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A new model for advancing music: SFCM, Askonas Holt, Opus 3 Artists, and Pentatone Music

Chaired by SFCM President David Stull, the ߲ݴý Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) heads a unique alliance of leading, independently operated music organizations that share the belief that music is essential to life and education is the best promise for tomorrow.

The alliance consists of SFCM, artist management companies and , and recording label .

Together, their work creates opportunities for students, artists, presenters, and audiences to develop and experience new ideas, expand the recording and distribution of important works, and shape pathways to a sustainable future for the industry and the world.

The alliance acts as a research and development engine for the music industry by enabling professional musicians to take artistic risks on the Conservatory’s campus that might not otherwise be afforded, all while offering students an up-close experience of what it is like to develop and refine inventive forms of performance.

With physical presences in Amsterdam, Berlin, London, New York, and ߲ݴý Francisco, alliance members have access to one another’s expertise in teaching, artist management, touring, presenting, recording, distribution, fundraising, marketing, communication, human resources, and information technology—and to world-class performance halls, recording studios, and accommodations.

We believe that music is essential to life and education is the best promise for tomorrow."

- SFCM President David H. Stull

Joyce DiDonato Performs with a piano during the SFCM commencement

Joyce DiDonato, represented by Askonas Holt, performs at the SFCM commencement

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Milestones of the Alliance

October 2020: Forming an unprecedented strategic alliance that links the leading management company for professional musicians and ensembles with the students, faculty and community of one of the world’s finest conservatories. The acquisition is the first of its kind and creates a new operating model committed to artistic excellence from the training of young musicians to the premier representation of professional artists around the world. Read more

Spring 2020: In the context of an ongoing pandemic, SFCM students and faculty undertake initial projects with Opus 3 Artists. Early collaborations feature masterclasses and residencies, including with pianist Shai Wosner and violinist Stefan Jackiw, the debut of student compositions for Aquila Theatre Company’s interpretation of The Great Gatsby, and the technological reimagination of the centuries-old opera La Clemenza di Tito in a partnership between students and creative producer and director James Darrah. Read more

November 2021: SFCM inaugurates the $200M+ Ute and William K. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts adjacent to the ߲ݴý Francisco Symphony’s Davies Hall. The Bowes Center is home to a dormitory and dining facilities, classrooms, practice spaces, the KDFC radio station, three performance halls, a premium recording studio, and apartment-style residences for visiting artists, including those that are part of the alliance. At the event, Opus 3 Artists Yo-Yo Ma performed and said the Bowes Center gives “students, faculty, and [its] larger family the context for the pre-conditions of creativity.” Read more

December 2021: Robert Berretta named managing director and Benjamin Maimin appointed chief operations officer and director of strategic initiatives at Opus 3 Artists. The pair, who co-lead the management company, succeed David Foster. Read more

May 2022: Distinguished record label Pentatone, based in Baarn, NL, joins SFCM. A month earlier, composer Sean Hickey was appointed as managing director of the organization after nearly 20 years leading sales and business development at Naxos of America. Read more

May 2022: SFCM and Opus 3 Artists announce their joint Artist Apprentice Program, a mentorship initiative that pairs seasoned managers with outstanding early-career musicians and a network of bespoke support for the individual. Sphinx competition winner and SFCM Pre-College student Amaryn Olmeda is named its initial member, becoming the youngest artist on the Opus 3 roster. Read more

August 2022: The National Brass Ensemble reunite to record an album for Pentatone at Skywalker Sound and perform at Davies Symphony Hall, both under the direction of SF Opera Music Director Eun Sun Kim. The events are part of SFCM’s National Brass Ensemble Academy, a week-long, intensive training program for young brass players. Read more

September 2022: SFCM Professor of Piano and Opus 3 Artist Garrick Ohlsson is filmed in conversation with SFCM Trustee Steve Rubin before a live audience of students for an upcoming Pentatone recording, revealing insight into Ohlsson’s oft-praised interpretations of Chopin’s preludes and nocturnes.

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Fall 2022: SFCM and Opus 3 Artists announce new collaborations, including with Canadian Brass, Academy of St Martin in the Fields, and a lineup of star soloists. Read more

December 2022: Askonas Holt is welcomed to the alliance; its chief executive, Donagh Collins, is appointed to oversee both Askonas Holt and Opus 3 Artists.

September 2023: Two SFCM students were selected for a first-of-its-kind internship with Opus 3 Artists. As interns, they will get to see the inner workings of one of the world’s leading artist management companies. Read more

February 2024: Recorded at SFCM and released under the alliance label Pentatone, Lara Downes' "Rhapsody in Blue" features dozens of SFCM students led by Edwin Outwater. Read more. Read more

June 2024: Selected from a pool of SFCM students and recent graduates the inaugural Askonas Holt Touring Internship included experience in assisting touring, production, and artist relations with the leading artist management company. Read more

I now look at the total picture, and I see SFCM pursuing an ambitious strategy that encompasses the entire music ecosystem … No other conservatory in the world has anything close to their presence in technology, recording, music distribution, career development, concert bookings, and even music journalism. And all of this, of course, is in addition to the performance and composition pedagogy that is at the heart of every music education institution."

— Ted Gioia

Author, critic, and co-founder of jazz studies at Stanford University

No music academy has made a significant step towards equipping its graduates for the twenty-first-century real world. With one exception. Over the past couple of years, the ߲ݴý Francisco Conservatory of Music has redefined its central purpose. … The bottom line is that SFCM students can play their way through college, no longer barred by cost or prejudice, finding their feet in the real world two years before they line up for graduation.”

— Norman Lebrecht

Critic, commentator, and author

The sheer talent and power of this new quartet of friends and partners promises to advance the cause of music at the highest level across the globe. It will create limitless opportunities for students, provide a creative playground for the world’s finest artists to advance their ideas, expand our capacity to capture and record important work, and allow us all to imagine and create our future together.”

— David Stull

SFCM president and chairman of the alliance

SFCM Opera performance

Industry Alliances to Support Students and Artists

In recent years, SFCM acquired two leading artist management companies and an iconic record label to reimagine how elements of the music industry can better integrate to advance the human experience through music. For students, that means more opportunities to interact with touring artists and industry experts–including professional development workshops, side-by-side performances, and enhanced masterclasses.

Adam Luftman Trumpet

Thirty-five members of SFCM’s faculty are also members of the ߲ݴý Francisco Symphony, Opera, Ballet or the SFJAZZ collective; three are represented by Opus 3 Artists. SFCM’s renowned teachers include Elinor Armer, Carmen Bradford, Cathy Cook, Jeremy Denk, Bonnie Hampton, Eugene Izotov, Simon James,  and Cesar Ulloa, among many others.