The San Francisco Early Music Society was founded in 1975 as a membership organization to support the performance, study, and appreciation of medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music. For more than four decades SFEMS has been at the forefront of the early music revival. Through thousands of concert presentations, workshops, ongoing support for artists, and other programs, SFEMS has played a major role in building the Bay Area’s remarkable early music community, making this region into the international center for historical performance it has become.
The San Francisco Early Music Society is a community-based organization dedicated to increasing public appreciation for historically-informed performance of early music.
The Society emphasizes three areas of activity:
- Concert presentations of primarily medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque music
- Education programs that encourage the development of amateurs of all ages and increase public involvement and participation, while supporting professionals
- Services to the community, including communication, outreach, and support for emerging artists
SFEMS produces one of the longest-running and most prestigious early-music concert series in the nation, showcasing the best of what early music and historically-informed performance can be. In cooperation with the California Jazz Conservatory, SFEMS also produces Early Music Sundays an informal Sunday afternoon series in a friendly, cabaret-like setting.
SFEMS curates the biennial Berkeley Festival and Exhibition, one of two major, international early music festivals in the United States, which in 2018 presented almost 20 concerts on the Main Stage, including such legendary groups as Sequentia and Vox Luminis; hosted over 70 performances on the Festival Fringe; and showed dozens of artisans, publishers, merchants, and service organizations at its Exhibition.
SFEMS offers a range of educational programs for adults, children, and youth, including lectures, collegia, and 6 weeks of summer workshops, taught by an internationally-renowned faculty, covering the full range of historical music. In 1994, SFEMS inaugurated the first early music workshop specifically for children and youth, and in 2008 we launched the first workshop to explore performance practices of the Classical period.
SFEMS supports individuals and groups that share our artistic and educational goals. Our Affiliate program, in existence since 1980, has helped numerous Bay Area early music organizations to succeed in their missions. Some internationally-acclaimed groups, including Chanticleer and Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra, began as SFEMS Affiliates. Many other beloved Bay Area ensembles, including Musica Pacifica, New Esterházy Quartet, and Vajra Voices, as well as many community groups, operate as Affiliates, using the Society’s non-profit status for fundraising, insurance coverage, and other essential needs. SFEMS also awards small grants to Affiliates for special outreach and education projects.
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SFEMS does all of this as a membership organization. Our programs and priorities are shaped by our members’ commitments and concerns. If you would like to be part of creating the future of early music, join us in our great adventure!