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Caring Causes

Aspiring Musicians, Inspiring Medicine

by Sandra J. Swanson

The Nob Hill Gazette is sponsoring gala events for two beloved and formidable San Francisco institutions this month and next. One makes an everlasting mark in the arts; the other stands at the vanguard of the healing arts.

“How do you get to Carnegie Hall?”

Barbara Walkowski and Teresa Medearis, co-chairs of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s 2013 gala

Barbara Walkowski and Teresa Medearis, co-chairs of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s 2013 gala

One very direct route is the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.  Since 1917, with its preparatory programs for children in grades K through 12—through bachelor’s, master’s, and postgraduate degrees in orchestral instruments, voice, chamber music, composition, and conducting—the Conservatory enrolls about 400 exceptionally talented young musicians per year to prepare and practice for roles as international artists of the highest caliber.  The school’s faculty derives from a distinguished pool of talent, including the San Francisco Symphony and San Francisco Opera orchestras, and many internationally eminent soloists, chamber musicians, and composers.


Being in the cultural heart of the city strengthens the Conservatory’s ties with our symphony, opera, and other arts-and-educational organizations.

In 2006, the Conservatory moved from the “Avenues” to its strikingly imaginative, new $80 million facility in the Civic Center, a three-minute walk from Davies Symphony Hall and the War Memorial Opera House. The building captures the pitch-perfect harmony of elegant gilt-columned Beaux-arts style, matched with innovative performance space—turn-of-the-19th century kicked up to turn-of-the-21st century vibrancy. The New York Times praised the dramatic, state-of-the-art, 450-seat concert hall as San Francisco’s “most successful,” with “near perfect acoustics.” The new space also encompasses a new recital hall seating 160, and the Osher Salon, which seats 120 guests. A library, rooftop terrace, 39 practice rooms, and offices complete the complex, where the Conservatory presents 365-plus performances and events every year.

A very important performance event takes place on Saturday, April 20:  the Annual Conservatory Gala. The evening honors legendary American lyric baritone Thomas Hampson. High notes will include a cocktail reception in the spectacular three-story Conservatory atrium, a concert by the Grammy Award-winning Hampson, who will be joined by various Conservatory faculty members and students, and a post-performance tented dinner designed by Blueprint Studios and catered by McCalls.

Gala co-chair Barbara Walkowski, a Conservatory trustee, says, “We are preparing musicians for the 21st century. Our international connectedness presents new challenges. We are moving from the traditional education model, which was fixated on the past, to take advantage of the increasing opportunities to share our talent with the world.”

Hampson is on the Conservatory’s advisory board and teaches Conservatory Master Classes. One of the world’s pre-eminent classical singers, he performs at leading international opera houses and concert halls and has published more than 170 musical recordings. The evening’s proceeds fund scholarships for eligible students who want to attend the Conservatory. Bravo!


Three decades of important breakthroughs

Driving along Lombard Street recently, you might have spotted images affixed to the lampposts—images other than the usual signposts promoting museum exhibits and performances by cultural icons.  We refer to the countenance of a certain Shinya Yamanaka, M.D., Ph.D., whose visage ran the length of the boulevard.

Ann & Gordon Getty, Gladstone’s honorary benefit chairs

Ann & Gordon Getty, Gladstone’s honorary benefit chairs

Who? At a red light, one could make out the small-print acclaim:  Dr. Yamanaka won the 2012 Nobel Prize in Medicine. What? Yamanaka is a senior scientific investigator at Gladstone Institutes at Mission Bay, which is affiliated with the University of California, San Francisco. His landmark discovery:  how to transform ordinary skin cells—not the controversial embryonic cells—into stem cells capable of building any kind of tissue. Not long ago, such a dazzling idea was sheer science fiction. Gladstone’s breakthrough has propelled the Bay Area to the forefront of stem cell research. “We” can now reprogram one kind of cell into another. Gladstone is a game changer.

The nonprofit Gladstone Institutes originally supported medical students’ research, back in the 1980s. Fast-forward 30 years, and Gladstone has mushroomed into a juggernaut of more than 300 nimble, pioneering scientists dedicated to preventing, treating, and curing some of the world’s most devastating and complex viruses, cardiovascular diseases, and neurological conditions; among the latter, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Bravo!

Gladstone values the best of scientific inquiry, including elegance of experimental design, leaps of creative genius, and seminal discoveries that drive a deeper and more insightful understanding of biology.

On Saturday, May 4, Gladstone presents its second Inspired Science, a fundraiser for Gladstone’s inspiring scientific investigations, the critical research that leads to real-life cures. The venue is the Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco. Ann and Gordon Getty are the benefit’s honorary chairs, and Mary and Doug Scrivner will serve as event chairs. The evening will begin with an amusing Gladstone signature cocktail, followed by dinner and a small live auction of largesse, which includes the prize of a dinner for 40 at the Getty’s. The event will wrap up with desserts and dancing.

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