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Jarvis conservatory front.


The Conservatory

Hundreds Attend Jarvis Conservatory Opening in Napa

Nearly 800 music lovers from Napa, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Nevada, New York and other locations throughout the U.S. joined William and Leticia Jarvis for the opening of the Jarvis Conservatory in July 1995.

In order to better understand the function and mission of this unique facility, William Jarvis made the following remarks.

I had a lot of fun designing and building this conservatory! Although paying for it wasn’t as much fun. Friends from the San Francisco Opera have referred to this theater as an acoustic jewel and for this I thank my wife, Leticia, who first saw the potential of these 22- inch-thick stone walls. In order to get good acoustics you must start by retaining your low frequencies: there is nothing better for that than walls such as these. Of course, we also got an instant 100 years of history from the old stone building.

The stone walls are just the foundation for good acoustics. To further the acoustic treatment, I called my friend, Dave Kahn, from New York. He is a world-class acoustician who worked long and hard on this project. Another top theatrical consultant friend of mine, also from New York, Steve Friedlander, helped enormously with all the specialized theatrical features. Ron Sutton, who has done other architectural work for me, provided the detailed drawings that made it all work.

Finally, the real heroes for this project were the builders, more than 200 craftsmen led by local builder, Larry Ellis, and his assistant, Dan Brokman. I found Napa craftsmen to be as good or better than any I have worked with in other parts of the world and we can thank them for their work, finishing this job in a bit more than one year including the adding of a basement floor beautifully outfitted as performers’ dressing rooms.

Our old stone building has already outlived several generations of Napans and will probably outlive all of us in this generation. With this in mind, I did my best to carry on the tradition started by the original Portuguese stone mason and sherry maker, Joseph Matthews. We built it well so it would be a lasting memory to my family and so it would fulfill its function of fostering the fine arts, not only here in Napa but spreading to other parts of the world. It is interesting to note that our first Baroque Dance Festival included student dancers from Italy, Norway, Japan, several from New York, and others from across the country with a healthy representation from our own Napa Valley College and from the rest of the San Francisco Bay Area.

The fine arts that we will be presenting here will be mainly the classics, those that have stood the test of time and have proved their lasting value in inspiring people to greater and nobler ideas.

To the extent that we succeed in our mission, those artists who come to study here will leave, better able to interpret the fine arts for all those who will be attending their performances in the future. It is our hope that the 220 or so people that this hall holds, those who will attend the performances here, will feel that their high aspirations will be served.

Most of us agree that “Man does not live by bread alone.” It is that certain enrichment in our lives that makes our whole life’s struggle worthwhile and satisfying. Johann Sebastian Bach signed all his works with the words. “Solely for the glory of God.” The better the fine arts, the closer they approach God. We are talking about the same values as Bach.

First, visitors got 15 minutes of entertainment so they could experience the theater acoustics and have some fun as well, we invited a traditional Tuna to come play for us. The name Tuna has nothing to do with the sandwich by the same name. These eight musicians are mostly college students from Mexico City and they play classic music. I told you that the Jarvis Conservatory is into classic music. Now, if any of you are thinking that classic music is O.K., but for somebody else, be prepared for a surprise! The classical music these young men sing is based on hundreds of years of tradition. It is authentic Spanish music played with traditional instruments. And just like Spanish and Mexican singers have done for years, they use this music to serenade their girlfriends. They also serenade their mothers on Mother’s Day. It is a great tradition and they give you a little taste of it today including the traditional giving of a flower.

Reflecting on my job as Director, it takes a special talent to direct a music conservatory. Money is essential but is not the most important ingredient. My preparation included music history studies at U.C. Berkeley, at Catholique Institute of the West in Angers, France and at Stanford where I also studied some composition and instrumental music. I am not at the Conservatory to perform music which I am not particularly good at; rather I must use my talent in bringing music out of other people, not music for its own sake, but music that tells the story of the work we are producing. Perhaps the essence of a music conservatory director’s job is to encourage artists to tell a meaningful story in a beautiful way.


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