Collaborative Partners
In their inaugural season together,
Esa-Pekka Salonen and the San Francisco Symphony introduce a new artistic leadership model unique in the orchestral world, anchored by an extraordinary group of eight Collaborative Partners from a variety of cultural disciplines. This group of visionary artists, thinkers, and doers will join with Salonen and the San Francisco Symphony to embark on a future of experimentation by collaborating on new ideas, breaking conventional rules, and creating unique and powerful experiences.

Nicholas Britell

Composer and Pianist

Academy Award-nominated composer and pianist Nicholas Britell is known for his critically acclaimed scores, including those for Barry Jenkins’ If Beale Street Could Talk (2018) and Moonlight, winner of the 2017 Academy Award for Best Picture. Britell received Academy Award nominations for both those films as well as BAFTA and Critics Choice nominations for If Beale Street Could Talk. He received Golden Globe and Critics Choice nominations, as well as the 2016 Hollywood Music in Media Award for Best Original Score (Dramatic Feature), for Moonlight. The year prior, he wrote the score for Adam McKay’s The Big Short, which marked the start of his collaboration with the Academy Award-winning writer-director-producer. In 2018, Britell wrote the score for McKay’s Vice, starring Christian Bale and Amy Adams. For television, he scores HBO's Succession, for which he won the 2019 Emmy for Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music and the Hollywood Music in Media Award for Best Original Score. He most recently scored Netflix’s The King, starring Timothée Chalamet. In 2019, he was honored by the World Soundtrack Award as the Film Composer of the Year for his scores for If Beale Street Could Talk and Vice. Britell’s upcoming projects include Barry Jenkins’ The Underground Railroad series for Amazon and Succession’s Season 3 for HBO.

In addition to his work as a San Francisco Symphony Collaborative Partner, Britell is a Steinway Artist and is also a Creative Associate of the Juilliard School. His recent public performances have included concerts at London’s Barbican Hall, the Million Dollar Theatre in Los Angeles, Chicago’s Ravinia, and Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.

Julia Bullock

Classical Singer and Curator

Combining versatile artistry with a probing intellect and commanding stage presence, American classical singer Julia Bullock has, in her early thirties, already headlined productions and concerts at some of the preeminent arts institutions worldwide. An innovative programmer whose artistic curation is in high demand, her curatorial positions include San Francisco Symphony Artist-in-Residence in 2019–20 and Collaborative Partner beginning with the 2020–21 season, Esa-Pekka Salonen’s first as Music Director; Artist-in-Residence of London’s Guildhall School for the 2020–21 and 2021–22 seasons; opera-programming host of new broadcast channel All Arts; founding core member of the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC); and 2018–19 Artist-in-Residence of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Bullock is also a prominent voice of social consciousness and activism.

Bullock has made key operatic debuts at San Francisco Opera in the world premiere of John Adams’ Girls of the Golden West; Santa Fe Opera in Adams’ Doctor Atomic; Festival d’Aix-en-Provence and Dutch National Opera in Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress; and the English National Opera, Spain’s Teatro Real, and Russia’s Bolshoi Theatre in the title role of Purcell’s The Indian Queen.  

In concert, she has collaborated with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Gustavo Dudamel, the New York Philharmonic and Alan Gilbert, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Andris Nelsons, Japan’s NHK Symphony and Paavo Järvi, and both the Berlin Philharmonic and London Symphony Orchestra with Sir Simon Rattle, among others. Her recital highlights include appearances at New York’s Carnegie Hall, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Cal Performances at UC Berkeley, Boston’s Celebrity Series, Washington’s Kennedy Center, and the Mostly Mozart and Ojai Music festivals, where she joined Roomful of Teeth and the International Contemporary Ensemble for the world premiere of Josephine Baker: A Portrait. This led to the creation of Perle Noire: Meditations for Joséphine, a work conceived by Bullock in collaboration with Peter Sellars, and written for her by Tyshawn Sorey and Claudia Rankine. Her growing discography includes Adams’ Doctor Atomic, recorded with the composer conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra, and West Side Story, with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony, both of which were nominated for Grammy Awards. 

Julia Bullock was born in Saint Louis, MO, and holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music, Bard College’s Graduate Vocal Arts Program, and New York’s Juilliard School. She lives with her husband, conductor Christian Reif, in Munich.

