These Symphony-commissioned feature articles offer insights into the music you’ll hear in the concert hall.

Jan 1, 2019

Meet The SFS Musicians: Daniel G. Smith Associate Principal Bass

Daniel G. Smith

Associate Principal Bass
Member since: 2017
Hometown: Laguna Niguel, CA

Dan Smith keenly remembers the rush of standing on a surfboard for the first time: “It’s this sublime feeling of conquering something that might look easy but really is difficult. When you stand up, it feels like the ocean or nature or this other element is pushing you. There’s something to that that gives so much excitement you have to experience it again.”

Growing up near the Southern California beach, Dan’s early interests were deeply influenced by his surroundings. When he wasn’t body surfing or relaxing around beach bonfires, Dan was learning to play the piano from his mother. He discovered the double bass at music camp years later. “I remember seeing kids who were much smaller than me standing on stools and falling over just trying to play this thing.” After affirmation from his teachers, he switched to the bass for good.

In high school, Dan took up surfing, a hobby that continues to be a source of refreshment for him. “As I go out into the water, it seems like time stands still, and my thoughts and anxieties are left on land. Life is too short to worry, and that reminder is solidified when a dolphin pops up next to me, or I see a whale spouting in the distance.” When he’s back playing the bass, Dan has a new sense of awareness in his music making. “I can come to work and play with peace and happiness that gets translated through my music.”

In college, while both a pre-med and music performance student, Dan had a difficult decision to make. “If I went to med school, I would have to put the bass away.” It was also the possibility of having to work outside of California—being far from family and surfing—that worried him. After a four-month, eye-opening trip to Bali, Indonesia, Dan was ready to fully embrace music.

You can imagine then Dan’s excitement (and relief!) when he was offered a tenured position with the San Francisco Symphony’s bass section. “Playing with the SF Symphony is an absolute dream. It’s like a family, which makes me want to create deeper, better music with them. And there’s not this fear of having to be perfect all the time. It’s all, ‘We belong here together, and let's make great music together.’”

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