Second Violin

Dan Carlson

Principal Second Violin, Dinner & Swig Families Chair

Dan Carlson joined the SFS in 2006. He currently serves as Principal Second Violin, occupying the Dinner & Swig Families Chair. He previously served as rotating concertmaster for the New World Symphony and he has made solo appearances with the Phoenix Symphony, Chicago String Ensemble, New World Symphony, and the Prometheus Chamber Orchestra. A graduate of the Juilliard School, he has performed chamber music extensively throughout New York. Mr. Carlson performs and teaches with the San Francisco Academy Orchestra. 

(November 2019)

Helen Kim

Associate Principal Second Violin

Helen Kim joined the San Francisco Symphony as Associate Principal Second Violin in 2016. A member of the Saint Louis Symphony from 2011 to 2016, she made solo appearances with that orchestra in both the 2013 and 2014 seasons. She has spent her summers teaching and performing at festivals including Aspen, Yellow Barn, Luzerne, and the Innsbrook Institute. Ms. Kim received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Southern California, where she was Presidential Scholar, and a master’s degree from the Yale School of Music. 

(September 2019)

Paul Brancato

Paul Brancato joined the San Francisco Symphony in 1980. He is a former associate concertmaster of the Oakland Symphony, member of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, and he has served as associate music director of the Berkeley Repertory Theatre. Mr. Brancato previously performed with the Sun Valley Summer Symphony as principal second violin and second violin in its resident string quartet.

(September 2018)

Raushan Akhmedyarova

Raushan Akhmedyarova is a native of Kazakhstan and comes from a family of musicians. She won first prize at the National Violin Competition of Kazakhstan, the International Competition of Asia in Tashkent, the UNISA International Competition in Pretoria, and the Geneva International Competition. She graduated from the Kazakh State Conservatory and studied privately at the Moscow Conservatory, and in 1994 she received a full scholarship to study at Southern Methodist University. Ms. Akhmedyarova was previously associate concertmaster of the New Century Chamber Orchestra and on the faculty of the San Francisco Academy Orchestra. She joined the San Francisco Symphony in 2006. For more about Raushan Akhmedyarova,                                                         visit

(September 2018)

John Chisholm

Acting Assistant Principal, 2013-14 Season

John Chisholm joined the SFS in 2002. He is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees as well as a performer's certificate studying with Zvi Zeitlin and Sylvia Rosenberg. He has held positions with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and the Louisville Orchestra, where he was formerly associate concertmaster, and he was assistant concertmaster of the Sunriver Music Festival in Oregon from 1993 to 2001.

(September 2018)

David Chernyavsky

David Chernyavsky joined the San Francisco Symphony in 2009. Born in Saint Petersburg, Russia, he began violin studies at the age of six and at eleven gave his first solo recital. After winning prizes in competitions in Russia and France, he entered the Saint Petersburg Conservatory. In 1997, Mr. Chernyavsky came to the US to study at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music and, later, at the Juilliard School. He has recorded several CDs with the Saint Petersburg Quartet and with the Joel Rubin Klezmer Music Ensemble, and he has released a solo CD, Klezmer Violin. He also performs and teaches with the San Francisco Academy Orchestra.

(September 2018)

Cathryn Down

Cathryn Down joined the San Francisco Symphony as an acting member in 1994 and became a permanent member of the violin section in 2001. A Bay Area native, she played for two years with the SFS Youth Orchestra and earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the San Francisco Conservatory. Ms. Down began her professional career in Europe as a member of the Schleswig-Holstein Festival Orchestra, and she also served as associate concertmaster of the Baden-Baden Orchestra and assistant concertmaster of the National Orchestra of Belgium. After returning to the Bay Area, she played with the New Century Chamber Orchestra and Sacramento Symphony prior to joining the SFS.

(September 2018)

Darlene Gray

Amy Hiraga

Amy Hiraga studied at the University of Cincinnati and the Juilliard School. She has been a member of the Orchestra of Saint Luke’s and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. Ms. Hiraga spent one year as a member of the SFS before returning to the East Coast with her husband, SFS Associate Principal Cello Peter Wyrick. She worked as a freelance musician in New York and joined the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in 1991, then rejoined the SFS when she and Mr. Wyrick returned to San Francisco in 1999.

