Jonathan Vinocour joined the SFS as Principal Viola in 2009, having previously served as principal viola of the Saint Louis Symphony and guest principal viola of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra. A native of Rochester, NY, Mr. Vinocour graduated from Princeton University and the New England Conservatory of Music. He is a regular coach at the New World Symphony in Miami and is also on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory. His first solo album, featuring works of Britten and Shostakovich, was recorded with the support of the Holland America Music Society. Mr. Vinocour was also a featured recitalist at the 2012 International Viola Congress. He plays a 1784 Lorenzo Storioni viola, on loan from the San Francisco Symphony.
Yun Jie Liu is Associate Principal Viola of the SFS. Born in Shanghai, he began his violin studies with his father. He entered the middle school of the Shanghai Conservatory of Music, and was named assistant professor of viola upon graduation. In 1990, he was invited by Mstislav Rostropovich to join the National Symphony in Washington DC. Mr. Liu regularly gives chamber music concerts and solo recitals, having performed in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Washington DC, Shanghai, and Hong Kong. Yun Jie Liu joined the San Francisco Symphony in 1993. He currently serves on the faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory.
Assistant Principal Viola
Member since 2007
Hometown: Orinda, CA
Other musical activities:
I am the violist in the Janaki String Trio, an incredible ensemble that is very dear to me. We have a balance of personal and musical dynamics, which is why I love chamber music; it's a chance to get closer to people.
On becoming a musician:
I come from a family of musicians, and I give full credit to my parents for my success in music. I started on piano at five, then switched to violin and then to cello, and I finally settled with the instrument that fit the best: viola. I played in the SFS Youth Orchestra, and it was during that time I fell in love with the SFS.
For orchestral music, I love Mahler and Prokofiev. Through very different harmonies and textures, they each manage to cast a spell on both the musicians and the audience. Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Bartók wrote my favorite string quartets.
On being in the Orchestra:
I feel incredibly fortunate and have been welcomed warmly by the orchestra members. We work very hard and are so appreciative of our devoted audience members, donors, and fans.
Katie Kadarauch has served as a Symphony mentor in the SF Symphony Community of Music Makers program.
Joanne E. Harrington & Lorry I. Lokey Second Century Chair
Member since 1974
Hometown: Racine, WI
On being in the Orchestra:
Being inside the sound of the Orchestra is a great thing. I’m able to make sounds with the group that I can’t make myself, because I’m just one part of what’s going on. That is the appeal: The music is really great, and the sound of the Orchestra is spectacular.
I’m a photographer—that’s a passion for me. In 1975 the Orchestra went to Japan and I bought a camera there and started taking slides. Then I saw an Ansel Adams book and immediately I bought an old large-format press camera. Ever since then I’ve been totally hooked on taking pictures and working in the dark room. I like landscapes with a sign of man in them: a building, a telephone pole—anything that creates nice light and shapes.
My mother is an excellent pianist and organist. My wife is a schoolteacher and she plays the flute, and my older son Matthew plays solo electric cello under the name Mr. Cello Man. He plays on albums and often performs shows in the Bay Area. My younger son Tristan is a drummer (on anything in the house) and a beatboxer, and is interested in designing lighting for stage sets.
Advice to aspiring musicians:
Play chamber music with the attitude that you want to blend in with other people. The job of an orchestral musician is to be a strong player, and also to blend and phrase with everybody. It may be difficult to relinquish control, but that is really where the enjoyment comes from.
Nancy Ellis, a New Jersey native, joined the San Francisco Symphony’s viola section in 1975. She attended Oberlin College for two years before transferring to Mills College, of which she is a graduate. She has toured Europe with a quartet that backed rock singer Van Morrison, and she has attended the Marlboro Music Festival and toured with Music from Marlboro.
Member since 1992
Hometown: Ardsley, NY
Began playing music:
Both my parents are musicians, so I was immersed in music from a young age. I started piano lessons early on with my mother; I could read music before I could read words. And there was always music going on. My mother had this record collection that spanned everything from Duke Ellington to Barbra Streisand, and then to the Juilliard String Quartet playing Schubert’s Death and the Maiden.
I have two kids—identical twin boys—so most of my time and energy is spent with them. But I love to do chamber music, and I try to say yes every time I get asked to play for something with SFS colleagues or elsewhere.
My husband’s iPod is in the car. He’s got such great taste and it’s fun to listen to things I wouldn’t otherwise. He’s a big opera buff and has practically every opera on there, so I’ll be driving along and suddenly I’m listening to Rigoletto.
David Gaudry, a native of Vancouver, British Columbia, joined the San Francisco Symphony’s viola section in 1982. A graduate of Indiana University, he also studied at the Vancouver Academy of Music and at the Banff School of Fine Arts. Prior to joining the SFS he was a member of the Vancouver Symphony.
