The San Francisco Institute of Music

Founded in 2002, the San Francisco Institute of Music has a mission--to ensure that anyone can learn to play an instrument excellently and to demonstrate the powerful fact that:

Talent can be explained.

From the first moment of learning to play a musical instrument a student's brain forms neural connections and pathways, commonly referred to as "muscle memory." Unless these connections are correct a student will be blocked from reaching their full potential. Muscle memory is either a powerful ally or a nearly impossible impediment. All advanced, virtuoso technique is derived from fundamental principles. Therefore, the development of great technique and virtuoso ability is dependent upon the perfection of fundamentals.

The SFIM Method makes playing an instrument much easier and naturally expressive, allowing students to advance with significantly less practice time. We have researched and studied the methods and techniques of great players for many years, explaining and demonstrating the methods behind the "talent" of the greatest players to every student, incorporating these techniques from the beginning of their lessons. This is a process that teaches students how to learn.

When the underpinnings of talent (inseparable from the knowledge and insights of great masters) can be explained and demonstrated, a student's natural ability is nurtured and protected--their skill develops without impediment. (Without deeply correct knowledge specific to this art, development will be accidental, haphazard and largely imaginary.)

                SFIM Books

Can Talent be Explained?

In this groundbreaking look into the world of "classical" music, SFIM founder and director, David Jacobson, interweaves his educative experiences at the Curtis Institute of Music with his quest to understand how performers such as Jascha Heifetz, Nathan Milstein, Sergei Rachmaninoff, Vladimir Horowitz, and Glenn Gould achieved such unsurpassed levels of musical expression and technical skill. What were their "secret" techniques and musical insights? 

Mr. Jacobson has spent many years analyzing the approach of these and other master players uncovering their "secrets" which he reveals in clear, precise, non-technical language, supplemented by diagrams, photographs and annotated musical examples. His conclusion: the methods, paradigmatic shifts and musical approach of these masters are fundamentally the same, yet physically far more natural, more flowing and innately expressive than contemporary music teaching systems (such as those of Ivan Galamian and Shinichi Suzuki, which are very mechanical) for string playing, orchestral instruments, piano and voice. Jacobson's exploration of the "secret" techniques and musical insights of great performers aims to revitalize the art of classical more

Our curriculum is individually tailored to each student’s age and circumstances in agreement between parents and teachers, based on a teacher’s reasonable expectations for continuous development. All lessons incorporate music theory and video analysis. Students and parents have access to SFIM Tutorials, a private youtube channel providing in depth video demonstration and explanation of everything students are taught, as well as in depth analysis and explication of the musical/technical approach of famous performers from the past and present day.

The SFIM program includes participation in monthly performance classes and Winter and Summer student concerts...

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We employ a bel canto approach to learning an instrument. Bel canto means "beautiful singing"--a smooth connection between notes, which ultimately leads to a beautiful sound and a facile, unforced technique. The greatest singers, for example, Renata Tebaldi, Enrico Caruso, among others, used this method. The greatest instrumentalists of the past also utilized this approach--Jascha Heifetz, Fritz Kreisler, Nathan Milstein, Vladimir Horowitz, Sergei Rachmaninoff, even (which may surprise some people) Glenn Gould all played in this style, with this way of musical thinking.

This approach is not only more satisfying musically, but is also physically and athletically correct, which allowed these performers to play without physical or mental antagonism, leading them to reach levels of expression and brilliance unequaled in our present day because this approach had been lost. We teach our students this esoteric knowledge, which we have named the SFIM Method.

Bradley enjoys learning the violin


Interview with David Jacobson, founder of SFIM...

Q: Do you think that it's crucial that a teacher be a good violinist, pianist, or cellist to be good at teaching the violin, piano, or cello?

A: Although it is an accepted truism in music that music teachers can be effective even though their own level of accomplishment is mediocre, this is simply an impossibility. In music the proof of knowledge is that one can do it, not talk about it.                                                                          

Who can possibly teach what they cannot do? How can you explain it? So much is about imparting physical feelings. These are of the utmost subtlety, sometimes a matter of an adjustment of the smallest nature apparent only to a master. Moreover, it is a fact that for all instrumental playing the entire future possibility of accomplishment lies in the beginning, the foundation, because both technique, and musical thinking and understanding, are based on the variation of simple principles. The more perfect these underlying skills and concepts, the more possibility for mastery. Mastery is the ability to play without antagonism, either muscular or mental.

David Jacobson on Music at features articles about teaching, the musical insights of master performers, and analysis of the field of "classical" music.