on Sacramento Street in San Francisco, the SFCM has come to be a large part of the San Francisco music community. Currently, the SFCM serves over 1,300 students annually through its competitive curriculum, which includes collegiate, preparatory, adult extension divisions and summer programs. The students and faculty present over 1,500 public performances annually to eager Bay Area residents. These performances, most offered to the public for free, provide one of the finest musical appreciation experiences found anywhere. Additionally, the SFCM campus hosts over 350 Conservatory-sponsored events and nearly 250 more in schools, homeless shelters, day-care facilities, nursing homes and food banks.

With all of these programs, the SFCM had outgrown their location on Ortega Street, its residency for the past 50 years. So, three years ago the SFCM began looking for a new and larger location to house its ever-growing list of activities. In fall of 2006, the SFCM bid farewell to Ortega Street and relocated to the expanded and refurbished facilities at 50 Oak Street, a few blocks from the San Francisco Symphony, Opera and Ballet.

The building on 50 Oak Street was originally built in 1914 as a ballroom and the building's historical terracotta façade, rear concrete façade, 50-foot by 70-foot plaster ballroom ceiling, pilasters, cornices and ceiling ribbons have all been miraculously preserved. To retain and expand upon these architectural details, San Francisco's own Simon Martin-Vegue Winkelstein Moris (SMWM) used its expertise from San Francisco's Main Library and the Sony Metreon to combine restored historic features with new construction. The end result is a new $80 million, 72,987 square foot facility that nearly doubles the Conservatory's original size and places it at the heart of the San Francisco performing arts community.

The new structure was beautifully designed by SMWM to include three state-of-the-art performance halls, one of which is large enough to hold a full orchestra and chorus. Two of the performance halls are styled with raked seating and a balcony, the third performance hall is a flat floor salon style intended for chamber music. There are 44 studios, 14 classrooms, 33 practice rooms, a percussion suite, a keyboard lab, as well as recording and electronic music studios. Plus, the complex includes a 6,500 square foot music library complete with a reading room, listening room, computer stations, academic and administrative offices, cafe, box office and a rooftop courtyard.

Because the acoustic quality of the building was of highest priority during the entire construction project, Kirkegaard & Associates, famous for their acoustical treatments at Carnegie Hall and Chicago's Orchestra Hall, was brought in to oversee every aspect of acoustical design. Kirkegaard's expertise was combined with the talents of the architects, theatrical consultants and project managers to guarantee an excellent building with superior sound.

To achieve the highest sound quality, the structural walls of the building were fitted with hundreds of cylindrical metal devices to assure isolation between halls and practice rooms. These devices are piled tightly on top of one another and are equipped with heavy springs to pull against the vibrations caused by sound. While assuring minimum leakage beyond walls and entryways, the rooms themselves were acoustically tailored for specific kinds of music making. Each type of room, whether it be a teaching room or a performance hall, was engineered and built to achieve and excel in its specific acoustical function.

Furthermore, the architectural features that were restored and re-added to the new construction were utilized as sound reflecting and sound scattering devices. Adjustable absorption systems were added to the rehearsal studios to provide an acoustical environment similar to that of performance halls. Ceiling hangers, which act as vibration control devices, were carefully installed to prevent sound leakage between the performance halls. Special attention was paid to assuring that doors and windows would provide superior noise control. And, because entryways are one of the main areas where sound leakage occurs, Krieger Specialty Products was asked to develop the doors and windows.

Being the first to introduce many of the major innovations that lead the special purpose door and window industry today, Krieger was the obvious choice to guarantee products with superior performance. Krieger began the project by custom designing noise control windows. A total of 59 windows, rated STC 52 with clear laminated glazing, were manufactured throughout the duration of the project. The majority of the windows were 43" by 21" in size, however there were several custom sizes, including 13" by 46", 15" by 46", 116" by 105" and 169" by 45". These noise control windows were utilized throughout the complex at various locations where preventing sound leakage was most important.

In addition to windows, Krieger was asked to manufacture 27 acoustical doors and frames. Twenty-six of the doors, ranging from STC 49-53, were single hollow metal doors. Six of these doors were veneered with plain sliced white maple wood and several were equipped with vision lights. The challenge of manufacturing the doors was in the unique requirements of each frame. The framing specified a multitude of variations, profiles and thicknesses. Each frame was unique and specific depending on where the door was to be installed. Krieger also manufactured one oversized hollow metal acoustical door and frame. The door measured 36" by 107" and was rated STC 45. Both the door and the frame were beautifully veneered with granite.

The building's interior was exquisitely finished with hardwood and limestone flooring and wall decor, stage lifts, superior audio/visual systems, professional stage lighting, and full theatrical and acoustic fixtures including acoustic drapes, sound doors and sound windows, all of which give the SFCM a facility to match the music it plays.

The San Francisco Conservatory of Music has come a long way since its meager beginning as the Ada Clement Piano School run out of a private home on Sacramento Street in San Francisco. After more than three years of planning and construction, the SFCM is once again ready to make history. Continuing its mission to provide an extraordinary education for the next generation of serious musicians, the first orchestral concert was hosted in December of 2006, and residents are looking forward to many more glorious performances in the future.
If you have questions please call us at 562-695-0645
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