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Oct 16 and Nov 20 | 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 on Zoom, 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.

Date and Time

Mondays  |  Oct 16 and Nov 20, 2023  |  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 via Zoom: $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 zoom 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


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.





Monday, Nov 20  |  7pm
Bassist and compser 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.



    Sarah Cahill’s Backstage Pass is a partnership with Old First Concerts.


    Dashon Burton’s workshop is a partnership with San Francisco Performances, where Mr. Burton is a resident artist.