First Violins

Alexander Barantschik

Concertmaster, Naoum Blinder Chair

Portrait of Alexander Barantschik

Alexander Barantschik, occupant of the Naoum Blinder Chair, began his tenure as San Francisco Symphony Concertmaster in September 2001. Former concertmaster of the Bamberg Symphony Orchestra in Germany, London Symphony Orchestra (1989 to 2001) and Netherlands Radio Philharmonic (1982 to 2001), he has also been an active soloist and chamber musician throughout Europe. He has collaborated in chamber music with André Previn, Antonio Pappano and, on several occasions, Mstislav Rostropovich. As leader of the LSO, Mr. Barantschik toured Europe, Japan, and the US, performed as soloist, and served as concertmaster for acclaimed cycles of Mahler, Stravinsky, and Debussy with Michael Tilson Thomas, as well as major symphonic cycles with Rostropovich and Bernard Haitink. He was also concertmaster for Pierre Boulez’s year-long, three-continent 75th Birthday Celebration.

Born in Russia, Mr. Barantschik attended the Saint Petersburg Conservatory and went on to perform with the major Russian orchestras, including the Saint Petersburg Philharmonic. His awards include first prize in the International Violin Competition in Sion, Switzerland, and in the Russian National Violin Competition. Since joining the SFS, Mr. Barantschik has led the Orchestra in several programs and appeared as soloist in concertos and other works by J.S. Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Beethoven, Prokofiev, Shostakovich, Walton, Piazzolla, and Schnittke, among others. Next month he appears as soloist with the SFS in J.S. Bach’s Violin Concerto No. 1, with conductor Ton Koopman. Mr. Barantschik is a member of the faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where he teaches graduate students from around the world in a special concertmaster program.

Through an arrangement with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Mr. Barantschik has the exclusive use of the 1742 Guarnerius del Gesù violin once owned by the virtuoso Ferdinand David, who is believed to have played it in the world premiere of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in 1845. It was also the favorite instrument of the legendary Jascha Heifetz, who acquired it in 1922 and who bequeathed it to the Fine Arts Museums, with the stipulation that it be played only by artists worthy of the instrument and its legacy. For more on Alexander Barantschik,visit

(October 2019)

Nadya Tichman

Associate Concertmaster, San Francisco Symphony Foundation Chair

Nadya Tichman, Associate Concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony, occupying the San Francisco Symphony Foundation Chair, joined the Orchestra in 1980. She served as acting concertmaster from 1998 to 2001. Born in New York, she studied at the Juilliard School and the Curtis Institute of Music. She was a founding member of the Donatello Quartet and co-director of Chamber Music Sundaes. A champion of contemporary music, Ms. Tichman has had pieces dedicated to her by composers Peter Schickele, Jim Lahti, and Allen Shearer. She is on the faculty of California State University, Sacramento and she plays a 1724 Stradivarius violin purchased by the SFS for her exclusive use. For more on Nadya Tichman, visit

(February 2019)

Wyatt Underhill

Assistant Concertmaster 

Wyatt Underhill joined the SFS as Assistant Concertmaster in 2018. He was previously assistant concertmaster of the Baltimore Symphony, substitute concertmaster with the New Haven Symphony, and associate concertmaster of Symphony in C. He has won top prizes in the Irving M. Klein International Competition for Strings and the Minnesota Orchestra Young Artist Competition, and has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony, Concord Chamber Orchestra, and the Oberlin Orchestra, and in recital at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and the Gualala Arts Center in California. He is the founding first violinist of the award-winning Blue Hill String Quartet, with whom he has been a fellow at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. He is a graduate of the Oberlin Conservatory and the Juilliard School. 

Jeremy Constant

Assistant Concertmaster

Jeremy Constant, Assistant Concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony, came to the Orchestra in 1984 after having served in the San Francisco Opera Orchestra since 1980. A native of Toronto, he studied with Ivan Galamian at Juilliard and Itzhak Perlman at Brooklyn College, and in 1979 he won Grand Prize in the Du Maurier Competition in Canada. Mr. Constant serves as Concertmaster of both the Marin Symphony and the Sun Valley Summer Symphony and is a founding member of the Navarro Trio. He has been a member of the Donatello String Quartet and the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and served as concertmaster of the Mendocino Music Festival. Mr. Constant plays the 1700 ex-Heberlein-Taylor Stradivarius violin, which was donated to the San Francisco Symphony for his exclusive use. For more on Jeremy Constant, visit

(September 2018)

Mariko Smiley

Paula & John Gambs Second Century Chair

Mariko Smiley began violin studies at age six with her father, David Smiley, who was a violist with the SFS. She trained with former SFS musicians Leonard Austria and Stuart Canin before attending Juilliard, where she studied with Dorothy DeLay, Robert Mann, and Joel Krosnick. Ms. Smiley joined the SFS in 1982 and was for many years a member of the Aurora String Quartet. She occupies the Paula and John Gambs Second Century Chair.

