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SF’s oldest musical group is back with a slate of free concerts in Golden Gate Park

The Golden Gate Park Band in 2022 | Courtesy Musical Images

Founded in 1882, the Golden Gate Park Band is San Francisco’s oldest musical organization—and it’s back for its 141st season. 

The upcoming slate of 25 free concerts will be held mostly on Sundays at 1 p.m. at the Spreckels Temple of Music, aka the bandshell, in the Music Concourse in Golden Gate Park. 

While the organization itself has been entertaining audiences for well over a century, this season marks a change in leadership. Behind the baton for the first time is principal conductor and music director Craig McKenzie, who is the 10th leader in the organization’s 141-year history. 

Golden Gate Park Band | Courtesy Mary Ellen Hunt/Golden Gate Park Band

“There aren’t many ‘professional bands’ still left in the U.S., let alone one with 141 years of history,” McKenzie said. “I’m just thrilled to be joining this ensemble that is such a meaningful part of the culture and musical identity of the city.”

The season launches April 30 with a baseball-themed opener and is followed by a series of 24 other themed concerts, with motifs ranging from outer space to spooky October. 

The performances will also highlight different countries—from Armenia to Ireland and Spain to Ukraine—as well as national celebrations like Juneteenth and Pride. With concerts honoring first responders and mothers, there’s something for everyone on the schedule. 

Craig McKenzie, the new music director of the Golden Gate Park Band | Courtesy Musical Images

“I see the Golden Gate Park Band speaking with many voices, performing with and for different cultures, ethnicities and backgrounds,” McKenzie said. 

Also newly joining the team is German Gonzalez, the ensemble’s first-ever associate music director.  

German Gonzalez, the new associate conductor of the Golden Gate Park Band | Courtesy Musical Images

“Outdoor band concerts especially bring the community together,” Gonzalez said. “Not only to listen to the music but also to give people opportunities to share stories about their past musical experiences.” 

The hiring of Gonzalez and McKenzie is the result of a nationwide search conducted in 2022. 

Also new in 2023: The band will be operating as a registered nonprofit rather than relying on grant monies to operate. 

The outfit may be old, but the vision is brand new. 

Golden Gate Park Band’s 141st Season 

📍 Spreckels Temple of Music (Golden Gate Park Bandshell)
🗓️ April 30-Oct. 1