Recently appointed principal timpanist of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra, Ed Stephan is recognized as one of the most exciting and dynamic timpanists in the United States. He has been praised for his “strong and multi-faceted playing” as well as his “captivating command behind the instrument.” Prior to his appointment in San Francisco, Stephan held the position of principal timpanist of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra from 2011-2016. He was the principal timpanist of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra from 2009-2011, and before that the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra from 2001-2009. While in Texas, he appeared twice as soloist with the FWSO and was awarded the American Airlines Distinguished Musician Award in 2006.
Stephan began his percussion training at the age of six. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the University of North Texas and a Master of Music degree from the New England Conservatory of Music. He was a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center in 2000 and 2001. He can be heard on numerous recordings with the Pittsburgh Symphony, as well as the FWSO, DSO and North Texas Wind Symphony—including a number of Grammy nominated performances. While living in Boston, Stephan performed with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Rhode Island Philharmonic, the New Haven Symphony and the National Lyric Opera.
In recent years, Stephan has appeared as a guest with the Chicago Symphony, the San Francisco Symphony, The Philharmonia Orchestra of London, the Kansas City Symphony, The Aspen Festival Orchestra and the Dallas Opera Orchestra. He has served as the principal timpanist of the Crested Butte Summer Music Festival and is currently timpanist of the Grand Teton Music Festival in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Mr. Stephan is in demand as a teacher and clinician. He presents regular masterclasses throughout North America, Europe and Asia at many of the world’s most prestigious conservatories, universities and festivals. He is a co-host and presenter of the annual Washburgh Timpani Seminar, he is on the faculty at the Aspen Music Festival, and currently serves as chair of the percussion department at Duquesne University. Ed proudly endorses Adams timpani, Pearl percussion products, Remo percussion products, Luft Timpani Mallets, and Mike Balter mallets.
Jacob Nissly was appointed Principal Percussion of the San Francisco Symphony in 2013. Previously, he was the principal percussion of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Detroit Symphon and a member of the New World Symphony. Mr. Nissly has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera, Houston Symphony, and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and with the Verbier Festival Orchestra and Pacific Music Festival. He is an adjunct professor of percussion at the Eastman School of Music. Mr. Nissly holds a bachelor of music and jazz from Northwestern University and a master’s degree from the Juilliard School. He began his percussion studies with Woody Smith in Iowa.
Profiled in our Meet the SFS Musicians series, Jacob Nissly shows how his passion for percussion spans several genres, from classical to jazz to rock.
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. He is currently a member of the Coaching Team for the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra.
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 joined the San Francisco Symphony in 2001 after serving as principal percussionist of the Honolulu Symphony. A native of Princeton, Kentucky, he received his bachelor’s from the University of Michigan and his master’s from Temple University. Mr. Wyatt has performed with the Santa Fe Opera, National Repertory Orchestra, the Sun Valley Summer Symphony, and the Ojai Festival, Tanglewood Music Center, and the US and Italian Spoleto Festivals.
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.
Davies Symphony Hall
201 Van Ness Ave
San Francisco, CA 94102
Mon - Fri: 10am - 6pm
Sun: 2 hours prior to concerts
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