Located within one of the most culturally diverse and artistic cities in the world, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music connects students to some of the best musical talent and facilities in the country.
The San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Ballet, and San Francisco Opera are only a few steps from campus, allowing for frequent collaborations with SFCM undergraduates representing a broad range of musical disciplines.
At the least, students frequently receive free tickets to attend various concerts. It shouldn’t be surprising to learn that a city known for its natural beauty also offers unique outdoor musical events, such as the Opera in the Park series at Golden Gate Park.
Inspiration is rarely in short supply, as SFCM is also close to various museums and international neighborhoods like Chinatown and Little Italy.
The de Young Museum houses global masterpieces in sculpture, paintings, and other mediums, and SFCM students can enjoy free concerts at the museum on Friday nights.
Outside of the countless amenities that come with attending school in San Francisco, the SFCM participates in a range of interdisciplinary partnerships with entities like the Global Brain Health Initiative and UC San Francisco.
One of their recent lecture series – entitled Jazz, Equity, and Brain Health – seeks to unite community members through examination of jazz as it relates to expressing empathy and resilience.
SFCM originated as a piano school in 1917, serving only four pupils in the renovated home of the founder’s parents’ small home.
Since then, it has evolved to become the best music college in California, with courses taught by a dynamic group of acclaimed faculty members who have performed and led ensembles all over the world.
San Francisco Conservatory of Music Acceptance Rate
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music’s acceptance rate is currently 45%.
Ranked #9 in the 20 Best Musical Conservatories in the US, it is no shock that SFCM is a top choice for applicants pursuing a career in composition, conducting, voice, and other musical majors.
The admissions team at SFCM typically receives between 400 and 500 applications from first-time, first-year students, resulting in an admitted cohort of 150 to 250.
The most important factors taken into consideration by admissions officers include the student’s application essay responses, letters of recommendation, expressed level of interest, and of course, talent.
So how does one convey one’s interest and talent in a meaningful way? In addition to submitting conventional application materials, candidates also complete a prescreening audition.
For the fall semester, applications and prescreening auditions may be submitted between September 15 and December 6.
From there, prescreening interview invitations or admission denials are sent on December 22. In-person auditions and interviews take place from January through March.
Hopeful applicants may also apply to commence studies in the spring term. In this case, applications and final auditions are expected between September 15 and November 1.
Between November 15 and 30, SFCM conducts additional interviews or auditions via Zoom or in person.
San Francisco Conservatory of Music GPA
Students need to have at least a 2.5 GPA to avoid being accepted on “Academic Probation” status.
If your GPA is higher than 2.5, your grades are likely acceptable for admission to SFCM. That being said, GPA has a minimal impact on one’s admission decision. As mentioned in the previous section, SFCM emphasizes musicianship, audition, prescreening recordings, and other application materials when deciding whom to accept.
Audition requirements depend on the intended program of study – some candidates will perform an arrangement using their instrument while others will sing a section of a song.
Other application materials include written responses to essay prompts and an application fee. The two writing prompts ask applications to elaborate on their career goals and discuss how they have used music (or other means) as a catalyst for contributing to their respective communities.
Applicants also have the chance to submit a video in which they name their favorite artist or musician and describe how that person has impacted their personal and professional development. Limited to 60 seconds maximum, the video will not be factored into a student’s admission decision at SFCM; rather, its purpose is to help the faculty get to know the student on a deeper level.
While the application fee of $110 may seem inordinately high, there are several ways to reduce or eliminate it significantly.
Students demonstrating financial hardship can file the appropriate forms to waive the fee, and any current students or alumni of SFCM’s collegiate, pre-college, or continuing education departments are exempt from paying the fee.
To decrease the fee to $60, applicants should plan to attend a campus visit, college fair, or another SFCM information session (either virtual or in-person).
The final two application materials include copies of unofficial transcripts from all previous high schools attended, as well as two or three letters of recommendation. At least one of the letters must come from the applicant’s current music coach or ensemble leader.
Is SFCM a Good Music School? SFCM Ranking
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music is an excellent music school that is committed to evolving its current curriculum and forging relationships with the San Francisco and global music community.
In addition to their #9 ranking as the Best Music Conservatory in the United States, SFCM has also been named the #3 Most Popular School for Voice and Opera Majors and the Best Music College in California.
Conservatory Connect is a long-standing program that fosters relationships with local retirement homes, childcare facilities, hospitals, schools, and other locations that serve residents with restricted mobility. Students sing or play at more than 150 events organized by Conservatory Connect on an annual basis.
Additionally, the Hire SFCM Musicians program offers students performing opportunities at weddings, corporate events, and other celebrations. Within these two interconnected programs, accepted students collaborate with their peers and ensemble directors to create four completely original works each semester.
SFCM also offers career-related opportunities through its Professional Development and Engagement Center. Students can hone their marketing, technology, budgeting, and teaching skills while gaining priority access to available internships in the community.
