Music is Home
lives of the San Francisco Symphony
“In my 11 years as a violist in the San Francisco Symphony, I have had the privilege of working for an incredible organization full of passionate, talented, and committed individuals. My inspiration for this series came from photographer Gabriele Galimberti and his beautiful images of Italians in quarantine. I wanted to similarly document my fellow musicians as well as the staff, all of whom play a vital role in bringing music to our community and beyond. The global pandemic has affected all of us, and I want to look deeper into our connections as humans to share stories that can bring us closer together.”—David Kim, viola
Matt Gray, librariaN
As an undergrad double bass student at Indiana University, Matt Gray had never given a second thought to sheet music. It wasn’t until he applied for a position as a librarian to the school’s 7 orchestras did he discover his passion for the job. He went on to work in the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s library before joining our incredible team at the San Francisco Symphony.
“As an orchestra librarian, there are weeks where I spend more time at Davies Symphony Hall than I do at home,” Matt says. “We’re intimately involved in the entire life cycle of a program, often months ahead of the actual performances to several weeks after the final concert. There is no shortage of things to do, and I miss all of it. Hearing the music come to life out of the countless scores and parts I go through is incredibly rewarding. Music is a living, breathing thing which never exists the same way twice, and I am so grateful to be a part of this.”
Matt also met his fianceé Mikaela at Indiana University. They had been eagerly planning their wedding for this July in San Francisco, but when the pandemic arrived, they decided to postpone their marriage to next summer when hopefully they will be able to see their families to celebrate this occasion.
LISA ZADEK, ARTISTIC PLANNING
In April, Lisa Zadek celebrated her 16th anniversary as a member of the San Francisco Symphony artistic planning department. Her various roles in the administration have kept her close to the music and the performers, and her passion for her job is felt by everyone.
“It has been heartbreaking to see the remainder of our season canceled,” Lisa says. “I’ve been in touch with a few guest artists who were scheduled to perform this spring and summer, and we have shared grief over these canceled performances. I’m especially sad to lose the opportunity to celebrate Michael Tilson Thomas with live concerts and events during the month of June. During this time at home and as we build a truly exciting online celebration of MTT’s 25 years as Music Director, I’ve been reminded of the incredible musical experiences we’ve shared with him, with our musicians, and with the dedicated staff. In the end, working at the SF Symphony has so many returns that go far beyond the office.”
Pictured: Lisa, her brother Robert and his wife Gloria (who live down the street), at home in Half Moon Bay, California
Daniel hawkins, french horn
As one of our newest and youngest musicians, French horn player Daniel Hawkins finally feels at home in San Francisco. Winning his position in the San Francisco Symphony just out of school was an incredible moment for him, and he feels grateful for the many memorable musical experiences he’s had.
“Davies Symphony Hall feels like a second home,” Daniel says. “I miss being on stage and seeing my colleagues. I miss the sound and power of a full orchestra and the music we play. I miss a lot of things, but for now I have my horn, which brings me joy. Music is who I am, and I will keep playing, pandemic or not.”
With the rest of our 2019–20 season canceled, Daniel plans to drive to Texas with his cats Taurus and Aries. He plans to shelter-in-place with his family, who miss him dearly. Yet, he looks forward to staying connected to us through our musician video projects. The music plays on.
Kate Bassett, Executive office
The pandemic arrived on the heels of a difficult year for Kate Bassett, who works in the executive office at the SF Symphony Being separated from her daughter and grandchild in Sacramento and her ailing father in Los Angeles has been difficult. Yet finding creative ways to connect with her family has deepened her gratitude for every virtual moment they share.
Working from home has also been an adjustment, but the biggest challenge is being away from the music. “As a violinist, writer, and artist, I thrive in a creative environment,” Kate says. “I miss walking around Davies Symphony Hall and hearing snippets of musicians rehearsing and practicing backstage. Music has always brought me immeasurable joy and comfort. It is everything right now.”
Pictured: Kate, wife Kelley, and dog Cleo at home in San Francisco, California
Jessica Valeri, french horn
jonathan vinocour, viola
French horn player Jessica Valeri, violist Jonathan Vinocour, and son Luca have settled into a routine at home, and the days seem to be moving faster. Waking up at 6:15am to a child requesting breakfast and trying to structure an entire day of activities is challenging, but they’re enjoying the time spent with each other.
“The shelter-in-place has been a bit of a pressure cooker for our family. We know that parents everywhere are facing similar struggles, yet there are incredible moments that have brought us closer together,” Jessica says. “We’re always in a rush to get to our concerts in the evenings, and to be able to take our time, make dinner, and put our son to bed has been priceless. Luca turns 5 next month but unfortunately won’t have a party, which is disappointing for a socially extroverted child. Yesterday he said ‘I want to hold hands and not be 6 feet away from my friends, Mommy.’ It was charming but also heartbreaking.”
The JV’s, as we call them, take daily walks through their neighborhood in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district. Streets once teeming with a blend of tourists, locals, and the homeless, are now empty and silent, yet still full of color and hope. “We feel the anticipation of normalcy when we walk through the Haight,” Jonathan says. “Music is what we live and breathe—it’s our way of life. Everything has suddenly come to a halt, but there are subtle signs everywhere that remind us that music will always be with us.”
Raushan Akhmedyarova, violin
It has been almost 2 months since our last concert at Davies Symphony Hall. We miss the interaction between performers and audience—the vibrant human exchange that brings us together during a live performance. Violinist Raushan Akhmedyarova feels this acutely as she shelters-in-place at home in Mill Valley, California. Yet adapting to these rapidly changing times has also been rewarding for her. Meditation is part of her daily routine, and she has found comfort in staying focused in the present moment.
“We can’t dwell in the past, as it already seems like a lifetime ago. We also don’t know what the future holds for us. The present moment is all we have right now, and that’s exactly what meditation teaches you. One day we will all be able to come together again and enjoy our shared love of music—and when that moment comes, it will be beautiful.”
Wayne Roden, viola
For violist Wayne Roden, the global pandemic has brought uncertainty to the end of his incredible career with the SF Symphony. He joined the orchestra in 1974 when Seiji Ozawa was music director and has performed almost 10,000 concerts over the span of his 46-year tenure. Leaving behind decades of music and memories is not easy, and the reality of stepping down during the public health crisis has started to sink in.
“I have been struggling with the question of when to retire, realizing how much it means to me to be a musician and a member of the SF Symphony. I thought the 2020-21 season would probably be my last, but the pandemic struck, and now no one knows when concerts will resume. The idea that I may never walk on the stage of Davies Symphony Hall again and make music with my colleagues troubles me deeply.”
Pictured: Wayne and his wife, novelist Barbara Quick, at home in Cotati, California
“Shelter in Place”
Shelter in place, little flame—
keep burning in the maelstrom
of terrifying news.
Let me nurture a space inside me
where the drift of words is revealed
like dust-motes in late afternoon
or morning light.
Let me find a quiet place, every day
in the swirl of fear—
a holy place to receive the Muse
And make my devotions.
Let me find and procure the ink that’s made
of shining, silvery light.
Copyright © 2020 by Barbara Quick
Safe and ample distancing is strictly observed during photo sessions.
© David J. Kim, 2020. Images and copy may not be used in any form without the express permission of David J. Kim.
David J. Kim portrait: Grittani Creative LTD