2019-20 Season Announced!

Left Coast is thrilled to invite you to our 27th season. Season tickets are on sale now.

Set 1: Changing and Unchanging Things

To open our season we dive into Japanese culture and its intersection with western classical music with Sharaku Unframed, a micro-opera by Hiroya Miura featuring virtuoso shamisen player Hidejiro Honjo. The work explores the mysteries surrounding 18th Century Japanese woodblock artist Toshusai Sharaku. A new chamber work from Karen Tanaka is inspired by the Asian Art Museum's Changing and Unchanging Things exhibit--about Noguchi and Hasegawa, two artists who explored intersections of Japanese and Western visual art. This is paired with music of Debussy, famously inclined toward Japanese music.

Karen Tanaka – Wind Whisperer for flute, viola, harp WORLD PREMIERE
Claude Debussy – Trio for flute, viola, harp
Dai Fujikura – Neo
Hiroya Miura – Sharaku Unframed, a micro opera WORLD PREMIERE

Saturday, October 5, 2019, 1:00pm, Salon Event and Talk at the
San Francisco Asian Art Museum

San Francisco
Saturday, October 5, 2019, 7:30 PM
SF Conservatory Concert Hall, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco

Sunday, October 6, 2019, 7:30 PM
The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley 

Get details 

Set 2: Air From Other Planets

Schoenberg's Second String Quartet, an exquisite work from 1908, broke new ground in a variety of ways. The most striking innovation is the addition of a soprano for the last two movements. The texts are Stefan George's poems "Litany," about faltering faith, and "Rapture," about transcendence, which begins "I feel air from another planet." To explore how Schoenberg was influenced by Mozart, one of his favorite composers, we're pairing the work with the C Major String Quartet, K. 465. Complementing these masterworks are newly commissioned pieces from Jamie Sampson and John Schott.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – String Quartet in C Major, K. 465
Arnold Schoenberg – String Quartet #2
John Schott – New Work for guitar and viola WORLD PREMIERE
Jamie Sampson – Waving Goodbye for guitar, voice, and string quartet WORLD PREMIERE

Saturday, November 2, 2019, 7:30 PM
The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley

San Francisco
Monday, November 4, 2019, 7:30 PM
SF Conservatory Recital Hall, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco

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Set 3: French Sublime    

Left Coast explores the French sublime, earthly and divine, first with music of Nadia Boulanger and Claude Debussy, and then Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. Beginning with the sound of an improvising nightingale surrounded by a shimmer of sound, the piece transports us through multiple universes. One Wing, a new work from Kurt Rohde reflects Messiaen's enduring influence.

Nadia Boulanger – Three Pieces for Cello and Piano
Claude Debussy – Premiere Rhapsody
Olivier Messiaen – Quartet for the End of Time
Kurt Rohde – One Wing WORLD PREMIERE

Sunday, February 2, 2020, 7:30 PM
The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley

San Francisco
Monday, February 3, 2020, 7:30 PM
SF Conservatory Recital Hall, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco

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Set 4: Fairytale Pieces

Music illuminates folklore in Schumann's Fairytale Pieces for viola and piano, Chris Castro's musical rendition of myths about Coyote and Old Man Farmer, and Carl Schimmel's Ladle Rat Rotten Hut––a topsy turvy Little Red Riding Hood for the 21st Century. Featuring guest storyteller Susan Strauss.

Robert Schumann – Fairytale Pieces, Op. 13
Chris Castro – Coyote Goes to the Sky and Birds of Fortune
Featuring guest storyteller Susan Strauss*
Carl Schimmel – Ladle Rat Rotten Hut WORLD PREMIERE

Sunday, March 8, 2020, 7:30 PM
The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley

San Francisco
Monday, March 9, 2020, 7:30 PM
SF Conservatory Recital Hall, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco

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Set 5: Living in Color

Sarah Gibson's I prefer living in color, the winner of Left Coast's 20th annual composition contest, inspires a dive into music rich with imagery. Gabriella Smith's Anthrozoa depicts the vibrant life among the coral reefs, and Brahms' Violin Sonata in G evokes the rain. Josiah Catalan's companion work to the Brahms, a world premiere, ties together new and old.

Sarah Gibson – I prefer living in color 2019 COMPOSITION CONTEST WINNER
Dai Fujikura – Flicker
Gabriella Smith – Anthrozoa
Elliot Carter – Esprit rude / esprit doux and Steep Steps
Veronika Krausas – Cloisonne
Johannes Brahms – “Regen” Violin Sonata in G. Major
Josiah Catalan – New Work for flute, clarinet, violin, viola, cello, and double bass WORLD PREMIERE

Sunday, May 31, 2020, 7:30 PM
The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar Street, Berkeley

San Francisco
Monday, June 1, 2020, 7:30 PM
SF Conservatory Recital Hall, 50 Oak Street, San Francisco

Get details

2019 Composition Contest Winner

Sarah Gibson's I prefer living in color is the winner of the 2019 Left Coast Composition Contest. Left Coast will perform the piece in the 2019-20 season. Sarah currently teaches at the University of Southern California and she is Associate Artistic Director of the HEAR NOW Music Festival of Los Angeles Composers.