Notable Alumni of SFCM
The San Francisco Conservatory of Music boasts a long list of remarkable alumni who have gone on to achieve nationwide and global acclaim within their disciplines. Rob Wasserman – a bass player and composer – has won both a GRAMMY Award and a grant from the National Education Association.
He has played and recorded projects with some of the most talented bands and musicians in the industry, such as Bob Weir, Elvis Costello, Lou Reed, and Van Morrison.
Ukrainian guitarist Marko Topchii has already won over 100 awards at the age of 31 in various international classical guitar competitions, which have taken place in countries like Australia, Germany, and South Korea.
Topchii’s success embodies the appeal of a music degree, which facilitates travel opportunities to the world’s most desirable destinations.
You’re sure to recognize Desirée Goyette-Bogas’ voice behind the iconic characters of Betty Boop and Barbie.
She was nominated for the Best Recording for Children at the 25th and 27th Annual GRAMMY Awards for her vocal contributions to “Flashbeagle” and “Here Comes Garfield.”
George Duke was an alumnus of many talents. As a composer, singer-songwriter, and keyboardist, Duke produced 32 solo albums throughout his lifetime.
Out of nine total GRAMMY nominations, he won two prizes for Best Jazz Vocal Album in 2000 and 2001. He was also inducted into the SoulMusic Hall of Fame.
Last, but certainly not least – John Coolidge Adams attended Harvard University and later taught at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
He is one of the esteemed SFCM alumni who has earned a Pulitzer Prize, which he won in 2003 for his composition “On the Transmigration of Souls.”
The composition also earned three GRAMMY Awards in 2004 for Best Classical Album, Best Orchestral Performance, and Best Classical Contemporary Composition.
What Are the Available Music Majors at SFCM?
Students admitted to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music will find a variety of majors catering to their interests in performance, composition, and the study of music history.
As of late, the most popular majors based on degrees conferred are Strings, Voice, and Technology & Applied Composition (TAC). Some of SFCM’s most highly regarded majors include Composition, Conducting, Classical Performance, and Roots, Jazz, and American Music (RJAM).
The RJAM curriculum was developed to cultivate innovative apprenticeships with members of the SFJAZZ Collective – RJAM students frequently perform in San Francisco Bay Area concert halls while simultaneously learning about the roots of jazz and perfecting their improvisational skills in rotating weekly ensemble groups.
Classical Performance is one of the most popular majors at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Strings players frequently attend performances and gain backstage access to the San Francisco Symphony, Ballet, and Opera. Many choose to perform with SFCM’s orchestra, and the school hosts an annual string competition to encourage interdisciplinary collaboration.
On any given day, voice majors benefit from private voice coaching sessions, in-studio classes, and entrepreneurship classes.
Many SFCM voice faculty teach in the Adler Fellowship, a multiple-year performance residency for some of opera’s most promising young performers.
SFCM students pursuing a major in Composition can anticipate regular opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration.
Performers are paired with different composers, and vice versa. Opportunities to play in local concerts abound. SFCM also hosts the Highsmith Competition – the winner’s work moves to the Conservatory Orchestra, who performs it for SFCM students and the general public.
Within the conducting major, degree candidates have myriad professional development resources at their disposal. They spend the majority of their time practicing their conducting skills in rehearsals, performances, and one-on-one instructional settings.
Should You Apply to SFCM?
Musically inclined students looking to attend a good music school should apply to the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. It is rare that news of a current student’s or alumnus’ success doesn’t make the news from one week to the next.
Most recently, alumnus Rogét Chahayed won a GRAMMY for producing the hit track “Kiss Me More” by Doja Cat and SZA. Nominated for seven additional GRAMMY Award categories in 2022, Chahayed has also worked with the illustrious rapper Dr. Dre.
SFCM’s faculty and mentorship are some of its greatest assets, as well as its consistency in establishing exciting field experiences for students. The school recently acquired the PENTATONE record label, which it will use to provide students with tools and avenues for producing the music of the future.
The school and its associated organizations regularly give out honors within their various fields of study. The Rubin Institute for Musical Criticism, for example, awards a $10,000 prize to a student fellow demonstrating great aptitude in the field of musical criticism. Graduates from the Rubin Institute progress to work for reputable publications such as The Boston Globe and The New Yorker.
A collegiate experience at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music is as accessible as it is attractive – 99% of students receive financial aid packages based on need or merit. Such awards come in the form of scholarships, grants, loans, and work placements.
Recent survey responses reveal that the curriculum and professional development resources offered at SFCM are instrumental in their efforts to secure employment after graduation.
In fact, 43% of student respondents from the class of 2020 reported that they were employed before they even received their diplomas!
An additional 33% gained employment within six months of their graduation ceremony. 90% of that cohort is currently employed, with the overwhelming majority working in an arts-related field.