With the grand opening of a new multi-million dollar facility, San Francisco’s oldest jazz company has recently stationed itself in the heart of Hayes Valley with a goal of reaching out to musicians and nurturing musical appreciation.
SFJAZZ, a nonprofit which pushes the celebration of the jazz craft, will offer a full calendar of live performances as well as offering classes in the foundations of jazz, digital labs and a masters class at the new location.
“Jazz is not about age, it is about people. When you look at the bands we have playing for us, they’re all from varying backgrounds and ages. That is the beautiful thing about jazz; anybody can play it,” Marshall Lamm, spokesman for SFJAZZ, said.
SFJAZZ began in 1983 as a weekend jazz festival, Jazz in the City. The doors opened Jan. 21 for tours and SFJAZZ had its historic opening night Jan. 23, with iconic master of ceremonies, Bill Cosby and performers such as McCoy Tyner, Chick Corea and the SFJAZZ Collective. Performances were sold out for the first opening week.
The new building is at home amongst its neighbors, the San Francisco Symphony and Opera House.
“SFJAZZ Collective has rented spaces all around the city,” Lamm said. “The location of SFJAZZ was crucial. Hayes Valley is a very centrally located area with BART and MUNI both accessible and lots of neighborhoods.”
Architect Mark Cavagnero, whose work includes the de Young Museum in San Francisco, designed the SFJAZZ building. The building is the first in the United States that is solely dedicated to jazz music and education, according to SFJAZZ’s website.
“The design of the building was carefully considered. When you look across the street at Davies Symphony Hall, it is all cement,” Lamm said. “The glass structure here brings the people from the outside, inside.”
The center has two auditoriums, one which can be viewed from the street level through the large glass windows.
“We want to lower the intimidation level,” said Lamm.
Elaine Robertson, a San Francisco Symphony employee, speculates that SFJAZZ will bring more culture to Hayes Valley.
“I think that the SFJAZZ and San Francisco Symphony have different audiences but it is a great thing to bring more art into the neighborhood,” Robertson said.
Others, such as Biagio Costiglio, manager at the Grove Hayes, expect business to improve because of the new addition.
“I think SFJAZZ will be great for business. I have been holding interviews all this week. Business is going to go up, lots of businesses on the block are doing the same I think,” Costiglio said.
Danny Grewen is a San Francisco resident and local trombone player playing with the San Francisco Bourbon Kings. He believes that the influx of musicians will help preserve the aging genre in the city.
“The whole point behind SFJAZZ is to keep jazz in the city so locals have a place to play music,” Grewen said.
While many are excited about the long awaited opening, others are displeased with the way the jazz club is being managed.
A local technician union, the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE), who has worked alongside SFJAZZ for 30 years, is protesting the opening of the venue. They claim the organization is no longer willing to work with union workers.
Mathan Holguin, a member of IATSE who has worked with SFJAZZ in the past, feels that the company doesn’t want to work with union workers anymore, even though they have stated that they are not anti-union.
“We have worked alongside SFJAZZ for 30 years. We helped them make a lot of money. We were mutually beneficial to each other and now they have a beautiful new building, but they are kicking us out because we are (a) union,” Holguin said. “This will affect all unions, including musicians unions.”
Future events include a sold out concert honoring George Gershwin’s work, Feb. 1, Rebeca Mauleón and Afro Kuban Fusion, Feb. 2 and Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers/Hot Club of San Francisco, Feb. 3.