The mission of the Calvin Simmons Center for the Performing Arts is to access the full array of artistic elements and deliver a broad spectrum of Arts to the community.

Our programs focuses on young people, teachers, and families. We train the artists and arts managers to provide relevant art that appeals to the audiences of the future.


  • To present diverse and collaborative artistic performances
  • To serve as a community Arts resource
  • To help ensure the future of the Performing Arts and audiences
  • To provide leadership in the artistic community


  • Professional performances - vital to maintaining and promoting evolving art forms
  • Artistic collaboration - an essential element that brings together the talents and resources of diverse artistic groups
  • Community service - our contribution of the Arts to uplifting the human spirit
  • Community resource - to generate and communicate the language of the Arts that unifies diverse groups of people and cultural backgrounds
  • Education outreach - essential to creating the Arts, the Arts professionals, the artists, and the audiences of the future
  • Leadership in the artistic community - that congeals the Arts organizations and interests

Calvin Simmons

Born in San Francisco, California, in 1950, Calvin Simmons entered the Bay Area's musical scene and began living his dream of becoming a world-class musician at the age of 9. His mother, Mattie Pearl, taught him the piano from an early age. By the age of 11, he was conducting the San Francisco Boys Chorus, started by Madi Bacon.

He worked as assistant conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta. Simmons became musical director of the Oakland Symphony Orchestra at age 28; he led the orchestra for four years. He was the first African-American to be named conductor of a major U.S. symphony orchestra. He was a frequent guest conductor with some of the nation's major opera companies and orchestras.

Calvin wanted to bring music to as many people as possible. He never underestimated young people. If it was in his power, he would have ensured that every school sponsored music programs. He would have given talented youngsters the same opportunities that were afforded him and made sure that they had instruments if they were not able to afford them. He believed that the future of music was within the American schools – the undiscovered composers, musicians, and new audiences who needed to be supported.

Simmons died at the age of 32 in 1982 in a canoeing accident near Lake George in New York.

Madi Bacon’s poem that she composed to Calvin’s last moments on earth summed it all up:

"...Gliding over the lake at dusk,
Alone in his canoe
The bow out of the water
Silently he paddled and drifted –
Watching the daylight fade
Listening to the early sounds of night – …
He felt weightless –
A silhouette on the horizon,
Endlessly rocking between
Lake and sky
And man and music.”

Calvin Simmons Center for the Performing Arts Founder and Chairman, Conway B. Jones, Jr. is a patriot, businessman, and arts patron.

He retired from the United States Air Force with over sixty-eight hundred flying hours and 87 combat missions in Viet Nam.

His business career spans thirty years. He founded Communications Products Company, Inc. in 1970. In 1981, he founded Adelphi Communications, Inc.

Art is his passion. He was chairman of the Oakland Arts Council. He served on the Alameda County Arts Commission. He serves on the board of directors of the Oakland East Bay Symphony and the Oakland Youth Orchestra.

As chairman of the Western Aerospace Museum, Oakland, California, he established the Museum’s first home at the Oakland International Airport .

He is on the board of directors of Concurrent Technologies Corporation, a high-tech firm and board chairman of the CTC Foundation. He is on the board of OCCUR, Oakland Citizens Committee for Urban Renewal, and the Advisory Board of One California Bank.

He received a BS degree from C.W. Post College and an MBA from Golden Gate College.

He is married to the former Leslie Coffman and has a son, Eric.

Conway B. Jones, Jr.

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