Jacob Nissly was appointed Principal Percussion of the San Francisco Symphony in 2013. Previously, he served as principal percussion of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony, and he was also a member of the New World Symphony. He is an adjunct professor of percussion at the Eastman School of Music. Mr. Nissly holds degrees from Northwestern University and the Juilliard School. He began his percussion studies with Woody Smith in Iowa.
Member since 1991
Hometown: Deer Park, Long Island
On becoming a classical musician:
In high school I was living on Kauai, playing drums in a jazz big band and the Makai Brotherhood Blues Band. We played all over the island, mainly at Taylor’s Camp in Hanalei, which was a hippie mecca. I wanted to move to the mainland, and one of the band members suggested San Francisco. I practiced everything you need to get into a classical school, and I ended up at the Conservatory.
I’m in a rock trio—electric guitar, bass, drums. And I’m in a group called the Ultra World X-tet, which involves Chinese instruments—the guzheng and pipa—and sax, electric guitar, bass. We combine jazz, world, funk, and psychedelic styles with an unusual mix of instruments and exotic, funky grooves. We gig around, and we just did a recording session.
I try to listen to friends and to support local artists. Weishan Liu is a local guzheng player, and I enjoy listening to her CDs.
Stay open to what is real music-making. That is advice I try to follow myself. When I’m playing in a club, everyone’s drinking or dancing, and I’m totally relaxed. When I play here, there are spotlights, and I’m in a suit, and I’m really focused—but I’m still hitting the drum. I try to make those experiences the same, to try and always get to the essence of music-making.
Raymond Froehlich has served as a Symphony mentor in the SF Symphony Community of Music Makers program.
SFS member since: 1974
Hometown: Burbank, CA
Music schools you attended: Oberlin College
Began playing music: At age 9
Musical inspirations: Drummer Hack O’Brien
If I were not a professional musician, I might be a: Mediator
Favorite composers: Berlioz, Mahler, Copland
Favorite works featuring my instrument: Harrison, Canticle No. 3; Shostakovich, Symphony No. 11; Orff, Carmina burana; Beethoven, Symphony No. 9
When I’m not working, I enjoy: Eating, cooking, home renovation/preservation, walking with my wife
Recent reading: Write!, by Arthur Krystal
On my CD player/iPod: Swedish fiddle and African harp music
Favorite things to do in the Bay Area: Urban walks (especially SF): walk, stop, drink, walk, stop, eat, enjoy the salt air.
Plus: I love coaching the Youth Orchestra.
James Lee Wyatt III
Percussion – Acting Principal
Member since 2002
Hometown: Princeton, KY
On being in the Orchestra:
I'm fortunate to be part of an incredible percussion section. We play together as a unit, while still bringing individual concepts and approaches to the music. It's an honor performing with MTT and the SFS. Michael is very innovative and spontaneous. He allows the musicians to take chances, which always leads to edge-of-the-seat performances.
My clear favorite is Dmitri Shostakovich, not only for his great percussion writing, but also for the angst and conflict that define his music. In 1998 I played snare drum on the Symphony No. 11 with MTT at the Pacific Music Festival in Japan. Years later, in the final round of my SFS audition, I played excerpts from that work with MTT. Revisiting this piece as part of winning my job is an experience I’ll never forget.
Outside the Orchestra:
I own two businesses: California Percussion, LLC, manufactures and sells percussion instruments; and Absolutely Music, Inc., offers backline, piano, and percussion rentals. Both began as hobbies and became serious commitments. My leisure pursuits tend to be associated with my career: I enjoy traveling the world in search of exotic percussion instruments.