Meet the SFS Musicians: Principal Percussion Jacob Nissly

See how SF Symphony musician Jacob Nissly's passion for percussion spans several genres, from classical to jazz to rock.

Jacob Nissly

Principal Percussion
Member since: 2013
Hometown: Grimes, IA
School: Northwestern University, Juilliard School

Discovering the drums: My father played drums in a rock band so we had drums in the house. I started playing in the band in fifth grade and continued on until eventually deciding to major in music in college.

Early musical influences: My parents, my first percussion teacher Woody Smith, Stevie Wonder, and Led Zeppelin

On playing jazz: I started playing in my middle school jazz band as an outlet for my aspiration of being the next drummer for the band Nirvana. Some of my favorite modern jazz players include Robert Glasper, Brad Mehldau, Kurt Rosenwinkel, and Thundercat. My all-time favorites include John Coltrane, Art Tatum, Bill Evans, Herbie Hancock, Dexter Gordon, and so many more. As a drummer I would be remiss in not mentioning Tony Williams and his work on the Miles Davis records.

Favorite composers: Gy├Ârgy Ligeti, Steve Reich, Stravinsky, Iannis Xenaxis, and Shostakovich

San Francisco Symphony percussionist Jacob Nissly Nissly performs during SoundBox: Sticks & Stones in February 2015

Favorite part of being in the SFS: Having the opportunity to play repertory that utilizes percussion in a wide variety of roles every week.

Most memorable SFS performances: Performing Stravinsky's L'Histoire du soldat in January 2015 with MTT and my amazing colleagues. Last season’s SoundBox program was a wonderful opportunity for the entire percussion section to showcase our skills in a different manner than our normal Davies Symphony Hall performances. SoundBox is a great way to invite more of the community in to experience music making at its highest.

Interests outside the SFS: I enjoy running, hiking, and listening to live music at places such as SFJAZZ, the Independent, Yoshi's, or anywhere new and interesting. I’m also a die-hard Chicago Cubs, Bulls, and Bears fan, although living near AT&T Park has made me a bit of a Giants fan.

Favorite reading and television: I recently checked out the series Silicon Valley given its cultural relevance to our lives in the Bay Area right now. I also have a soft spot for South Park. I like to read fiction and am reading the book Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson.

On life in San Francisco: I love living in San Francisco—the West Coast feels like home for me and I love living in the city.

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