The new Ute and William J. Bowes, Jr. Center for Performing Arts does three critical things for the Conservatory: it provides housing for SFCM students; adds rehearsal and performance spaces; and supports SFCM initiatives in Technology and Applied Composition (TAC) and in Roots, Jazz and American Music. The elegant high-rise across from Davies Symphony Hall includes three double-height flat-floor rooms equipped with movable acoustic banners behind wood grilles. Two are beautiful glassy boxes for rehearsals, performances and receptions. One focuses on musical experimentation and acts as a live room for the recording studio. The Bowes Center offers teaching studios and rehearsal rooms for jazz and percussion; classrooms, offices and practice rooms, most of them equipped with electronics and playback to support the TAC program; a restaurant / jazz club; facilities for classical radio station KDFC; and ten floors of student and replacement housing.
The Bowes Center sits on Van Ness Avenue with a view to City Hall’s dome from the 11th floor Barbro Osher Recital Hall. With its inherent flexibility, this beautiful room can be an event space or accommodate audiences of up to 120 with performers almost anywhere in the room. The undulating wood ceiling keeps music exciting but never harsh or overloud. A student resource center that doubles as a board room looks down into Barbro Osher through a glass wall with panes that are angled to scatter sound. The ten teaching studios and rehearsal rooms in the building’s two basement levels are designed with jazz and percussion in mind but can be used by other musicians. The double-height Technology Hall, ringed with custom-designed wood grilles, is designed for musical experimentation and is an excellent live room. Movable acoustic banners behind the grilles let the users modify the room’s sound. Technology Hall and its recording studio are thoroughly isolated from the adjacent percussion studios and from the noise and vibration of traffic, allowing professional level recording. Cha Chi Ming Recital Hall fronts on Van Ness at street level, its double-layer glazed wall reducing truck noise to a whisper. As in Barbro Osher, the lower half of one long wall is covered in wood paneling shaped in a sweeping curve, and the wood grille above the paneling conceals acoustic treatments and movable banners. Across the lobby, a restaurant will double as a jazz club, with a new facility for classical radio station KDFC above it. The rest of the second floor is given over to offices and technology-heavy practice rooms. Floors 3 through 12 offer replacement housing for the people previously living on the site and plentiful new student housing, with a practice room on each floor. With practice and rehearsal and technology spaces just an elevator away, and 50 Oak Street a short walk down the street, SFCM students are well served by the new building.