President’s Annual Report, 2018

President Joyce Johnson Hamilton’s address to the SFEMS board of directors and members at the Annual Meeting, September 12, 2018.

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Welcome SFEMS members to our 2018 Annual Meeting!

It is a great honor, a rather humbling experience, and a huge responsibility to find be leading this wonderful organization as president of the board. I was thinking I had lived a pretty full life before I joined the board of SFEMS. But now I know I was just dabbling all of that time. This is a full life…

At the beginning of this fiscal year and the beginning of my freshman year as president, I laid out a vision for SFEMS going forward. A pretty big freshman year assignment!

At the top of my list was to Board Development: And it is still at the top! “to seek candidates who will bring special skills in areas of finance, marketing, human resources, event planning, IT, and website—Think TTT: Time, Talent and Treasure!” Last year new board members were of enormous help in the areas of marketing, human resources, event planning and finance. Tonight we will add 2 more members to the board who will give us strength in several of those areas.

John Phillips is leaving the board after many years of service to SFEMS. We are so grateful for everything John has done to elevate the Bay Area and Berkeley in particular as world center of early music performance. Performers are thrilled—often announcing this fact from the concert stage—to be able to perform on the instruments John has built and is able to make available for SFEMS concert. He has agreed to serve on the Festival Committee and SFEMS will still benefit from his sage advice and any assistance he can provide in the planning and execution of the 2020 Festival.

We will miss long-time SFEMS supporter Bill Langston who has moved with his wife, Adair, to live in NYC and be near family. He is already complaining about the early music scene in New York.

The Development Committee surpassed its fundraising target this past year—bringing almost $20,000 over goal. We managed to get every main stage performance at the Berkeley Festival sponsored.

We held 2 house concerts—one in San Francisco and one in the Oakland hills during the spring of 2018—which were enthusiastically received and brought in new donors.

Both a Marketing Committee and Membership Committee were proposed by me last year. The Marketing Committee has taken hold and will be helping the staff in directing a many-faceted marketing plan. Today social media and website design and maintenance are primary forms of marketing and messaging. More committees were proposed than there were members to go around. Membership issues are very complicated. A good step forward on membership was the creation of a membership flyer that shows everything that SFEMS does. Many times people who perused the flyer were surprised and very impressed at how much SFEMS contributes to the early music community. The long list of over 30 affiliates was always commented upon as being a worthy project. I have some examples if you are interested. Expanding SFEMS membership, managing and communicating with members and scheduling members-only events continues to be a very important part of my vision for SFEMS.

Our Concert Series in 2017–18 featured 7 programs including local, nationally known and international artists. It was interesting to learn that 2 of the concerts that drew the largest audiences last year were the Renaissance and medieval programs by Ciaramella and Vajra Voices respectively. Our collaboration with Stanford University in presenting the Breathtaking concert with Bruce Dickey and Hana Blažíková at the Bing Concert Hall was very successful, with a significant boost to the attendance. It’s a beautiful hall. The audience was thrilled with the performance and the venue. We have another concert at Bing in February with Cut Circle.

The 6 Summer workshops are one of SFEMS’ major contributions to the early music community. This summer I managed to visit every summer workshop, hearing fabulous faculty concerts, visiting classes, including an evening at the Classical Workshop. The enthusiasm of the participants was palpable. If you want to hang out with a lot of happy people, just attend a workshop!

As I was listening to the Recorder Workshop faculty concert, it occurred to me that we should market these wonderful programs as a mid-summer festival or mini-summer series. They are always delightful programs.

SFEMS’ strong support of early music musicians and ensemble is reflected in the growing number of affiliate ensembles we support as fiscal sponsors. We have added 3 new affiliates this year—The Virtu Ensemble, Nash Baroque, and the Peralta Consort. That brings our total number of affiliates to 33.

We are just coming down from the high we experience every 2 years from presenting the Berkeley Festival and Exhibition, fondly known as BFX. SFEMS creates the enormous organizational infrastructure of the week-long event which makes possible collaborations with local, national and international artists in a tapestry of amazing early music performances.

We owe the existence of the Berkeley Festival to Robert Cole, who had the dream of creating a festival over 30 years ago while he was still Executive Director and Artistic Director of Cal Performances. Since that time he has contributed his skills to create a major early major festival every two years that is recognized the world over as one of the two major early music festivals in the America. The Berkeley Festival has become a revered tradition in the Bay Area. It is an undertaking that relies heavily on the talents and dedication of our administrative staff and for several months preceding each festival, huge demands are made on each member of our marvelous team. SFEMS Executive director Harvey Malloy has spent tireless dedication managing every aspect of the administrative work for the last 5 BFX festivals.

Jessica House Steward, SFEMS Administrator; Craig Hanson, Box Office and Patron Services manager; and Jonathan Harris, SFEMS’ resident writer and editor, are called upon year-round to keep SFEMS programs running smoothly, to keep broadcasting information regarding SFEMS programs as well as the events of all of the early music groups in the Bay Area. I could create a heart-rending oratorio of choruses and arias from the texts of their job descriptions!

This year SFEMS is facing major changes. As you know, Robert Cole is retiring as Berkeley Festival Artistic Director. We will be conducting a search for a new artistic director in the immediate future.

Our present Executive Director, Harvey Malloy, has also recently announced that he will be stepping down from his position on October 1. A Search Committee has been formed and is already working diligently to create an interim plan during the search for an executive director and candidates to fill the position of Festival director. I have the agreement of distinguished colleagues on the West Coast who are willing to serve on an artistic advisory committee for the 2020 festival. Both Robert Cole and John Phillips have agreed to remain on the Festival committee. Festival planning for 2020 will commence as soon as our Executive Director search is launched, which is very soon.

If you have questions, suggestions, complaints, good gossip, hilarious jokes—call me, email me, find me at a concert.

During the Festival people would stream into Saint Mark’s, gradually filling most of the seats. Then, just before the performers entered, I would notice a feeling of quiet excitement and anticipation settle over the whole audience. Over and over throughout the Festival, our musicians etched beautiful performances on this shimmering canvas of breathless expectation. It’s no wonder that early music performers love to play for our audiences. There is such a strong connection between our audience and the performers—so many human souls together tapping into ancient musical traditions and drawing inspiration from hearing music in historical context.

The music is restorative! Whatever else is going on in my life, it always comes back to the music where I find the center of my being. Most of you here are musicians, players, singers, writers, artists, poets….you know how your art draws you in and gives meaning to your life. You are getting back as much as you are giving. There is an endless cycle of giving and receiving. The depth of your giving comes back in the joy of receiving. Last Sunday I watched my 5-year-old granddaughter in our back yard joyously creating paintings one after another and excitedly telling me all about each one.

It should be a human right to experience this feeling. That’s why the arts deserve to be supported. That’s why SFEMS deserves to be supported.

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Written by Jonathan Harris
San Francisco Early Music Society