Dear Friends, MelanieSmithheadshotMay2016

This weekend the San Francisco Girls Chorus School will perform its final concert of the 2015-2016 academic year. The concert will conclude with a graduation ceremony for many members of Level IV, who will have passed a qualifying exam and demonstrated that their musical abilities in theory, sight singing and vocal technique have earned them a certificate of achievement from the Chorus School. For some, this may mark the end of their time with the Girls Chorus. For others, it will signify a new beginning.

In that sense, our gathering on May 14 will also be a commencement—a time to reflect on past achievements and celebrate what is yet to come. This year, as I hand out certificates or pins to our Level IV graduates, I will be marking my own graduation/commencement as well. This will be the last time I participate in a Chorus School graduation ceremony, as I prepare to move on from the Girls Chorus this summer, to become the new President of San Francisco Performances in early August. So for me too, this ceremony will mark an end, and a beginning.

This tremendous organization that Ruth Felt, the Founder of SF Performances, has built over the past 37 years is truly a phenomenon in the performing arts world, and I am honored to return to that organization in this new role. For decades, Ruth and SF Performances have led the field in innovative programs, presenting established artists in intimate venues, introducing emerging artists and in creating meaningful and lasting relationships between community and performers through residencies and long-term initiatives that have enriched the Bay Area arts scene. I look forward to building on these successes and working with the incredibly talented and dedicated SF Performances team as we move forward.

But I will also miss all of you, and the work we have done together in the past decade to make the Girls Chorus so strong and vibrant. I believe that the Chorus has never been stronger—with a steady Chorus School enrollment, the financial and organizational advantages we enjoy thanks to owning our own building, the Kanbar Center for the Performing Arts, and most especially because of our exciting, visionary artistic growth and international profile, such as our trip next month to the NY Phil Biennial Festival! I am honored and pleased to have been involved in all of the growth and development that have made this strength and artistic flowering possible. And I also know that I’m leaving the Chorus in great hands—from our visionary and supportive Board of Directors, to our vibrant artistic and educational team, to our highly professional administrative staff, to all of you, our dedicated Chorus family and friends.

I’m sure there will continue to be many new beginnings for the Chorus in the months and years ahead, as we have celebrated the beginnings of so many exciting initiatives in recent years. And as our Chorus School graduates continue to develop their talents and pursue their passions, perhaps by continuing to sing here at SFGC, or perhaps by moving on to other interests, I know they will take with them a deep love and knowledge of music, and the confidence and joy that come from doing something to the best of one’s ability.

While I’ve been in the process of moving on to my next professional and musical adventure, for some reason I’ve had the score of Mozart’s beloved opera, The Magic Flute, playing in my head. The story is about the protagonists’ journey, and the trials and challenges along the way. It’s also about the friends and companions who share that journey, and help to make it easier, and even possible. It’s life, really, and the serious pursuit of any worthy endeavor. So here’s our current Level IV, including this year’s graduates, rehearsing the overture to The Magic Flute, singing it in solfege syllables.

And as a kind of SFGC yearbook, here’s my recap of some of the highlights and exceptional debuts and premieres from this 2015-2016 Chorus year:

Collaboration with TENET, Fall 2016:

Virgina Warnken, Jolle Greenleaf, and Molly Quinn of Tenet. Photograph by Dana Davis.










Collaboration with Deborah Voigt at Davies Symphony Hall, December 2015:

SF Girls Chorus and Chorus School in concert with Deborah Voigt, December 7, 2016. Photograph by

Performance at Kronos Festival, February 2016:

San Francisco Girls Chorus rehearse with the Kronos Quartet, conducted by Valèrie Sainte-Agathe


Standing ovation following the West Coast Premiere of composer Sahba Aminikia's work Sound, Only Sound Remains performed by the Kronos Quartet and the San Francisco Girls Chorus, conducted by SFGC's Valérie Sainte-Agathe.

This is only the beginning of the next adventure, for all of us!

Wishing you a bon voyage, or buen camino,