Thousands of partygoers decked out in their finest formal attire are expected to attend the San Francisco Symphony’s Black and White Ball on Saturday night, one of the city’s biggest parties of the year and a key fundraiser for the symphony’s music education programs.

The biennial event is set to take place in a variety of locations throughout San Francisco’s Civic Center area, including Davies Symphony Hall and a network of tents in front of the iconic City Hall.

Festivities will include live music and dancing, along with a bevy of food and drink offerings; headliners for this year’s event include Paul Simon with the San Francisco Symphony, Cyndi Lauper, The Wallflowers, The Drifters, Super Diamond and Janelle Monae.

The Black and White Ball, which was first held in 1956 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1906 earthquake, is an important part of the San Francisco Symphony’s efforts to provide educational and community programs throughout Northern California.

“The San Francisco Symphony has a comprehensive slate of education programs for children, schools, families and adults,” said Ron Gallman, director of education at the symphony.

One such program is “Adventures In Music,” which includes in-school performances and classroom resources for students in San Francisco public elementary school grades 1-5, as well as several independent and parochial schools in the city.

“The AIM program is a good example of the San Francisco Symphony’s commitment to providing music education to children–through AIM, every SF public elementary school student gets five consecutive years of music education experiences free of charge from the symphony,” Gallman said.

The program reaches more than 23,000 schoolchildren in 93 schools, he said.

Other programs include “Instrument Training and Support,” which provides music coaching and supplies for middle school and high school orchestra and band programs in San Francisco public schools, and “Music for Families,” a weekend concert series designed for Bay Area families that includes informative talks, demonstrations, and free materials to promote music appreciation in addition to the concert performances.

“Concerts for Kids” is another program that Gallman points to as a good example of how the funds raised by the Black and White Ball allow the San Francisco Symphony to reach out to the local community.

There are more than two dozen such concerts held each year, which feature performances designed especially for children ranging from kindergarten through ninth grade.

“It’s always a delight to see Davies Symphony Hall surrounded by school buses from the Greater Bay Area and beyond,” Gallman said.

The 2012 Black & White Ball starts at 5 p.m. Saturday and lasts until 1 a.m. Tickets start at $250. For more information, visit www.sfsymphony/ball or call (415) 864-6000.

Sean McCourt, Bay City News

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