(September 2018)

Melissa Kleinbart

Katharine Hanrahan Chair

Melissa Kleinbart, occupant of the Katharine Hanrahan Chair, joined the SFS in 1998 after serving as associate concertmaster with the San Francisco Opera orchestra and assistant concertmaster with the Vancouver Symphony. In addition to solo appearances with the Philadelphia Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony, and New York Symphonic Ensemble, Ms. Kleinbart has been a participant at the Marlboro and Tanglewood music festivals and has performed with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. A graduate of the Juilliard School, she performs and teaches with the San Francisco Academy Orchestra.

(September 2018)

Yun Chu

violinist Yun ChuYun Chu joined the SFS violin section in 2002. He received his early training at the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and served as concertmaster on two concert tours with the Asian Youth Orchestra under Sergiu Commissiona, where he also performed as soloist with Yo-Yo Ma. While a student at the University of Southern California (where he received the Jascha Heifetz scholarship), he was selected to participate in the Schleswig-Holstein Festival in Germany, and was subsequently appointed concertmaster of the Festival Orchestra. Learn more about Yun Chu at

(September 2018)

Sharon Grebanier

Sharon Grebanier, who joined the SFS in 1973, was born in Vancouver, British Columbia. She studied violin with Emanuel Zetlin, Vilem Sokol, and Denis Zsigmondy, and earned a master's degree from the University of Washington. Ms. Grebanier won the Silverstein Prize for outstanding violinist (1970), the Henry Cabot Award for outstanding orchestral musician (1972), and first prize at the Coleman Chamber Music Competition (1973). She was first violinist with the Aurora Quartet, with which she recorded the complete Mendelssohn and Prokofiev string quartets, available on Naxos Records. She has also played with the Fleezanis, Walther, Grebanier (x2) String Quartet.

(September 2018)

Naomi Kazama Hull

Naomi Kazama Hull
Member since 1998
Hometown: Yokohama, Japan

Music studies:
I left Japan when I was 18 to study at the Vienna Hochschule. I was planning to be there for just three or four years to finish school. But then I started to do a lot of chamber music, and to get more involved in orchestral playing, and three years became nine years. I was pretty much set to live there for my whole life, until I got the opportunity to come to Florida and play in MTT’s New World Symphony.

On being in the Orchestra:
Playing in an orchestra, you get so many different ideas from the musicians and conductors around you. In doing that, your vision gets wider. If you play solos all the time, you develop your own strong sense of how you want to play; but here, you have to be more flexible, and I like that. After we play a really great concert, it is a great feeling to know that I contributed one little part to something that became a really fine production.

Favorite composer:
I love the music of Brahms. I think that his pieces are well-structured and complex, and also have such beautiful melodies. To me Brahms’s music is very romantic and I get emotional playing it.


In Sun Jang

A native of Seoul, Korea, In Sun Jang began studying violin and piano at age four. She graduated from the Juilliard School and the New England Conservatory, where she studied with Donald Weilerstein. A top prize winner at the International Henryk Szeryng Violin Competition, she made her Korean recital debut in 2000 at the Kumho Art Center in Seoul and her Japanese recital debut in 2004, playing at the Airefu Hall in Fukuoka and at the Cultural hall in Shiida. She has appeared as a soloist with the New World Symphony, Puchon Philharmonic, and the Nanpa Festival Orchestra. In 2001, by special invitation of Isaac Stern, Ms. Jang performed at Carnegie Hall as part of the Isaac Stern Chamber Music Workshop. She has collaborated with leading artists, such as Menahem Pressler, Thomas Adès, and Orion String Quartet among others. Her numerous engagements as a chamber musician have taken her to renowned venues in Asia and America such as Jordan Hall in Boston, Yellow Barn Music Festival in Vermont, Miyazaki Prefectural Arts Center in Japan, and the Seoul Art Center and LG Art Center in Korea. Prior to joining the San Francisco Symphony in 2011, she was a concertmaster with the New World Symphony.

(September 2018)

Yukiko Kurakata

Catherine A.Mueller Chair

Yukiko Kurakata, occupant of the Catherine A. Mueller Chair, joined the San Francisco Symphony in 1994. She studied with Jascha Heifetz at the University of Southern California, and after graduating, she taught as his assistant at USC. Prior to joining the SFS, she served on the faculties of UCLA and Pepperdine University. Ms. Kurakata has been a member of the Marlboro, Amsterdam, and Okinawa chamber music festivals, as well as the Sitka Summer Music Festival. She has performed as soloist with the Japan Philharmonic, Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and the Seattle Symphony, and she has given recitals in Amsterdam, Los Angeles, and New York.

