Mariko Smiley

Paula & John Gambs Second Century Chair

Mariko Smiley
Violin, Paula and John Gambs Second Century Chair
Member since 1982
Hometown: Mill Valley, CA

On being in the Orchestra:
The mix of personalities in the Orchestra is always fascinating to me—I really enjoy that. It’s so educational to communicate with people not just through conversation, but also by interacting musically. It’s a very enlightening way of getting to know someone.

Musical memory:
I remember when Rostropovich came to San Francisco just after he had left the Soviet Union. He played the Dvořák concerto. I think I was 15 at the time, and some friends and I found seats near the front. That was a really memorable occasion, plus musically it was so wonderful.

I love to teach; right now I’m on staff at UC Berkeley, and it’s something I’d like to carve out more time for in the future. I also do a lot of chamber music wherever I can fit it in. I play in the SFS Chamber Music Series, and in Berkeley, and I used to play in the Aurora Quartet with my Symphony colleagues.

SFS highlights:
I enjoyed the New and Unusual Music Series we did in the ’80s. I like to play new or lesser-known compositions every now and then. A lot of the music I didn’t necessarily love, but I like the variety, and the idea of bringing all sorts of music to all sorts of audiences.

On being a musician:
It is interesting to be around people who think so much about music, and who are really immersed in it. After family, music is our first priority—it always comes back to that. You always have a piece of music going through your head; you are always thinking in musical terms. That’s simply how your brain works. You might say we are obsessed with one thing; it’s true, but hopefully it’s true in a good way.

Mariko Smiley has served as a Symphony mentor in the SF Symphony Community of Music Makers program.