Robert Ward joined the San Francisco Symphony in 1980 and is Principal Horn, occupying the Jeannik Méquet Littlefield Chair. He made his solo debut with the Orchestra in 1982 in Mozart's Horn Concerto No. 4. A native of Schenectady, New York, he received his Bachelor of Music degree from the Oberlin College Conservatory of Music in 1977, studying with Robert Fries. Mr. Ward was previously a member of the Atlantic Symphony of Halifax, Nova Scotia (now known as Symphony Nova Scotia), and also played for one year with the Denver Symphony (now the Colorado Symphony). Mr. Ward has appeared at the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Peninsula Music Festival in Door County, Wisconsin, and the Colorado Music Festival. At Tanglewood, he gave the world premiere of Avram David's Sonata for Solo Horn and received the C.D. Jackson Master Award and the Harry Shapiro Award for outstanding brass player.
A founding member of the symphonic brass group, the Bay Brass, Mr. Ward has also engaged in a number of recording activities, making music with such diverse performers as Paul McCandless, Spencer Brewer, Ed Bogas, Raquel Bitton, Lisa Vroman, and Metallica. He can be heard on several movie soundtracks, including Spy Kids, Mars Attacks, Inspector Gadget, and Ricochet. Mr. Ward is also a composer and arranger, and his Quartet for Horns was given its premiere at the International Horn Society Conference in Eugene, Oregon in 1996. His Sound of the Sea and And All the Sea Sang for chorus and solo horn have been performed with the San Francisco Choral Artists.
Mr. Ward serves on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the University of California at Berkeley. He has also taught at Dalhousie University, Acadia University, and San Francisco State University. He is currently revising his first novel and also maintains an interest in genealogy.
SFS member since: 2009
Hometown: Annandale, VA
Music schools you attended: Northwestern University, Rice University
Began playing music: At age 4
I was inspired to become a professional musician by: The fact that I can’t (or at least don’t want to) do anything else.
If I were not a professional musician, I might be an: interior designer or archaeologist
Favorite composers: Brahms and Prokofiev
Favorite works featuring my instrument: Brahms, A German Requiem; Prokofiev, Symphony No. 5
When I’m not working, I enjoy: Baking, entertaining, skiing, traveling
Recent reading: The Lacuna, by Barbara Kingsolver; Song of the Lark, by Willa Cather; Marie Claire magazine
On my CD player/iPod: Radiohead (tons of it!); Janelle Monae, A Tribe Called Quest, Bluchunks
Favorite things to do in the Bay Area: Hiking with my dog, skiing in Tahoe, eating great food, trips up to Napa/Sonoma
Assistant Principal Horn
Member since 1988
Hometown: San Diego, CA
Early musical memory:
My mother is a piano teacher and my father was a band director in public high schools. Early on, my sisters and I would give impromptu performances after dinner, and my mother would accompany us on piano. It was a social thing to do, and we did it pretty regularly, to the point where we got comfortable playing.
Outside the Orchestra:
Over the last few years, I have been working towards building my own French horn making and repair shop. I see it as something to look forward to in my retirement from performance. It’s also another way to have a lasting legacy in the music world.
I love to read The Economist, and my favorite radio show is This American Life. I listen to that religiously. I also enjoyed reading a book called A Devil to Play by Jasper Rees, which is about a British amateur horn player who decides to try and master a difficult Mozart horn concerto (and perform it in front of an audience!) It’s a story that all horn players can relate to.
Bruce Roberts has served as a Symphony mentor in the SF Symphony Community of Music Makers program.
SFS member since: 1991
Hometown: Springfield, MA
Music schools you attended: Oberlin, Northwestern University
Began playing music: At age 7
Musical inspirations: My mother, and hearing great music when I was young.
If I were not a professional musician, I might be a: A recording engineer or jazz/rock keyboard player
Favorite composers: Mahler, Strauss, Ravel, Bruce Broughton, Shostakivich, Respighi
Favorite works featuring my instrument: Shostakovich, Symphony No. 5, Respighi; Roman Festivals; Richard Strauss, Till Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks and An Alpine Symphony; any Mahler symphony!
When I’m not working, I enjoy: Hiking with my family, playing keyboards and composing
On my CD player/iPod: A lot of progressive rock, funk and jazz, music from the Jewish diaspora, lots of obscure composers and artists
Favorite things to do in the Bay Area: Hiking and eating (because of all the great opportunities we have here)
Plus: Also performs with Bay Brass, and is featured on the ensemble’s Grammy® award-nominated CD of American music, Sound the Bells!
Jonathan Ring has served as a Symphony mentor in the SF Symphony Community of Music Makers program.
SFS member since: 2008
Hometown: Saint Paul, MN
Music schools you attended: University of Wisconsin-Madison, Northwestern University
Began playing music: At age 9
If I were not a professional musician, I might be a: Travel writer
Favorite composers: Brahms, Stravinsky, Bach
Favorite works featuring my instrument: Britten, Serenade; Brahms, Horn Trio; Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring; Bach Cello Suites (played by horn!)
When I’m not working, I enjoy: Cycling, hiking, yoga, napping
Recent reading: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë; Song of the Lark, by Willa Cather; A Short History of Women, by Kate Walbert
On my CD player/iPod: Björk; Prince; Cloud Cult; Beirut
Favorite things to do in the Bay Area: Cycling in Marin, taking my dog to the beach, walking through the Presidio, visiting all the great museums, daytrips to Point Reyes
Jessica Valeri is currently a member of the Coaching Team for the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra.
Member since 1999
Hometown: Arkadelphia, AR
My favorites would probably be Brahms and Mahler. Both of them wrote great parts for horns—very different from each other, but very meaty in both cases. I feel really privileged to have been able to record all of the Mahler symphonies here throughout my career. Not many people get to do that.
If I were to pick another career, I would go into decorating. I’ve also thought about flipping houses for a living. I love to garden: My husband—former principal trombone Mark Lawrence—and I live on a floating home in Sausalito now, so I’ve moved to pots. We’ve taken up kayaking, which is great—we just walk out the door and jump in, and just around the corner all the seals and birds hang out. I love my three Persian cats; I play with them all the time. And I love to travel: Mark and I really enjoy going to Lucerne. It is just beautiful.
On being in the Orchestra:
I enjoy the depth of sound that the middle voices—horns, cellos, bassoons, violas—give to the overall sound of the orchestra. I love playing solos and being heard, and I also love playing in our brass section. Most of us have known each other for 15 years at least, so we’re very close. It’s easy to sit down and work through the music together.
I have a lot of CDs of classical music at home, but because I play so much classical, I like to balance it out with other kinds of music. Some favorites are Mel Tormé, Tony Bennett, Barbra Streisand, Elton John, and Al Jarreau.