Sarah Gibson is a Los Angeles based composer and pianist. Her music has been performed by Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, American Composers Orchestra, New Fromm Players, and the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble, among others. Currently the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s Sound Investment Composer, her works have received recognitions such as the American Composers Orchestra Underwood New Music Readings and a Victor Herbert ASCAP award. Sarah is co-founder of the new music piano duo, HOCKET, lauded as "brilliant" by the LA Times' Mark Swed. She teaches at the University of Southern California, The Colburn Conservatory, and is Lead Teaching Artist for the Los Angeles Philharmonic Nancy and Barry Sanders Composer Fellowship Program alongside Artistic Director Andrew Norman.

Left Coast wins 2017-18 Best of the Bay!

Photo: Tenor Joe Dan Harper in Never was a knight… | Credit: Nick Benavides


We are honored to receive two wins in the San Francisco Classical Voice Best of the Bay contest:

Best New Music Ensemble of 2017-18
Best New Music Performance: “Death and a Knight

Congratulations to our outstanding runners-up, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and Volti in the Best New Music Ensemble category.

Read more about all the winners in the SF Classical Voice.

Thank you for your support!

Farewell Nick and Welcome Susan

Thank you for a wonderful 25th Anniversary Season! We’ve done so much: a tribute to Weinberg, sold out opera performances, Messiaen with Eric Zivian and Sarah Cahill, the Orpheus myth, and now Schoenberg’s Serenade. It has been my pleasure to be a part of this venerable organization the past three seasons. Time and time again Left Coast has reinvented itself by extending a hand to tradition while maintaining a laser focus on the future.

Left Coast isn’t done dreaming big, and we have a thrilling 26th season planned. We’ve worked very hard to keep subscription prices stable, even with rising costs. One of the best ways to support Left Coast is to subscribe early!

We need your help if we are to continue this momentum. If you appreciated our season, I ask you to please consider making a donation. There are many ways to get involved: we are always looking for volunteers, promotional partners, and we have a few openings on the board. Please come talk to me or Susan. You can also designate a large gift for a specific cause such as commissions, concert sponsorship, or education.

Finally, it is with a heavy heart that I announce this will be my last season. Although I will be pursuing other career opportunities, I am pleased to say that Left Coast is stronger than ever and poised for growth. Our series is firmly established in Berkeley, our subscriber numbers are up, we are consistently selling out performances, and our staff capacity has increased to match the demands of this esteemed ensemble. None of this would be possible without the enthusiasm of the musicians, board, staff, volunteers, subscribers, and of course donors.

Many of you have grown acquainted with Susan Thieme this year, our marketing and box office manager. I’m elated to announce that she has been chosen as our new managing director, effective June 1. She has exceeded all of our expectations because of her keen intellect and professional demeanor. Without her this season would not have been possible, and we didn’t know how badly we needed her until she arrived. This new role is well deserved, and I know she’ll take Left Coast to the next level.

I want to thank the musicians and board for the trust they placed in me, and especially Anna Presler and Will Schieber for their constant support in all of our new initiatives and visionary leadership as artistic director and board president. I’m also thankful they’ve invited me to be a part of the advisory board, so you won’t be rid of me so easily! I look forward to serving Left Coast in this capacity.

Nick Benavides

2018 Composition Contest Winner

Charles Peck's piano quartet  Sunburst is the winner of the 2018 Left Coast Composition Contest. Left Coast will perform the piece in the 2018-19 season. Charles currently teaches at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia and is a doctoral candidate at Cornell University. Find out more about Charles at his website.

Peck describes his work as a two-movement work that explores the energy in sunlight. The first movement, titled Reflect, focuses on the frenetic, scattered motion of light waves. The music contains only a few short gestures, but it jumps to and between them at speed, as if it were following a ray of light over contrasting surfaces. Each gesture is imbued with that same, active motion, exemplified by the use of extreme ranges in the piano and tightly interlocked rhythms in the ensemble. Contrarily, the patient second movement, titled Absorb, acts as a solar-powered circuit. The music begins in the low register and breathes slowly while the circuit receives and stores energy. As the power accumulates, the electricity begins to hum, an effect that is personified by drones in the violin and viola. Finally, after flickering on and off, the movement climaxes with a powerful release of energy, followed by a steady, sequential descent in register as the circuit runs out of power.