Timpani & Percussion

Michael Israelievitch

Michael Israelievitch is currently Acting Principal Timpani of the San Francisco Symphony, occupying the Marcia and John Goldman Chair.  He has also served as Principal Timpani of the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra since 2010.  Mr. Israelievitch is in demand as an orchestral player, having appeared as guest principal timpanist on several occasions with the Chicago Symphony, Saint Louis Symphony, Detroit Symphony, Baltimore Symphony, National Arts Centre Orchestra, Singapore Symphony, Malaysian Philharmonic, the Berlin and Stuttgart radio orchestras, and on tour with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra. He has also performed as percussionist with the Boston Symphony, Minnesota Orchestra, and Kansas City Symphony.

As a percussion soloist, Mr. Israelievitch has appeared with several orchestras, most notably giving the world premieres of new concertos by Kelly-Marie Murphy and Alexander Levkovich with the Toronto Symphony. During the 2011-12 season, he gave his Minnesota concerto debut with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, performing James MacMillan’s Veni, Veni, Emmanuel.

Mr. Israelievitch has collaborated with artists including Martha Argerich, Measha Brueggergosman, Nelson Freire, Peter Oundjian, and his father Jacques Israelievitch, and has performed chamber concerts at the Verbier, Ottawa, Chautauqua, and Tanglewood music festivals, and in New York City at Alice Tully Hall and Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall with pianist Leif Ove Andsnes. He has premiered dozens of works by leading composers including Samuel Adler, Bruce Adolphe, Michael Colgrass, and Libby Larsen.

A former student of Daniel Druckman and Roland Kohloff at the Juilliard School, Mr. Israelievitch completed his master's degree in 2007 at Boston University under the tutelage of Timothy Genis. Following these studies, he spent two-and- a-half seasons as timpani fellow at the New World Symphony in Miami Beach—an organization for which he has since returned as teacher and coach.

Mr. Israelievitch presently serves on the percussion faculty of the Boston University Tanglewood Institute and he has also taught classes at the Juilliard Summer Percussion Seminar. In addition to being a Zildjian Orchestral Artist, he endorses Evans Drumheads.

Mr. Israelievitch is currently a member of the Coaching Team for the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra.

Jacob Nissly

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. 

(September 2016)

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.

Raymond Froehlich

Raymond Froehlich
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.

Listening to:
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.

Tom Hemphill


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

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. 

(September 2016)

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.

Favorite composer:
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.