SFJAZZ Center hosts panel discussion and live performance 

Ballet, the opera and now blue notes.

San Francisco is poised to add to its status as a world-class mecca for the performing arts next week when the $60 million SFJAZZ center in Hayes Valley opens on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

With the nearby Davies Symphony Hall, San Francisco Ballet, Herbst Theater and War Memorial Auditorium, the formerly moribund area near Civic Center is now a culture center unrivaled on the West Coast, according to Len Auerbach, the consultant responsible for the center’s acoustics.

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The area now features the country’s first stand-alone building dedicated solely to jazz, America’s best-known contribution to music, said Randall Kline, who founded SFJAZZ 30 years ago at Herbst Theater.

From those humble beginnings rose the 35,000-square-foot building, which includes performance and rehearsal space and room for student musicians and artists in residence. It’s also the progeny of a proud musical tradition that once earned San Francisco’s Fillmore district the moniker “Harlem of the West.”

Those days are long gone, as are places such as the Cotton Club where jazz legends Miles Davis and John Coltrane, among others, performed. But they are present in the murals outside of the 700-person auditorium and in the green room.

Private donations paid for the entire project, including a single anonymous gift of $25 million.

The SFJAZZ center’s educational programs, which will take advantage of a digital lab and other amenities, will begin in February, said Felice Swapp, executive operating director.

Work crews scurried about Wednesday putting the final touches on the center’s restaurant, but nearly all construction work is completed, said Ed Conlon, senior vice president at San Francisco-based construction firm Hathaway Dinwiddie. The firm built the center and also was the contractor for the remodel of nearby Davies Symphony Hall, Conlon said.

Beignets from renowned San Francisco chef Charles Phan greeted visitors Wednesday, and an eatery from Phan’s empire will take up residence in the center.

Glass, metal and exposed concrete feature throughout the building, but architect Mark Cavagnero’s feel is finished and warm thanks to the Robert Miner Auditorium’s remarkable acoustics.

Many of the center’s opening-week events are sold out.

For more information, visit www.sfjazz.org.


About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has worked as a reporter in San Francisco since 2008, with an emphasis on city governance and politics, The City’s neighborhoods, race, poverty and the drug war.
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