Claire Chase

Flutist, Educator, and Creator of New and Experimental Music

Claire Chase is a soloist, collaborative artist, curator, and advocate for new and experimental music. Over the past decade she has given the world premieres of hundreds of new works for the flute, and she has championed new music internationally by building organizations, forming alliances, pioneering commissioning initiatives, and supporting educational programs that reach new audiences. Chase founded the International Contemporary Ensemble in 2001, was named a MacArthur Fellow in 2012, and in 2017 was the first flutist to be awarded the Avery Fisher Prize from Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. She is founder and director of the twenty-three-year initiative Density 2036, a project to commission an entirely new body of repertory for solo flute leading up to the centennial of Edgard Varèse’s seminal 1936 flute solo Density 21.5Each year leading up to the centennial, Chase premieres a program of newly commissioned music; in 2036 she will play a twenty-four-hour marathon of all the repertory created in the project. In December 2020, the first five years of Density 2036 will be released in their world premiere recordings in a four-album compilation produced in collaboration with Meyer Sound Laboratories in Berkeley, CA.

A deeply committed educator, Chase is currently is Professor of the Practice of Music at Harvard University, where she teaches courses on ensemble building, cultural activism, and transdisciplinary collaboration. She lives in Brooklyn. 

Bryce Dessner 

Composer and Guitarist

Bryce Dessner is a vital and rare force in new music. He has won Grammy Awards as a classical composer and with the band The National, of which he is founding member, guitarist, arranger, and co-principal songwriter. He is regularly commissioned to write for the world’s leading ensembles, from Orchestre de Paris to the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and is a high-profile presence in film score composition, with credits including Alejandro González Iñárritu’s The Revenant, for which he was Grammy and Golden Globe nominated. This year, his album Tenebre won both an Opus Klassik Award in Germany and a Diapason d’Or in France.

Dessner collaborates with some of today’s most creative and respected artists, including Philip Glass, Katia and Marielle Labèque, Paul Simon, Sufjan Stevens, Jonny Greenwood, Bon Iver, Nico Muhly, and Steve Reich. His orchestrations can be heard on the latest albums of Paul Simon, Bon Iver, and Taylor Swift.

In addition to his role as one of eight San Francisco Symphony Collaborative Partners, Dessner is currently Artist-in-Residence at London’s Southbank Centre and with the Frankfurt Radio Symphony. His recent major works include Concerto for Two Pianos for Katia and Marielle Labèque, premiered by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and recorded for Deutsche Grammophon; Trombone Concerto, which premiered in Cologne in 2020; Voy a Dormir for Kelley O’Connor and the Orchestra of Saint Luke’s; Skrik Trio for Steve Reich and Carnegie Hall; the ballet No Tomorrow, co-written with Ragnar Kjartansson; and Wires for Ensemble Intercontemporain. In 2019, Gautier Capuçon premiered a new work by Dessner commissioned by Fondation Louis Vuitton and the Los Angeles Philharmonic premiered Triptych (Eyes for One on Another), a major theater piece integrating the photographs of Robert Mapplethorpe. Also in 2019, New York’s Metropolitan Museum featured a song by Dessner in one of its first contemporary installations. Most recently Dessner scored the music—involving full orchestra and a 200-member choir—for the Louis Vuitton catwalk show in March 2020 as part of Paris Fashion Week. Future projects include a world premiere with Sydney Dance Company and the Australian String Quartet.

Dessner’s albums include St. Carolyn by the Sea on Deutsche Grammophon; Aheym, commissioned by Kronos Quartet; Tenebre, performed by Ensemble Resonanz (2019); and When we are inhuman by Dessner, Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, and Eighth Blackbird (2019). Dessner’s other film score credits include The Two Popes, which was nominated for a World Soundtrack Award. In spring 2019 The National released its latest album, I am Easy to Find. 

Also active as a curator, Dessner is regularly requested to program festivals and residencies around the world, at venues such as the Barbican, Philharmonie de Paris, and Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie. He co-founded and curates the festivals MusicNOW in Cincinnati, HAVEN in Copenhagen, Sounds from a Safe Harbour, and PEOPLE.

Bryce Dessner lives in Paris.

Pekka Kuusisto

Violinist, Musical Director, and Artistic Trailblazer

Violinist, conductor, and composer Pekka Kuusisto is renowned for his artistic freedom and fresh approach to the repertoire. Widely recognized for his flair in directing ensembles, Kuusisto is Artistic Director of the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra (beginning with the 2021–22 season), and Artistic Partner with the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra and Mahler Chamber Orchestra. He is also a Collaborative Partner of the San Francisco Symphony and Artistic Best Friend of Die Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen. In the 2020–21 season, Kuusisto is Artist-in-Residence with the hr-Sinfonieorchester Frankfurt with whom he will appear as soloist, conductor, and chamber musician. He is also Artist-in-Residence at Milton Court at the Barbican, culminating in a concert with the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra.

