SF State student gets production job with Classical Ensemble

When Greer McGettrick was in their early 20s, they played guitar and piano in various musical groups. McGettrick then became interested in the cello and learned to read and write music and studied music composition. 

Greer McGettrick stands over piano being repaired in the Fine Arts building at SF State on Nov. 6 (Photo by Sandy Scarpa / Golden Gate Xpress)

They received a bachelor’s degree at SF State in outdoor recreation in 2005, but music beckoned. McGettrick attended City College for a few semesters and started to learn the very basics of music theory. They realized they wanted to pursue a graduate degree in music composition and took music classes through the college of extended learning at SF State.

“I didn’t know what I wanted to do and what I thought. What I was going to be doing with music has changed and has become more interesting to me,” McGettrick said.      

McGettrick, 37, a gender non-conforming graduate student who now studies music composition at SF State, was recently hired by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players as its new 2019-2020 production associate.

McGettrick was surrounded by music at a young age. This combined with their passion for musical composition and production molded their interest to join other artists and provided the qualifications to be a part of CMP. 

“Like Greer I’m an active composer and it was great that we were able to find someone who had a background and knowledge of music and composition,” said Amadeus Regucera, artistic production director for CMP. “They not only had the prerequisites, but showed super enthusiasm for the process and a passion for music.”

Every year a bachelor’s of music or master’s student is appointed through the SF State Composition Studio Program for a paid educational opportunity. McGettrick’s position as a production associate focuses on administration duties, overseeing production elements, assisting in scheduling for CMP. 

“Greer’s background as a composer is invaluable to this role as well as their experience in festival operations which encompasses all areas of concert production,” said Lisa Oman, executive director of CMP. “Greer’s broad skill set brings a sensitivity to the musician’s needs as well as to the organization’s business needs.”

CMP, the West Coast’s longest-standing and largest new music ensemble, is comprised of 22 highly skilled musicians. Unbeknownst to McGettrick, they were nominated for the position by Steve Horowitz, a board member of CMP and Benjamin Sabey, a professor at SF State’s School of Music. 

McGettrick’s background in music performance and composition led them to plan with co-founder Carlos Jaquez Gonzales SF State’s RGB Festival or Red Green Blue, a collaborative showcase between music, dance and cinematic arts for students to perform in. The showcase made its debut in April.                                                                                    

Music was introduced to them through both of their parents while growing up in Los Angeles. McGettrick’s father, who died 11 years ago, played the baritone saxophone as a studio musician while their mother, who died four years ago, worked for Sony Music Entertainment.                                                                                            

“I’m an only child, the music was very much like a sibling to me,” said McGettrick. “It was the person that was here for me and I got to experience it on my own which was beautiful, but it was also lonely because I wanted to talk to people about it.”               After McGettrick’s parents died, their practice and perception of music constantly changed. McGettrick believes their parents wouldn’t be able to understand the music that they create today.                                     “I’m reluctant to put something so personal into a piece of music but I think the idea of the spectrum is constantly going through my life whether it’s my sexuality, identity, age or ableism,” McGettrick said. Music for them is not defined into one idea and is more than just the sound that comes out of musical instruments. McGettrick’s practice of music has become more conceptual because they want the audience to think deeper about how music is used and viewed. One of their musical pieces called “Let’s eat and orange” consists of purposefully getting frustrated with authority. McGettrick hands an audience member an orange and asks them to listen for the music to tell them when to peel it.

Their musical work focuses on concepts of noise and organized sound, language versus communication within the role of music, form and structure. They seek to understand the different relationships between the audience, composer and the music itself. They try to weave multiple passions into their craft: music, dance, visual arts and working with youth. 

“Trust your gut and trust your intuition that says you want to do something, express yourself in any kind of way and if it’s music pursue music,” McGettrick said. “If dance is what feeds you, then do it. If you feel you need to paint right now, go for it.” 

Despite being given the opportunity to work with CMP, McGettrick is still unsure of what they want to fully pursue, but knows music is necessary for whichever line of work they choose. 

“I don’t know if you can major in something that has fewer job opportunities than music composition,” McGettrick said. “I don’t see it paying the bills, I see it as something that I pursue because I need to and I want to.”