(September 2018)

Suzanne Leon

Suzanne Leon joined the San Francisco Symphony in 1990. Following her graduation from the Curtis Institute of Music, she spent five years in France, where she served as concertmaster of the Orchestre International de Paris and taught at the Sorbonne. Ms. Leon has toured as a member of the Asia Philharmonic Orchestra. She has performed chamber music frequently with her SFS colleagues, including pre-concert performances and a concert at San Francisco’s Chinese Cultural Center. She has two children with her husband, former SFS violinist Dan Nobuhiko Smiley. For more on Suzanne Leon, visit

(September 2018)

Leor Maltinski

Leor Maltinski has been a member of the SFS since 2003. Born in Tel Aviv in 1976, he began playing violin at age six. He studied with Igor Polesitsky in Florence from 1985 to 1993 and then moved to the United States to continue his musical education, first at the Curtis Institute and then at Indiana University. He has also studied at the Juilliard School and the Peabody Conservatory. Mr. Maltinski has won prizes at several competitions, including first prize at the 1999 Carl Nielsen International Violin Competition, an award that enabled him to present violin recitals and perform with orchestras throughout the US and Europe.

(September 2018)

Diane Nicholeris

Diane Nicholeris

Diane Nicholeris has been a member of the SFS since 1984. She studied violin with Joseph Silverstein and Sylvia Rosenberg and graduated from the Eastman School of Music. Ms. Nicholeris has appeared as soloist with the Rochester Philharmonic, Boston Pops, Boston Symphony Esplanade Orchestra, and the Monterey Symphony Orchestra, where she was also concertmaster. She has served as an SFS Youth Orchestra coach for many years, and she has also coached at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, UC Berkeley, the New World Symphony, and the Greater Boston Youth Symphony. She was previously on the faculty of San Jose State University. Learn more about Diane Nicholeris at

(February 2019)

Sarn Oliver

Violinist and composer Sarn Oliver has performed as soloist, chamber musician, and recitalist throughout the US, Russia, Europe, and Japan. He has recorded violin concertos with Montpellier Chamber Orchestra in France as well as numerous CDs in the US. His performances have been broadcast in New York, Sacramento, Hawaii, and Japan. Before joining the SFS in 1995, he was concertmaster of the Santa Cruz Symphony and principal second violin of the Sacramento Symphony. An avid chamber musician, Mr. Oliver founded the Tilden Trio with cellist Peter Wyrick and pianist June Oh and created Tangled Duo with San Francisco Symphony violinist Mariko Smiley. He has performed with the Craftsbury Chamber Players, Elko Chamber players, Ebb and Flow Arts in Maui, and has been active in supporting arts organizations by donating performances to such organizations as the Open String and Música Marin. Mr. Oliver created the record label SarnWorks to promote contemporary classical music as well as chamber music and has produced, engineered, and performed on numerous CDs produced by SarnWorks. In the Bay Area, he often performs with his symphony colleagues on the SFS chamber music series, Chamber Music Sundaes, and at UCSF’s Cole Hall. An active composer, Mr. Oliver’s works have been performed in the United States, Japan, and Russia; a new commission for a solo piano work will be performed in Seoul, Korea. Mr. Oliver began his violin studies with Elmar Olivera and Ron Neal. He went on to receive his Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from the Juilliard School where his teachers included Sally Thomas, Ivan Galamian, Felix Galimir, and others. He taught at the Juilliard Pre-College and at Meadowmount as an assistant to Sally Thomas as well as instructing violin at UC Berkeley, UC Davis, UOP Stockton, and privately. Mr. Oliver is also an active painter as well as a violin and bow maker. For more on Sarn Oliver, visit

(September 2018)

Florin Parvulescu

Florin Parvulescu, a native of Romania, joined the SFS in 1998. He holds degrees from the Peabody Conservatory of Music and the Juilliard Preparatory Division. He was previously a member of the Saint Louis Symphony and Baltimore Symphony, won the 1993 Marbury Competition at the Peabody Conservatory, and was a prizewinner in the 1994 Yale Gordon Concerto Competition. He also attended the American Academy of Conducting at the Aspen Music Festival.

(September 2018)

Victor Romasevich

Victor Romasevich was born in Minsk, Belarus, and started piano studies with his mother, Lena Lubotsky, at the age of four. He entered the Gnesin Music School in Moscow at age five as a violin student of Mikhail Garlitsky and later studied with Rostislav Dubinsky of the Borodin Quartet, Boris Belenky at the Moscow Conservatory and, following his emigration to the United States in 1977, at Juilliard with Ivan Galamian. In 1979 he became a violin and viola pupil of the composer and philosopher Iosif Andriasov. Winner of the Gina Bachauer Prize at the 1985 J.S. Bach International Competition in Washington DC, Mr. Romasevich joined the San Francisco Symphony as Associate Principal Viola in 1990, and in 1992 moved to the first violin section.