Kuusisto is an enthusiastic advocate of contemporary music and a gifted improviser, regularly engaging with people across the artistic spectrum. Uninhibited by conventional genre boundaries and noted for his innovative programming, recent projects have included collaborations with experimental pianist Hauschka and percussionist Samuli Kosminen, Dutch neurologist Erik Scherder, pioneer of electronic music Brian Crabtree, eminent jazz trumpeter Arve Henriksen, juggler Jay Gilligan, accordionist Dermot Dunne, and folk artist Sam Amidon. In the coming season he will premiere new concertos by Bryce Dessner, Djuro Zivkovic, and Enrico Chapela, and chamber works by Sauli Zinovjev and Calliope Tsoupaki. He also performs other concertos written for him, including Daníel Bjarnason’s Violin Concerto and Nico Muhly’s Violin Concerto, Shrink. In recent seasons Kuusisto has premiered new works by Sauli Zinovjev, Anders Hillborg, Philip Venables, and Andrea Tarrodi. He also tours around the world with orchestras such as the Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Philharmonic, BBC Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Orchestre de Paris, Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, WDR Symphony Orchestra Köln, Philharmonia Orchestra, Tapiola Sinfonietta, and the Australian, Scottish, and Swedish chamber orchestras.

Kuusisto has released several recordings, including several notable albums for the Ondine and BIS labels. He has recently recorded Thomas Adès’ Violin Concerto with the Aurora Orchestra and Nicolas Collon for Deutsche Grammophon; Anders Hillborg’s Bach Materia and Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 3 and 4 with the Swedish Chamber Orchestra and Thomas Dausgaard for BIS; and Daníel Bjarnason’s Violin Concerto with the Iceland Symphony Orchestra with the composer conducting for the Sono Luminus label. Past releases include Erkki-Sven Tüür’s Double Concerto for Violin and Clarinet, Noësis, for Ondine and Sebastian Fagerlund’s Violin Concerto, Darkness in Light, for BIS, both recorded with Finnish Radio Symphony Orchestra and Hannu Lintu.

Nico Muhly

Composer and Multifaceted Collaborator

Nico Muhly is an American composer and sought-after collaborator whose influences range from American minimalism to the Anglican choral tradition. The recipient of commissions from the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Tallis Scholars, Saint John’s College, Cambridge, and others, he has written more than 100 works for the concert stage, including the opera Marnie (2017), which premiered at the English National Opera and was staged by the Metropolitan Opera in the fall of 2018.

Muhly is a frequent collaborator with choreographer Benjamin Millepied and, as an arranger, he has paired with Sufjan Stevens, Antony and the Johnsons, and others. His work for stage and screen includes music for the Broadway revival of The Glass Menagerie and scores for films including the Academy Award-winning The Reader. Born in Vermont, Muhly studied composition at the Juilliard School before working as an editor and conductor for Philip Glass. He is part of the artist-run record label Bedroom Community, which released his first two albums, Speaks Volumes (2006) and Mothertongue (2008). He lives in New York City.

Carol Reiley

Artificial Intelligence Entrepreneur and Roboticist

Carol Reiley is an entrepreneur, computer scientist, and Artificial Intelligence roboticist. She is currently CEO of a healthcare startup, a Collaborative Partner of the San Francisco Symphony, tech advisory council member for Harman Kardon, a World Economics Forum Young Global Leader, and a brand ambassador for Guerlain Cosmetics. A pioneer in teleoperated and autonomous robot systems in applications such as surgery, space exploration, disaster rescue, and self-driving cars, Reiley previously worked at Intuitive Surgical, Lockheed Martin, and General Electric. She co-founded, invested, and was President of, where she raised more than $77 million. She also founded Tinkerbelle Labs for low-cost healthcare, as well as Squishybotz for educational robotics. Her children’s book on growth mindset has sold more than 20,000 copies. Reiley was previously an instructor at Johns Hopkins and led a robot outreach event for more than 1,000 low-income students in the Baltimore/Washington DC area. The first female engineer on the cover of MAKE magazine, she was the youngest member on the IEEE Robotics and Engineering Board. She has been recognized by Forbes, Inc Magazine, and Quartz’s Most Powerful Founders lists in Artificial Intelligence; served as an advocate for underrepresented groups in technology; and spoken out about bias in AI. Her work has been featured in the Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, MIT Tech Review, Vogue, Harpers Bazaar, and Wired. 

esperanza spalding

Jazz Bassist, Vocalist, and Undefinable Artist

esperanza spalding aims to ignite and portray various hues of vital human energies through composition, singing, bass playing, and live performance, with the intention of offering these sound energies as an aide for connecting with latent portals of unity consciousness and health.

She has aptly named her musical style “what it is.” A lover of all music, especially improvisation-based musics emerging from Black American culture, and a fledgling devotee of/to their unique liberatory powers, her musical aesthetic is prismatic. She is currently exploring music as healing technology, and how principles of receptive formlessness and fecundity may be expressed and embodied through sound/song-based performance.

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