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Apr 22 | 7pm

Sarah Cahill’s
Backstage Pass
conversations with music

Let us take you “behind the curtain” to be part of a musical conversation with great artists!


Register Now!

This link will take you to the Old First Concerts website. For direct registration links, click the individual workshop below.

About the Event

How does a jazz pianist create a unique arrangement of a standard?  Why do notation and improvisation seem like such separate worlds?  How does an experimental bassist compose?

We’ll explore these questions and more in this new series, moderated by Sarah Cahill, with guest artists demonstrating and revealing the secret processes behind their music.

Each session will break down the barriers of genre and style, communicating the physical, auditory, collaborative, and imaginative creation of a musical performance. The conversations are for a live audience, both in person and streamed online, and we encourage audience participation with questions and in-person interaction as time permits.

We are especially enthusiastic about bringing together artists from divergent traditions to discover the essence of music across boundaries, and confront the big questions about music, gender, race, education, and community, with plenty of musical collaboration.

Our intention is to create a “backstage pass” for our audience, inviting them into a welcoming space for active listening, a glimpse into diverse artistic processes and engaging music-making.

Next session: Theresa Wong performs music from her recent album Practicing Sands and talks about her approach to composing and improvising on cello and other instruments.  The conversation will focus on “creativity and form:” exploration as a compositional tool, just intonation, queerness in music, and composing for oneself and others.  Sarah will also perform Theresa’s She Dances Naked Under Palm Trees, inspired by Nina Simone.

Date and Time

Monday  |  Apr 22, 2024  |  7:00 p.m. Pacific
Old First Church, 1751 Sacramento St., San Francisco

Who should attend?

If you love music and want to learn more about it, this is for you!

How should I prepare?

No preparation is required! Just come and enjoy a spirited discussion among talented musicians.

Is there a cost?

In person: $25
Online Streaming: $15

How do I attend?

Purchase your ticket for in-person or online participation, and then join us for this special one-time event.

In-person ticket holders please come to Old First Church, 1751 Sacramento St. at Van Ness. Doors open at 6:30.

Online ticket holders, you will receive a link by email on the day of the workshop to the email on your registration form.

Register Now!

This link will take you to the Old First Concerts website. For direct registration links, click the individual workshop below.

Meet the Mentor

Sarah Cahill, hailed as “a sterling pianist and an intrepid illuminator of the classical avant-garde” by The New York Times and “a brilliant and charismatic advocate for modern and contemporary composers” by Time Out New York, has commissioned and premiered over seventy compositions for solo piano. Composers who have dedicated works to Cahill include John Adams, Terry Riley, Frederic Rzewski, Pauline Oliveros, Julia Wolfe, Roscoe Mitchell, Annea Lockwood, and Ingram Marshall. Keyboard Magazine writes, “Through her inspired interpretation of works across the 20th and 21st centuries, Cahill has been instrumental in bringing to life the music of many of our greatest living composers.” She was named a 2018 Champion of New Music by the American Composers Forum (ACF).

Cahill’s discography includes more than twenty albums on the New Albion, CRI, New World, Tzadik, Albany, Innova, Cold Blue, Other Minds, Irritable Hedgehog, and Pinna labels. Her latest project is The Future is Female, an investigation and reframing of the piano literature featuring more than seventy compositions by women around the globe, from the Baroque to the present day, including new commissioned works.

Sarah Cahill’s radio show, Revolutions Per Minute, can be heard every Sunday evening from 8 to 10 pm on KALW, 91.7 FM in San Francisco. The program focuses on the relationships between classical music and new music, encompassing interviews with musicians and composers, historical performances, and recordings outside the mainstream. Cahill is on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and is a regular pre-concert speaker with the San Francisco Symphony and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

Learn more about Sarah at

Workshop Materials


Theresa Wong is a composer, cellist, and vocalist active at the intersection of composition, improvisation, and the synergy of multiple disciplines. Her works include Fluency of Trees for solo cello and voice, premiered at the Other Minds Festival in 2022, She Dances Naked Under Palm Trees, commissioned by pianist Sarah Cahill, and Harbors, co-composed with Long String Instrument inventor Ellen Fullman and chosen as one of Wire’s top 50 releases of 2020. In 2022, Wong was invited to be the inaugural Sound/scapes artist at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum. Her multimedia piece The Unlearning, 21 songs inspired by Goya’s Disasters of War etchings, premiered in 2013 at Roulette in Brooklyn and was also featured in the 2016 New Frequencies Festival at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

Recent commissions include works for San Francisco Girls Chorus, NakedEye Ensemble, Long Beach Opera, Del Sol Quartet, and Splinter Reeds. She has shared her work internationally at venues including Fondation Cartier in Paris, Cafe Oto and Barbican Centre in London, Fabbrica Europa Festival in Florence, Sydney Festival, and The Stone in New York City. Wong is currently based in the San Francisco Bay Area.


    Sarah Cahill’s Backstage Pass is a partnership with Old First Concerts and is made possible by a grant from the Ross McKee Foundation.


    Monday, Jan 22  |  7pm
    Guitarist Jason Vieaux

    Grammy-winner Jason Vieaux, “among the elite of today’s classical guitarists” (Gramophone), is described by NPR as “perhaps the most precise and soulful classical guitarist of his generation.” Jason is known for his arrangements of pop music for the classical guitar, using its almost orchestral capacities to build texture and characterization. We’ll explore the process with him and find out what inspires these cross-genre explorations.



    Thank you to San Francisco Performances for supporting this program.

    Monday, Nov 20  |  7pm
    Composer Lisa Mezzacappa

    Guest Artist Lisa Mezzacappa is a San Francisco Bay Area-based composer, bassist, bandleader, and producer. Called “one of the most imaginative figures on the Bay Area creative jazz scene” by The Mercury News and “a Bay Area treasure” by KQED public radio, she has been an active part of California’s vibrant music community for nearly 20 years. Mezzacappa’s activities as a composer and bandleader include ethereal chamber music, electro-acoustic works, avant-garde jazz, music for groups from duo to large ensemble, and collaborations with film, dance and visual art.


    Monday, Oct 16  |  7pm
    Singer Dashon Burton

    A multiple award-winning singer, Guest Artist Dashon Burton won his second Grammy Award in March 2021 for Best Classical Solo Vocal Album with his performance featured in Dame Ethyl Smyth’s masterwork The Prison with The Experiential Orchestra (Chandos). As an original member of the groundbreaking vocal ensemble Roomful of Teeth, he won his first Grammy Award for their inaugural recording of all new commissions.



    Thank you to San Francisco Performances for supporting this program.