Member since 2009
Hometown: Memphis, Tennessee
I began playing the violin at the age of 5 and continued to play through early college, where I was a math major. I discovered the viola quite late, at the age of 21, and immediately fell in love with its dark, mellow sound. The decision to switch to the viola changed my life and allowed me to find my true musical voice.
Important musical influences:
Nobuko Imai, Kim Kashkashian, and Carol Rodland were not only my main viola teachers, but also huge influences on my sensibilities as a musician and even as a person. Also, as a I child I remember my father playing the traditional Korean flute as well as singing Korean folk songs.
My favorite composers are Bach, Beethoven, and Bartók. But Bach is, for me, the ultimate composer.
On being a member of the SFS and playing in an orchestra:
The San Francisco Symphony is a very warm, welcoming environment. I feel lucky to be a part of this musical family, especially the viola section. I’ve realized that my awareness of sound, of being able to listen to everything in complete harmony, is growing with each concert. It’s really about being able to anticipate and to open your ears.
Advice for aspiring professional musicians:
Spend as much time as you can doing what you love to do. If that means traveling, studying abroad, joining a quartet, do whatever it takes to have the most fulfilling musical experiences you can.
Member since 1996
Hometown: Newport Beach, CA
On being in the Orchestra:
It is rewarding to be part of such an exceptional group of talented people and to share the experience of great music with the audience and community. Being able to contribute to performances at such a high artistic level is an amazing way to live your life. It’s a challenge but I can’t imagine doing anything else. What a gift!
I find it difficult to narrow the choices down. I usually say Mozart, but there are so many... Brahms’s symphonies are always wonderful and the tone poems of Richard Strauss are challenging and rich. One of my all-time favorite pieces is Stravinsky’s Pulcinella—it is a joy to play!
Other musical activities:
I play chamber music in Walnut Creek for the Sierra Chamber Society—usually a few concerts a year. It has been great, if not essential, for my technique and my spirit, and a good way to get to know my colleagues better. For fun, I also play electric violin in a rock band called NTL.
I have become an avid cyclist since doing my first century ride (100 miles in a day) with Team in Training, which raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. It was a great experience, and since then I have done seven more centuries. I have a beautiful Italian racing bike that I love.
Wayne Roden, a native of Alabama, attended the North Carolina School of the Arts and Northern Illinois University, where he studied with Scott Nickrenz. Following induction into the military, he studied viola with Karen Tuttle and also played frequently at the White House as a member of the Strolling Strings of the US Army Band. Since joining the San Francisco Symphony in 1974, he has performed chamber music locally and nationally. With the San Francisco Chamber Soloists, he performed with Janos Starker, Jaime Laredo, Stephanie Chase, and Jerome Lowenthal.
Nanci Severance has been a member of the SFS since 1982. Before joining the Orchestra she attended Oberlin College, the Banff Centre for the Arts, and Northern Illinois University. Ms. Severance has appeared with and been a member of many Bay Area ensembles, including the Donatello Quartet, San Francisco Contemporary Music Ensemble, PARLANTE chamber orchestra, and the Stanford String Quartet, and she has participated in the Grand Teton Music Festival, Sun Valley Summer Symphony, Telluride Chamber Music Festival, and the Eastern Music Festival.
Member since 2000
Hometown: Bytom, Poland
My musical journey began on the violin at the age of six, but my main interests then were in science and mathematics, and I hoped to become a doctor. After switching to the viola at age 17, I won first prize in the National Viola Competition in Poland, which altered the course of my life. Shortly after, I became the youngest member of the Polish National Symphony. At age 18, I was invited to join the Penderecki String Quartet. My quartet collaboration lasted more than a decade.
I love astronomy. I built my own telescope when I was 14 and that passion has stayed with me ever since. I also love jazz. I have followed the Pat Metheny Group since the early ’80s. As a teenager, I was the lead guitarist and composer for my high school rock band. Nowadays, I enjoy playing the classical guitar and composing songs for my children.
On playing in an orchestra:
One of my most vivid recollections was, as an 18-year-old, discovering the amazing power of the orchestra: its ability to grow from the most sublime, quiet, almost non-existent sounds to the most grandiose. It is a living creature and being a part of it is thrilling.
On being a musician:
My passion is playing chamber music. There is this constant evolution of emotions and musical ideas. The orchestra is a little different: It is a much larger body, so you have many channels that you can tune in to. Even though you are one of many, your engagement and contribution can make a big difference.
Adam Smyla is currently a member of the Coaching Team for the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra.
Matthew Young joined the SFS viola section in 2012. He was a founding member of the Verklärte Quartet, which won grand prize in the 2003 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition. He currently performs as a member of Ensemble San Francisco. Winner of a 2007 McKnight Artist Fellowship for Performing Musicians and the Robert Vernon Prize for Viola Performance, he attended the University of Kentucky, Yale School of Music, and Cleveland Institute of Music.
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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