Meet the world-class musicians of the San Francisco Symphony 

Here’s a closer look at some of the world-class musicians of the San Francisco Symphony.

Click on the photo at right to see a slideshow of the players in the band.

Robin Sutherland
The principal pianist, easily recognizable by his ponytail, was named to the position by Seiji Ozawa four decades ago, when he was an undergraduate at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. His appointment has been reaffirmed by music directors Edo de Waart, Herbert Blomstedt and Michael Tilson Thomas. The Colorado native attended the Juilliard School, and at 17 he was selected as the only U.S. participant at the International Bach Festival at Lincoln Center.

Jonathan Vinocour
Appointed to first chair in 2009, he succeeded Geraldine Walther, who held the position for three decades. The 32-year-old principal violist’s impressive résumé includes: principal violist of the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, guest principal of the Gewandhaus Orchestra of Leipzig and of the Orchestra Ensemble Kanazawa in Japan. A frequent soloist, he recently received first prize in the Holland America Music Society Competition and recorded his first solo album.

Carey Bell
Occupying the William R. & Gretchen B. Kimball Chair, the principal player also is a member of the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players and performs with orchestras and chamber ensembles across the Bay Area. He has held similar posts with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra, the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra and the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra. Summer engagements have included Music@Menlo, the Oregon Bach Festival, the Telluride Chamber and the Skaneateles music festivals. He earned degrees in performance and composition from the University of Michigan.

Steven Dibner
The associate principal bassoonist is the only musician in a family of scientists. Born in Michigan, he had to give up the clarinet because of two missing baby teeth at
age 8, and took up the violin. In high school, he played bassoon, and at Indiana University majored in music and languages, picking up Italian, French and “tour German.” A  master’s degree at Juilliard was followed by a position at the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra before joining San Francisco Symphony in 1983. He has formed chamber orchestras, and conducts, and his electric car is charged from solar cells on the roof of his Noe Valley home. Both the car battery and solar-panel technology were invented by family members.

Larry Epstein
The associate principal bassist is the son and grandson of professional bassists. Raised in Florida, he played in big bands and small combos at Miami Beach hotels as a teen, also performing with his father in the Miami Philharmonic. After graduating from the University of Miami and spending three summers at Tanglewood, he played with the Milwaukee Symphony and the Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg. A member of the San Francisco Symphony since 1975, Epstein also plays jazz, sometimes in clubs after symphony concerts.

Alexander Barantschik
The St. Petersburg-born concertmaster worked with Michael Tilson Thomas as the first chair in the London Symphony Orchestra back in the 1990s, when MTT was principal conductor. Barantschik emigrated from Russia at a young age in 1979, having won the International Violin Competition in Sion, Switzerland, and Russian National Violin Competition. He has exclusive use of the 1742 Guarnerius del Gesù violin used in the premiere of the Mendelssohn Violin Concerto in 1845. The instrument was favored by the legendary Jascha Heifetz, who bequeathed it to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, with the stipulation that it be played only by artists worthy of its legacy.

Nadya Tichman
associate concertmaster
Sitting next to the concertmaster (and occasionally replacing him), the violinist, who joined the orchestra 31 years ago, holds the Symphony Foundation Chair and served as acting concertmaster from 1998 to 2001. Born in New York, she attended Juilliard and the Curtis Institute of Music, completing studies in San Francisco. She is a founding member of the Donatello Quartet, was a co-director of Chamber Music Sundaes, and is a frequent soloist. She and her family also do volunteer work for charitable food organizations in the East Bay.

Nicole Cash

The Virginia native, playing associate principal horn, came to the  orchestra from the Dallas Symphony, where she played for eight years. The active chamber musician and soloist has degrees from Northwestern and Rice universities. She served as co-principal horn with the Kwa-Zulu Natal Philharmonic of South Africa, performed with orchestras in Honolulu, San Antonio and Houston, in the Grand Tetons Music Festival Orchestra, and as guest principal horn with the St. Louis Symphony.

Douglas Rioth
The principal harpist, appearing in his 30th year with the orchestra, made his solo debut in 1984 in a Handel Harp Concerto. Born in Missouri, he studied at the Interlochen Arts Academy, Cleveland Institute of Music and the Berkshire Music Center. Previously principal harpist of the Indianapolis Symphony, he has played with the Cleveland Orchestra, Detroit Symphony and Royal Winnipeg Ballet Orchestra. A regular participant in the Salzedo Summer Harp Colony in Maine, he also is on the coaching team for the San Francisco Symphony Youth Orchestra.

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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