San Jose — once pegged the most forgettable big city in America — is making a comeback as a brand.
Symphony Silicon Valley has announced that it was shedding “Silicon Valley” and becoming Symphony San Jose. And that follows the Silicon Valley Organization’s retro-transformation in August back to the San Jose Chamber of Commerce.
Aren’t they worried no one will know where San Jose is? Will we have a bunch of lost Costa Rican tourists milling about Plaza de Cesar Chavez?
That may have been the thinking a quarter-century ago when longtime San Jose institutions started dropping the city’s name in favor of the flashier “Silicon Valley.” The ballet went from the Cleveland San Jose Ballet to Ballet San Jose/Silicon Valley to just Silicon Valley Ballet before it folded in 2016. The chamber went through a similar metamorphosis as Silicon Valley crowded out San Jose until it was just erased in 2017.
At least Dionne Warwick never re-recorded the song as “Do You Know the Way to Silicon Valley?” There’s no rhyme in that at all. And Silicon Valley Sharks? Hard pass, thank you.
But in 2018, after years of flirting with the idea of putting Silicon Valley on its airport or convention center, the city leaned hard into its own identity, commissioning a logo so cool that San Josean Jake McCluskey had it tattooed on his leg. Google announced plans for San Jose, BART came to San Jose, and San Jose even held onto its seemingly tenuous ranking as the nation’s 10th largest city when the census numbers came out.
Symphony President Andrew Bales told me he has long wanted to return San Jose to the name, but he had a practical reason for keeping it as “Silicon Valley” for the first 19 seasons: He didn’t want the company to be confused with the San Jose Symphony, which went into a financial tailspin and bankruptcy in 2001.
I wouldn’t worry about Silicon Valley. It has managed to get by quite well as a name for the past 50 years, and with all the arrows being aimed the way of “Silicon Valley” from every corner, being from plain old San Jose doesn’t sound so bad now.
Yes, it’s true that even this news organization dropped San Jose from its nameplate in 2016. But you never know what the future holds, right?
CHAMBER SOCIETY’S NEW HOME: It’s been a nomadic few years for the San Jose Chamber Music Society, which used to stage its concerts at the downtown Trianon Theatre before that venue was sold and closed in 2019. Then it moved to San Jose State — but the group had no idea if or when the campus’ music hall would be available for concerts because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Enter St. Francis Episcopal Church in Willow Glen. Over the past two years, its rector, the Rev. Maly Hughes, and Music Director Michael Burroughs have reconfigured the church at 1205 Pine Ave. so it could serve as a music venue, including the acquisition of a 9-foot, 2-inch Bechstein concert grand piano.
So that’s where the Chamber Music Society will open its 35th season Oct. 9 with the acclaimed Auryn Quartet from Germany, which has performed in San Jose seven times previously and made sure the city was on its final U.S. tour. The concert opens at 7 p.m. — proof of vaccination and face masks are required — and you can get tickets and other information on the season at sjchambermusic.org.
EVENING OF THE ARTS: San Jose’s Office of Cultural Affairs and its Arts Commission will be honoring the city’s creative leaders at the annual Cornerstone of the Arts awards on Oct. 8 at the Hammer Theatre Center. Attendance at the event is limited, but it also will be streamed on the City of San Jose’s YouTube channel.
Symphony President and General Manager Andrew Bales, who has announced his retirement this season, will receive the Cornerstone of the Arts award, previously won by festival producer Bruce Labadie, former Mayor Susan Hammer, Opera San Jose founder Irene Dalis and philanthropists Carmen and Alcario Castellano. It also will be presented posthumously to Dr. Jerry Hiura, a Japantown dentist who died in 2019 and was instrumental in the founding or support of several arts groups, including Contemporary Asian Theater Scene and Chopsticks Alley Art.
The Multicultural Arts Leadership Institute, a year-long training program based at the School of Arts and Culture at the Mexican Heritage Plaza, will be presented with the Creative Impact Award. How big has that impact been? Since its founding in 2008, nearly 120 artists have completed the program, with 24 now in director-level positions and 22 working as small-business owners.