SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — The pandemic has been tough on musicians who now have few places to perform. A recent incident involving a world-class pianist at Golden Gate Park has some wondering where has San Francisco’s spirit gone?
From the bare-knuckle days of the Barbary Coast to the free-wheeling psychedelic 60’s, San Francisco is a town that has never played it safe. But there are those in the arts community who say that’s changing and it may be losing its soul as a result.
Steve Scholz is a professional jazz pianist who outfitted a van with a piano on wheels to fulfill a dream of playing in outdoor settings across America. But when the pandemic hit, the road trip ended and Scholz parked the van.
“I felt it important to stay in the community and play for people in the park,” said Scholz.
Scholz began holding small concerts a block from his home in the Golden Gate Park panhandle. Sometimes he brought along a few friends to entertain small groups of socially-distanced parkgoers.
On Friday, the music ended when a group of park rangers demanded the band stop playing because Scholz didn’t have a permit.
The audience booed the rangers. They didn’t appreciate the officers attempt to maintain order.
Ryan Rinn has been attending Scholz’s concerts in the park and agrees.
“We can police ourselves,” said Rinn. “People were wearing their masks. We’re spaced out in this big park as much as we can be and I didn’t see an issue whatsoever.”
Scholz has always loved the City’s live-and-let-live attitude and says he’s been shocked to feel how much freer it has felt when he plays in other parts of the country.
“This [San Francisco] is actually a lot more tight-gripped than almost anywhere else in the country. When it has such spirit of…um…” Scholz pointed in the direction. “In fact we got some park rangers cruising by right now checking out what we’re going on.”
At that moment, a ranger slowly circled around, and demanded to know what TV station we worked for and then drove his vehicle off to hide behind a tree. A few minutes later. the ranger told of pair of women they couldn’t use workout weights without a permit.
“It’s kind of silly and sad and disheartening,” said Scholz. “You don’t know whether to laugh or cry or…keep making music which is what we were trying to do.”
Some of the musicians have started a petition drive to get the City to allow small outdoor concerts that will protect health while uplifting the spirit. Good music has always required a certain amount of risk. And come to think of it, so does life.
A link to the musician’s petition can be found by clicking on: change.org/p/mayor-london-breed-change-sf-s-anti-music-park-ordinances-now?signed=true.