One Found Sound, a democratically run orchestra that performs in unusual venues, puts together three concerts a year. On February 3rd, at 8pm, at Heron Arts, they conclude their short season with a program of Debussy, Ravel and Respighi. In other words: they want you to discover some rarely heard music, in this case turn of the 20th century stuff, with a drink in your hand, in a cool space. Arts in warehouse spaces should be supported more than ever; and democratically run organizations too.
We chatted with Sarah Bonomo, clarinetist in the orchestra and a founding member. Sarah graduated, as did many of the musicians in the orchestra, from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she studied with SF Symphony's own Luis Baez.
SFist: Can you tell me about the genesis of One Found Sound?
Sarah: I'm one of five founders. One Found Sound was formed in May 2012. We had a little reading, everybody got together, and we sightread through the first movement of Beethoven's 6th symphony. We asked everyone in the room how they felt about it, and if they wanted to make it a regular concert season project. Everybody was very excited, so we planned the first concert.Then it turned into two concerts, then it turned into four seasons later.
We are an un-conducted orchestra, completely democratically organized on the musical direction on the artistic side. We vote on repertoire. We have a town hall meeting every year, and people come with suggestions of things they would like to perform with the group. We do a majority vote at the town hall and electronic surveys.
The size of the orchestra depends on the repertoire. We have done things as small as eight or nine people. The biggest thing we have done is the March to the Scaffold from Berlioz' Symphony Fantastique, which is about 48 people. We have a string sections of about twenty, then the wind section for that one was really huge, there was twenty something people in the winds. We had two percussionists, they covered all the parts.
We make three regular seasons concerts plus a gala. The people who vote are a core membership of about 30 people. All these people votes on the repertoire for the whole season. Then we take the top choices, and we make the program based on timing of the pieces. We try to limit each concert to an hour of music, so it's not too long and too much. We find out what the top 10 pieces from the town hall survey and we build a season based on the length of each piece.
We thought that these pieces of Enescu, Kodály and Copland would go well together. It wouldn't make sense to put a Haydn symphony with the Kodály, it's too similar. We try to have some variety as well.
Our group is a really special experience for the audience. It's not your average sit-down-and-be-quiet classical music concert. We stand when we perform, and the audience is literally inches away from the orchestra when they watch us. We encourage the audience to have a drink and take pictures and clap in between movements if they want to. We try to make it a very relaxed experience. It's not a concert, but a full sensory experience, trying to make everyone feel comfortable and welcome. We think classical music is for everyone and is highly relevant.
This particular concert is a preview show for the art opening the next day in collaboration at Heron Arts, in collaboration with the BeeHive Society. The kids at 826 Valencia did Harry Potter monsters and artists did renditions of what the kids made. That will be hanging during the show.
Who takes care of logistics, like funding and venue?
We have a time of five founders, and we each have designated business tasks that we handle individually, and we also consult together on. We have fantastic community support. Our organization is 100% funded by our amazing community of donors and audience members. We also do grant applications and things of that nature. We did a crowdfunding campain for our first season that was very successful, and then different fundraising concerts and benefits.
I am the venue liaison. I try to find people that are interested in the same artistic outcome as you. When we were planning our first gala, we were doing a program to showcase the cultural revolution that I feel is coming out of SF right now, through food, visual arts and music. We had a seven composer commissionning project. One of the artists knew the person who owns the space we're preforming at in December, Heron Arts, and connected us. We build up a relationship and it's a beautiful space.
We have to fit an orchestra in it with the audience, so it can't be too small. We've had a lot of success with warehousy spaces. Heron Art is an art gallery, but it's also an old firehouse. It's an art gallery, performance art space. There is a whole community of people here in the bay area. We have been connected to another venue called Monument, another live/work collective, people live upstairs. It's happening all over the place in SOMA.
Heron Art actually very nice acoustically. The owner is really aware of acoustical issues. He bought the space for music and for art. Monument is the same way, it's not a concert hall, there are often acoustical challenges. Usually when you get in big square space with concrete and wood, it's fine. The audience is close enough from us to hear eveything that is going on.
What else do you do, is this a full time gig?
We have a fundraising gala at the end of the year, coming up. It's our third one. We also do a bunch of chamber music events. We have an offshoot of the group, a woodwind quintet called OFSQ (for one found sound quintet) and we do concerts in the Bay Area and act as ambassador for the group. We put together a concert at a secret location in SF for fundraising, it was some Quintet stuff, we did the Schubert octet for strings. We do small chamber events. We did a residency at SFSU as well, it took up our November. It keeps us very busy. We spend the summer planning for the next season. Our hope is to do gradually do more than three concerts a year. As a new concert organization, that's where we max out right now.
You perform classical music in unexpected places. How different is it from, say, Mercury Soul?
We performed in Mercury Soul, it was really fun. It's very different from what we do, it's a club with a DJ, that's incorporating classical music into a club scene. But all these things that people are doing to sorta revive classical music for a younger audience, for people who may not be interested in the traditional classical music concert, all this is fantastic. It's at the heart of what classical music is.