SFJAZZ Center Opens Tonight
San Francisco's new $65 million SFJAZZ Center opens tonight, Wednesday, January 23, 2013. To mark the occasion, NPR will have a live stream of the festivities from 8-11pm. Needless to say, raising money, finding the right location, designing and then building such a space in San Francisco took many years from inception to tonight's inaugural.
KQED covered the ribbon cutting ceremony on Monday, January 21:
Last Friday, KQED's Forum hosted a conversation with Randall Kline, SFJAZZ's founder and executive artistic director; Mark Cavagnero, the building's architect; and jazz musicians Adam Theis and John Santos:
Read on to learn more about the center's acoustics and design:
The Robert N. Miner Auditorium in San Francisco's new $65 million SFJAZZ Centeris the first concert hall in the United States built just for America's native musical form -- and that presented some special challenges to acoustic designer Sam Berkow.
He says the hall needs to accommodate a wide range of styles--from solo piano with very light amplification all the way to bold, brassy big bands.
Berkow showed me around the Miner Auditorium a few weeks a while the room was still under construction. Pretty much every surface has some sound enhancing trick up its sleeve, including the acoustical canopy, like a big rigid sail, above the stage.
"There are really only three things you can do with sound." Berkow explained. "You can absorb it, you can redirect it, or you can diffuse it. And the canopy does all three."
Berkow and his crew had set the canopy at just the right angle earlier that day, positioning it so it would reflect and diffuse sound evenly to all 700 seats in the hall.
The goal might best be described as giving each listener the feeling they're in an intimate jazz club, minus the clinking cocktail glasses.
In designing the hall's sound, Berkow got to use a tool not available in a typical symphony hall: a sophisticated sound system built around two massive arrays of speakers built by Berkeley's Meyer Sound Laboratories.
Seeking an Acoustic Balance
Berkow spent weeks working with computers and acoustical software he designed himself to fine-tune the speaker arrays, a task made more challenging because the room is asymmetric. He's put more speakers on the left side, and just three on the right side where there's a balcony.
For all the technology at his disposal, Berkow is at heart a jazz lover who wants the sound engineers at future shows to use the speaker system with discretion. "We're hoping that everyone in the hall is hearing sound live from the stage," he said.
He says the the sound system is capable of blasting the audience with rock and roll, but mostly he expects it to be used to balance the sound. "Letting an acoustical bass keep up with trumpets and a horn section." Berkow said. "Letting a singer sing on top of a full band, and to hear the nuance and interplay of the musicans."
'Go for the Home Run'
Berkow says SFJAZZ founder Randall Klein defined the acoustic goals for the new concert hall early on: " 'Go for the home run. They'd rather fail than go for something mediocre.' "
Everyone will notice if Berkow fails to hit that homer. But even a grand slam may bring little notice.
Cecilia Englehardt is director of production for SFJAZZ. She says she wants audiences to talk about the music after a show, not the acoustics."So the audience is ignorant--does not even think about the room or the sound," she said. The goal is to make " the sound system and the room become transparent. They go away."
On Monday, as the new center I sat a few rows up in the orchestra as the SF Jazz High School All Stars rehearsed for a performance. They weren't miked, and they sounded great.
More on Music
Art Review | May 19, 2013
Don't miss the SFAI class of 2013 and their year-end MFA exhibition at the strange and wonderful Old Mint building. By Sarah Hotchkiss
Theater Review | May 18, 2013
One Helen of Troy was enough trouble for the ancient world. What happens when you get five of them in the same room? By Sam Hurwitt
NPR Film | May 17, 2013
The 12th film based on Gene Roddenberry's '60s sci-fi TV show is the second to star a new group of actors as Kirk, Spock and their crew. J.J. Abrams returns as director, and Sherlock star Benedict Cumberbatch plays the memorable villain. By David Edelstein
NPR Film | May 17, 2013
A director's film memoir of her theatrical family is transformed by surprising discoveries about her parents' past -- and her own heritage. Sarah Polley's film becomes a superb meditation on how we dramatize memory. (Recommended) By Bob Mondello
The Do List | May 16, 2013
Cy Musiker and David Wiegand scout the Bay Area for things to do this coming weekend and turn up orange peels, music on a mountain, and much more!
Less than two years ago, Laura Mvula was a receptionist honing her phone answering skills at music organization in Birmingham, England. Now, she's got a record deal, a lot of critical acclaim, and she's touring around the U.S.
Toliver's music is anchored by the violin, on which he is classically trained. He says he discovered the instrument in fifth grade — and that in a way, it chose him.
In the 1980s, he was Robi Rosa, the lead singer of Menudo at the boy band's peak of popularity. Rosa went on to write hits for bandmate Ricky Martin and develop a solo career. When Rosa was diagnosed with cancer several years ago, some of the biggest names in Latin music assembled to support him.
Host Scott Simon speaks with New York Times classical music critic Anthony Tommasini about conductor James Levine's return to the Metropolitan Opera after a series of health problems kept him away for two years.
Also on KQED.org this week ...
We Need You!
Volunteer during our current on-air radio fundraising drive. It's a great way to support KQED Radio with your time. You can really make a difference!
Enter the New "ImageMakers" Screening Room
Enjoy films from present and past seasons of KQED's short independent film series, divided into Animation, Comedy, Drama, and Suspense.