San Francisco Symphony

Keeping Score

The Evelyn and Walter Haas, Jr. Fund is a major supporter of the San Francisco Symphony’s Keeping Score program, based on our belief that all people should have the opportunity to experience the joy and fulfillment that classical music brings to life.

In 1999, the Fund began a conversation with the Symphony about how to expand its national profile, highlight the talents of maestro Michael Tilson Thomas and the orchestra, and make classical music more accessible.

“The Fund is committed to ensuring that members of our community have access to and benefit from the Bay Area’s extraordinary cultural and civic assets,” says Fund president Ira Hirschfield. “We believe Keeping Score provides those who have not had many encounters with music in a concert hall a real opportunity to develop an understanding and passion for classical music—passion that Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony bring to every performance.”

With a $10 million challenge grant from the Haas, Jr. Fund, the San Francisco Symphony embarked on an ambitious multiyear, multimedia project called Keeping Score.

“The Fund is committed to ensuring that members of our community have access to and benefit from the Bay Area’s extraordinary cultural and civic assets.”
- Ira Hirschfield

Keeping Score is built around a PBS television series that explores the music and stories of key composers. The series features the San Francisco Symphony and is hosted by SFS Music Director Michael Tilson Thomas.

In addition to the TV series, Keeping Score provides people of all ages and all musical backgrounds with a variety of fun and engaging ways to learn more about classical music via the web, public radio, and an education program that offers training, materials and support to K-12 teachers across the nation.

“Classical music is a doorway to discovering more about ourselves and our world. Keeping Score provides an important opportunity for all people to learn to love classical music and find a place for it in their lives,” said the Fund’s president, Ira Hirschfield.

Keeping Score Elements

  • The TV Series. The Keeping Score series began airing nationally on PBS stations in November 2006. The first season, Keeping Score: Revolutions in Music, explored the music of Beethoven, Stravinsky and Copland in three one-hour programs that looked at how and why these composers were able to write such remarkable, revolutionary works. In Keeping Score Season 2, which began airing nationally in October 2009, Michael Tilson Thomas and the musicians of the San Francisco Symphony explored the music and stories of Berlioz, Shostakovich and Ives. The third and final season, which aired nationally in the summer of 2011, focus exclusively on the life and music of Gustav Mahler.
  • The Radio Series. Listeners can tune in to hear the new radio series, The Keeping Score Series: 13 Days When Music Changed Forever, about revolutions in music. The series shares the stories and sounds of the composers, compositions, and musical movements that changed the way people heard, or thought about, music. Each program examines the historical backdrop of the time, as well as the lasting influence of that moment in music history.
  • On the Web. The Keeping Score Web site offers an array of interactive learning tools to help students and other users learn more about the music and lives of the composers featured in the TV series. A Web site just for children introduces them to key musical concepts such as tempo and rhythm and offers fun ways for young composers and performers to draw out their inner Beethoven.
  • The Education Program. The Keeping Score Education program trains teachers in K-12 classrooms to integrate classical music into core subjects such as science, math and history. Participating teachers receive training by San Francisco Symphony musicians and educational staff and a variety of arts educators. The Keeping Score Education program is working with partner sites in Fresno, Sonoma and Santa Clara counties; Flagstaff, Arizona; and the Oklahoma A+ Network statewide program. An integral part of the program is the annual Keeping Score Summer Teacher Institute, a multi-faceted professional development experience that builds teachers’ understanding of both music and integrated curriculum design.

For more information on the program, go to