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About SFIM

What is a bel canto approach to mastery?

Music moves through time in a constant flow. The flow is propelled by the birth of one note to the next. This relationship between the notes is, thus, deeply connected. This connection through the relationship from note to note is the evolution of the musical composition. Notes are not discrete units. The energy must flow from note to note like water, unimpeded by obstacle. Each piece of music has a different course for the flow. But unimpeded flow is the basis of playing on which articulation and nuance may be built.


Musical skills are most easily learned at a young age. The goal of our program is to help students reach an expert level of skill by the age of eighteen. This allows them the freedom to continue their musical development in college on a purely artistic level, or to pursue other interests having gained a skill that will bring them satisfaction their entire lives. We have designed our program to ensure that students will have a deep, practical understanding of the art of music. Our approach assures that they advance correctly, because they learn technique that combines fundamental, deeply correct mechanics with musical understanding. The technique itself is musical expression. This allows them to improve rapidly, correctly and continuously, with significantly less practice time needed to achieve expertise than has been traditionally assumed and encouraged. Founded in 2002 by David and Audinga Jacobson, our approach to music education is unique among music schools in San Francisco and the Bay Area.

In school the subject matter that children study is overwhelmingly cerebral. For the most part they memorize facts, occasionally within careful circumscribed parameters practice critical thinking, and often engage in some form of sports.To play music on a high level requires, and makes conspicuously evident the fact, that our minds are inseparable from our bodies. Playing an instrument is a physical dance by the body around a musical instrument controlled by the brain in such a way that the utmost expression is released with the least possible physical antagonism, a free flow of mental-emotional energy.

To accomplish this feat of coordination a student must develop an ability to see through apparent complexity to the simple underlying structure which is the foundation of the music. Music is essentially theme and variation, and no matter how seemingly complex, to the trained practitioner it is ultimately found to be a building made of simple elements. Because of this combination of the mental and physical, and the control and awareness required over both elements--yet allowing and encouraging emotional freedom--musical study develops the brain more holistically than our traditional educational training ground.

In learning to play an instrument one's potential lies in the first few steps. Because of the phenomenon of muscle memory if what is remembered by the body is not correct it is nearly impossible to overcome learned, built-in limitations. We view teaching students as a serious trust and responsibility. 

Our teachers are all performers. They can do what they ask students to do. Performance enhances teaching; they compliment one another. We embrace technology to constantly improve our teaching approach. Audio and video recordings are used regularly to analyze the performances of great artists as well as track the progress of our students. We recognize new developments in scholarship, pedagogy, and composition, and use new information to enrich our program. After all, a school should be a place of learning for all involved, making new discoveries and uncovering ones long forgotten.

We believe that to learn a student must feel safe psychologically. Through our system of music lessons we seek to motivate, not intimidate, our students. Also, of equal importance, is a good relationship between teachers and parents, an essential ingredient in helping our students develop. 

No fine musician is born fully formed, as if hatched from an egg. 'Talent' is a most improperly applied word, a superficial label to an intricate process. 'Talent' is the fortunate amalgam of several fortuitous circumstances--a supportive cultural and societal milieu, parents interested in understanding the learning process of their child, outstanding teaching that creates a foundation both physically and mentally that has no built-in impediments to continued growth, the development of a student's mind that opens the gates to intuition and sensitivity to beauty--and fate.