Meet Your Instructor: Scott Foglesong talks Music Classes, Coding and Cats

Multi-talented musician, award-winning teacher, and long-time San Francisco Conservatory of Music faculty member Scott Foglesong leads FRESH LOOK—THE SYMPHONY EXPOSED. The pioneering four-part introductory course runs Wednesday evenings, July 10 through 31, at Lafayette Library.

Scott Foglesong leads FRESH LOOK—THE SYMPHONY EXPOSED — the California Symphony’s “Orchestra 101” adult education course.

CSO: Where are you originally from and where do you live now?

SF: I’m originally a Texan, born in Houston and raised both there and in Fort Worth. I spent my formative years in Denver, and then went off to Baltimore for college (Peabody Conservatory). I relocated here to the Bay Area in the 1970s and lived in San Francisco for almost 40 years. Nowadays I’m an émigré to suburbia; my home is in Brentwood, out in eastern Contra Costa county, where I have been since 2015.

CSO: You have a rich background in music that encompasses teaching, performing and writing. Can you give us the edited highlights version of your bio?

SF: I began studying piano at age 4 when I commandeered the piano originally meant for my sister. After continuing to play piano through high school, I entered the Peabody Conservatory as a piano major and then continued my graduate studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where I studied piano with Nathan Schwartz, harpsichord with Laurette Goldberg — who founded the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra — and theory with John Adams, back in the days before he was a famous composer.

I still give the occasional piano recital, but my focus is in teaching: I teach eartraining and music theory at SFCM and music history/appreciation courses at the Fromm Institute at USF and formerly at UC Berkeley. I became involved with the San Francisco Symphony about 20 years ago, first as a contributing writer to the program book and then also as a pre-concert lecturer. Nowadays I’m all over the place — not only those afore-mentioned venues, but I also write for the Las Vegas Philharmonic, Grand Teton Music Festival, Maestro Foundation, CalPerformances, and the Berkeley chorus Chora Nova in addition to the SF Symphony and the California Symphony. I hold the Sarlo Award for Excellence in Teaching (SFCM). Next year marks my 47th on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory, where I have chaired the Musicianship and Music Theory department since 1999.

“The thing about the course is to focus on the music, and let the biographical or informative aspects arise from that rather than the other way around.” — Scott Foglesong

CSO: You’ve been writing the program notes for California Symphony concerts since 2013. What’s the most surprising factoid you’ve revealed to audiences in your program notes?

SF: I think possibly the most intriguing is just how close the Rachmaninoff Second Symphony came to not ever being written at all.

CSO: The Symphony Exposed was a completely new adult education initiative when it debuted in 2018. How did you approach developing the course and what are you most looking forward to sharing?

SF: I am blessed with plenty of experience in sharing music with non-musicians, thanks to my work at UC Berkeley, the Fromm Institute, and the SF Symphony. The thing about the course is to focus on the music, and let the biographical or informative aspects arise from that rather than the other way around. So my goal, my hope, is to help people become aware of just what how vast and varied our Western musical tradition is, in particularly as it has manifested in the modern orchestra — which, by the way, is a fairly new phenomenon in the scheme of things.

CSO: How has the course evolved over that time?

The most important development has been the incorporation of composers who might have been previously marginalized due to their ethnicity, race, or gender.

CSO: You describe yourself as a “pianist, musician, teacher, writer, cat-lover, music history devotee, occasional computer geek and sometime programmer.” Can we get a picture of your cat?

SF: My kitty April went to her reward in 2013 at the amazing age of 25 years old; I haven’t had a kitty cat since then. Here is April in 2010, not looking anywhere near her actual age (22 years old).

CSO: Do you have any other interests that you would like to share?

In my current incarnation as a suburban homeowner I have become an avid gardener, turning a formerly black thumb green. I find that the mental attributes that go into gardening—forethought, patience, consistency, and maintaining a long view—are the same as those for learning a piece of music, teaching a course, or for that matter, raising a kitten. Here’s a particularly happy combination of flowers from spring 2023.

FRESH LOOK—THE SYMPHONY EXPOSED is a four-part adult education course, Wednesday evenings, July 10, 17, 24, and 31 from 6:30 to 8pm, at the Don Tatzin Community Hall at Lafayette Library. The $30 course fee covers all four classes, and you can get it back as a $30 voucher towards your first purchase of any adult price ticket for a 2024–25 season concert.


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