JESSICA BEJARANO: FOUNDER AND DIRECTOR OF THE SAN FRANCISCO PHILHARMONIC

Meet Jessica Bejarano, a trailblazing symphony conductor, Founder and Music Director of the San Francisco Philharmonic, and an accomplished musician recognized for breaking barriers in her field. Her talent has been featured on national television and she is set to release her first bilingual children's book in Winter 2024.

Jessica Bejarano San Francisco Philharmonic

Credit: Spud Hilton

How would you describe your story?

My story is one of perseverance, passion and of breaking barriers! My story is one to inspire, motivate and uplift people of ALL walks of life through the power of music making and sharing of our lives.

What inspired you to start the San Francisco Philharmonic?

As a queer woman of color, growing up in the projects of East Los Angeles, there was no expectation or space for a person like me to exist in the orchestral world easily. As a patron of the arts, musician in the orchestra or conductor on the podium I wanted to create a high caliber orchestra that truly embodied diversity AND also welcomed it unconditionally.

Jessica Bejarano San Francisco Philharmonic

Credit: Spud Hilton

What challenges did you face during the startup of the San Francisco Philharmonic?

The financial side of starting an orchestra is huge! The operational fees are high, especially in a city like San Francisco. In just three years the orchestra has grown in size, in audience base and in its musicianship - these are great challenges, challenges that I welcome!

From performing with American legendary rock band Journey, to becoming the first woman in history to guest conduct the American Youth Symphony in LosAngeles, I must ask, how did you feel when you heard the news of your invitation to guest conduct the American Youth Symphony? What was the experience like?

It was an honor! It was like coming back full circle to guest conduct in the city that I grew up in. The first time I listened to classical music was my first year in college. I didn’t grow up as a conductor, or listening to the symphony, ballet or opera. So to come back to LA as an accomplished conductor was humbling and a moment to reflect and appreciate all that I have experienced. The American Youth Symphony is an incredible institution/orchestra! It was a life experience I will never forget!

Jessica Bejarano San Francisco Philharmonic

Credit: Spud Hilton

I can see from your bio on the SF Philharmonic that you will be publishing your first bilingual children’s book in the Winter of 2024. This is absolutely exciting news! What inspired you to want to take up such a task?

The book company actually saw me guest conduct the American Youth Symphony - they were in the audience and thought, “Wouldn’t it be great to write a children’s book about her becoming a conductor?” When they reached out to me and described the impact it would have on children, I was all about it! For me my career is not just about music - it’s about standing in a space and showcasing to children, POC’s, women that you too can exist and thrive here!

Do you see yourself working with/on other books/ events in the coming years? Is there a plan for the future of the San Francisco Philharmonic?

Yes, we have a lot of momentum and drive to forge ahead! We have partnered with Tecate, Journey and as of late we are working with electronica and rap artists to merge two arts forms into one cool experience. The plan for San Francisco Philharmonic is to continue to create space for ALL and to also support my musicians.

Do you have any advice for people who want to make a difference/ mark in their community?

Whatever you decide to do in life, make sure you are passionate about it!

View SF Philharmonic here: https://www.sfphil.org/