(September 2019)

Kum Mo Kim

Kum Mo Kim has been a violinist with the San Francisco Symphony since 1975, having joined the Orchestra after four years in the National Symphony. A native of Korea, where her mother was a concert pianist and her father was music director of the Seoul Philharmonic, she won the National Young People’s Competition at age eleven. Ms. Kim graduated from the University of Michigan and earned her master’s degree from the Juilliard School, where she studied with Ivan Galamian and Dorothy DeLay. She is active in chamber music and has performed as soloist with the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra. For more on Kum Mo Kim, visit

(September 2018)

Kelly Leon-Pearce

Kelly Leon-Pearce, a member of the SFS since 1990, holds degrees from the Juilliard School of Music, where her teachers included Dorothy DeLay and Felix Galimir. She has served as a regular substitute of the New York Philharmonic and as associate and assistant concertmaster of the Aspen Festival Orchestra. As a founding member of the Persichetti Quartet, she played the cycle of Persichetti quartets at Kennedy Center and a Bartók cycle at MoMA in New York. For more on Kelly Leon-Pearce, visit

(May 2018)

Eliot Lev

SFS violinist Eliot Lev Eliot Lev holds the Isaac Stern chair of the violin section with the San Francisco Symphony. Prior to joining the orchestra, he performed with the Utah Symphony as a member of the first violin section and acting assistant concertmaster, and with the Charlotte Symphony as a tenured associate concertmaster. Mr. Lev is an active solo and chamber musician and has recently appeared with the San Francisco Civic Symphony, Davies Chamber Series, Chamber Music Sundaes, and Ensemble SF. He is a regular guest coach with SF Academy Orchestra and has recently started a private studio. Mr. Lev is an active volunteer with Musicians on Call, a non-profit organization bringing live music to thousands of hospital patients throughout the country. An alumnus of Roosevelt University where he studied with Vadim Gluzman, Mr. Lev went on to join the New World Symphony, America’s Orchestral Academy, where he was also featured as a soloist. He plays on a 1710 Mezzadri violin and an Ouchard bow generously purchased for him in part by the Carey family from Boston, MA. Mr. Lev is proud to be the first openly transgender musician in a major American orchestra. He lives in San Francisco with his wife, Stephanie MacAller, and their rescue dog and two cats. For more on Eliot Lev, visit

(September 2018)

Chunming Mo

Chunming Mo was born in Shanghai, China. She started to play the violin at age eleven, and she went on to earn her bachelor’s degree from the Shanghai Conservatory. She later earned her master’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory. Before becoming a member of the SFS in 1991, Chunming Mo was a member of the Shanghai Symphony and the Sacramento Symphony.

(September 2018)

Polina Sedukh

Isaac Stern Chair

Polina Sedukh, a native of Saint Petersburg, Russia, is a graduate of the Saint Petersburg Conservatory, where she studied with Savely Shalman, Lev Ivaschenko, and Vladimir Ovtcharek. Ms. Sedukh also holds a degree from the Longy School of Music in Boston. Before joining the San Francisco Symphony, she was a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. She made her solo debut with the Chamber Orchestra of Liepaya in Latvia at age of seven, followed by recital tours in US, Germany, and Austria. She has appeared as soloist with Saint Petersburg State Symphony, Boston Virtuosi Orchestra, Newton Symphony, and Saint Petersburg Cappella Orchestra and hbeen a prizewinner at numerous competitions, including the Ludwig Spohr International Violin Competition.

(September 2018)

Chen Zhao

Chen Zhao joined the San Francisco Symphony in 2000. At ten, he entered the Shanghai Conservatory of Music and in 1987 he moved to the US with his parents to study at the Crossroads School in Santa Monica, studying with Heiichiro Ohyama. He went on to study with Felix Galimir at the Curtis Institute of Music and with Camilla Wicks at the SF Conservatory. In 1999 he joined the New World Symphony in Miami. Currently a violin coach for the SFS Youth Orchestra, Chen Zhao is a violin professor at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.

(May 2018)