Talking SF Symphony With Clarissa Nicosia

Clarissa Nicosia
Clarissa Nicosia

Photo Credit: Michael Clemens | Sees The Day
The glitz and glamour of San Francisco’s sizzling social season continues tonight with the San Francisco Symphony’s opening gala at Davies Symphony Hall. Four elegant dinners and an energetic after party will sandwich Kelsey Grammer, Nathan Gunn and Alexandra Silber performing Broadway classics as Michael Tilson Thomas conducts. It really does take a village to pull it all together. We decided to spotlight one of the significant village people, Clarissa Nicosia, a member of the Symphonix board and co-chair, along with Brianna Haag, of the Symphonix dinner.

The Symphonix League is SF Symphony’s premier group for young professionals in the Bay Area. Nicosia, who serves as the board’s Audience Development Chair, was a natural selection considering she’s been volunteering, fundraising and producing events for the arts and various not-for-profit groups for the past 15 years. After she helped raise about $750,000 for Leukemia & Lymphoma Society to fund five years of research for Ph.D. students at Stanford, UC Berkeley and UCSF, the Symphonix board, recognizing her approach and vigor, asked her to join a year ago. After she and Haag put together a wildly successful event at Spotify that merged tech, music and the love of the city, the pair was asked to co-chair tonight’s Symphonix Dinner.

San Francisco Symphony Opening Gala
San Francisco Symphony Opening Gala

Photo Credit: Kristen Loken

What exactly does a dinner chair do and what are your duties as a Symphonix board member?

One of the primary duties is the selection of the host committee. This is definitely a team effort. Putting together a team that is effective and works well together is definitely an art in itself. We focus on assembling individuals who are energetic, active and creative in diverse industries and professions. They bring unique perspectives and ideas as we shape our agendas, and they also have the reach needed to support the work we do. As chair, one of my responsibilities, is helping to keep our team on track, working together cohesively, inspire them to bring their ideas to our group and ensure that everything is balance and efficient. One of my responsibilities this year has also been to expand some of our partnerships with some of the new emerging companies in the Bay Area that are new to working with the Symphony—or perhaps any arts or not-for-profits. This is important as our community continues to grow and evolve.

How does your day job at Madplum Creative help you with your duties at the Symphony?

As their interactive producer, I thrive on creating uncommon partnerships and disciplines which tend to surprise our clients every time. This carries over to most of my personal projects, and is what is required for my role with the Symphony. Madplum is a boutique creative agency that merges breakthrough technologies like Augmented Reality, web and mobile platforms, brand identity, messaging, and hand crafted talent with gift giving for clients across broad spaces like not for profit, beauty, sustainably-produced consumer products and various luxury and hospitality brands. This range of work and industries integrates well with my duties at the Symphony and our approach to continuously connect with the community, create enriching experiences, and “WOW” them. I love surprises, especially ones that are challenging and worthwhile where I then can actually surprise myself too.

On a scale of 1-10, how is your stress level as opening night draws near and how do you stay calm?

I am happy to say that my stress level is truly around a four, which has been incredibly refreshing and says a lot about the support and camaraderie of this fantastic group. They are very savvy and organized, which makes it easy to thrive and fulfill our commitments. It makes it very rewarding to involve groups, like the tech community, which demands creativity and efficiency. We’ve been able to work while having fun, which is very important. I learned Vedic Meditation last year as a treat to myself for my birthday. It has made all the difference for me. I practice twice a day. I also have a great support system within my family and dear close friends.

What’s your take on the young techies’ involvement in the SF Symphony and how do you get more of them interested in the arts?

Symphonix represents a new guard, so to speak, of spry young professionals enwrapped in innovation and technology in a city growing at an exponential pace and all wanting to ensure we support our arts community. As we all know, the arts—all areas of the arts and the integration and cross-pollination of them—is fundamental for innovation and creativity, and for the nature of the San Francisco Bay Area as a whole. Building community through creative expression and experiences is essential!


The San Francisco Symphony opened SoundBox on Saturday night, December 13, 2014.
The San Francisco Symphony opened SoundBox on Saturday night, December 13, 2014.

Photo Credit: Stefan Cohen

Sound Box opened last year. Will that be back?

This platform, I am guilty of being completely obsessed with. It was a mastermind idea of MTT. It’s like a pop-up night club showcasing the principal musicians of the symphony. I’ve gone to a few and leave inspired every time. It is the most underrated happening in the city–hands down. SoundBox launches its second season on Friday, December 11 and, the same as last year, will present 10 shows through April. I cannot wait for SoundBox to start up again.

You’ve worked with many American, Italian and French couture designers for over a decade. Tell me about your style and beauty plans for the Opening Gala.

Karen Caldwell created a gown just for me. I adore her artistry and attention to detail. She really knows how clothes should look on a woman’s figure. I wanted a lean, elongated silhouette. Her design turned out exactly how I envisioned it. I am so excited to wear it. La Mienne, which is a new start-up based in SF, provides on demand hair and make-up artists that come to your home. They are doing my make-up and hair.

How are you going to celebrate when opening night is behind you?

I leave for an eight-day business trip early the next morning after the gala. I am excited about the trip and will try to squeeze in a visit home to see my family in Chicago this fall. Hopefully my twin sister and I can sneak in a couple of old musical films to snuggle up on the sofa together—singing along of course.