When I read Richard Scheinin’s article yesterday about the next San Francisco Symphony season I was dismayed to read that they would be playing in the Symphony Silicon Valley territory. It’s disturbing, frustrating and, to be honest, a bit scary.

I realize a lot of folks I know would just laugh at me; they also don’t mind Starbucks moving in right across from a mom & pop coffee joint. But what can I say? I don’t like seeing the Big Boys move in on us smaller folk. And I also cringe because I know—I’ve heard, so I’m not making this up—San Franciscans think of us as the inferior people living at the bottom of their hill.

Today Richard Scheinin has another article that talks about this issue. It’s an interesting read, and it pointed out that not only will the San Francisco Symphony be playing a free outdoor concert, but their youth symphony is moving into the California Theatre for a concert as well. So now San Jose Youth Symphony is being intruded upon as well.

(Side note: the quote on the front page of SJYS should be credited in my little opinion. The first sentence, “Music begins where words end”, is not originally from Mr. Samet but, from what I read, Goethe. I wonder if anyone realized that!? Do a search on the sentence and you’ll find that a good number of people use it without even hinting it’s not their own creation. Then again, there’s this: “When words leave off, music begins,” credited to Heinrich Heine and “Where words fail, music speaks,” attributed to Hans Christian Andersen. Hmmm. Maybe I shouldn’t worry about the first quote after all? Seems that a lot of folks are saying the same thing. in slightly different ways.)

But back to my original ramble …

Mr. Scheinin writes:

Still, the San Francisco Symphony has a long history of going on the road in this region. Going back to 1918, it performed at San Jose’s Victory Theater, and at various times through the decades at the San Jose Civic Auditorium and Stanford University’s Frost Amphitheater — where the San Francisco Opera recently piped in a big-screen, live simulcast of Verdi’s “Rigoletto.'”

I’ve not heard of them being in San Jose since I’ve been playing professionally (my professional career began in 1974). In 1918 the San Jose Symphony (RIP) was, from all I’ve read, an amateur group. When I joined it was only becoming what it finally ended up being: a very good regional orchestra. Certainly San Francisco Symphony has played at Flint Center for a long while. Flint Center is in Cupertino. Fine. I can accept that. We played there for a while but I’m just fine with the California Theatre.

Over at City Hall (San Jose) Kim Walesh states:

“You’ve got a world-class symphony that’s actively recruited by great cities and venues all over the world, and if they want to play a free concert downtown that helps to build an audience for classical music, that’s welcome.”

Maybe so. Maybe people will go hear the freebie and say, “Gee, we love classical music after all. But we would prefer to support our own Symphony Silicon Valley and don’t want to drive up to San Francisco. Or maybe the San Francisco folks will say, “Look what a large crowd we have here! We should move to the California Theatre.” Ya think? (Surely they aren’t coming down here merely to give to the community ..? Or maybe they are. Guess time will tell.)

And maybe our new city government will actually care about “their” symphony too. Could that happen? I can dream, can’t I?

We in the Symphony Silicon Valley scrape by. We all have other gigs or even other careers. I teach. I play in Opera San José. I play for AMTSJ. I freelance. And I still don’t make enough to live on. Once San Francisco Symphony moves in on San Jose I fear that San Joseans who still live with the “they are a better and more cultural city” mentality will go over to the SF side.

I hope I’m wrong, of course.


  1. Hmmm…. I’m pretty wary of this, too.  We’re just not that far removed from San Francisco.  It seems that many people think “we have a world-class symphony/opera/ballet/etc. just a few miles to the north” and would rather drive up there than see the work we’re doing in San Jose.  Thankfully, OSJ is doing well (but wouldn’t it be great to do more?).  And the Symphony is making great strides, but is nowhere near where it was at the heydey of the SJS (in terms of number of performances and audience size).  We want to build that audience, and I’m afraid that free performances by SF groups will just convince people to go to SF.

    So basically, I agree with you.  🙂  And I hope we’re both wrong.

  2. Patricia Mitchell

    I DO so hope we are wrong!

    What purpose does SFS coming here serve but to draw from our city’s population? Surely they aren’t doing this just out of the kindness of their little hearts. I’m sure they see that we do fewer concerts than San Jose Symphony (RIP) did, so some might go up there just to get more, and we also completely lost some patrons because they were angry at the symphony when it folded; they lost money due to their ticket purchases and they also felt that we should have hired Grin for the new group.

    Ah well. I’m worried, but I guess I can’t worry too much … doesn’t do any good!