Composer, conductor, and creative thinker John Adams occupies a unique position in the world of music. His works stand out among contemporary classical compositions for their depth of expression, brilliance of sound, and the profoundly humanist nature of their themes. Works spanning more than three decades are among the most performed of all contemporary classical music and his stage works, all in collaboration with director Peter Sellars, have transformed the genre of contemporary music theater. Nonesuch Records has recorded all of Adams’s music over the past three decades. The label recently released a Grammy-nominated recording of Adams’s Scheherazade.2, a dramatic symphony for violin and orchestra written for Leila Josefowicz.
John Adams has had a strong relationship with the San Francisco Symphony for more than thirty-five years: He was appointed new music adviser to the Symphony in 1978 and composer-in-residence between 1982 and 1985, a tenure which helped set the precedent for composer residencies at orchestras around the world. The creative partnership between the San Francisco Symphony and John Adams has been extraordinarily productive: Since 1981 the SFS has performed close to thirty of his works, seven of which were SFS commissions. SFS Media’s recording of Adams’s Harmonielehre and Short Ride in a Fast Machine, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas won a 2012 Grammy Award for Best Orchestral Performance. In 2015, SFS Media released a recording of Adams’s Absolute Jest and Grand Pianola Music, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas and John Adams.
As a conductor, Adams’s engagements in recent and coming seasons include the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic, London Symphony Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Netherlands Radio Philharmonic, Vienna Symphony, and BBC Symphony, as well as the orchestras of Houston, Cincinnati, Atlanta, Seattle, Baltimore, and Madrid. In 2017 Adams celebrates his 70th birthday with festivals of his music in Europe and the US, including special retrospectives at London’s Barbican, at Cité de la Musique in Paris, and in Amsterdam, New York, Geneva, Stockholm, Los Angeles, and San Francisco.
Born and raised in New England, Adams learned the clarinet from his father and played in marching bands and community orchestras during his formative years. He began composing at age ten and his first orchestral pieces were performed while just a teenager. Adams has received honorary doctorates from Yale, Harvard, Northwestern, Cambridge, and the Juilliard School. A provocative writer, he is author of the autobiography Hallelujah Junction and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review. Adams is Creative Chair of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. His new opera, Girls of the Golden West, an opera about the California Gold Rush, will premiere in November 2017 at San Francisco Opera.
Four women washing blood out of rags in a bathroom; Stravinsky in an abandoned warehouse; a violinist cutting himself out of duct tape with a razor; a lost John Adams suite at Walt Disney Concert Hall. Conductor and composer Christopher Rountree stands at the intersection of classical music, new music, performance art, and pop. Mr. Rountree is the founder, conductor, and creative director of the path-breaking Los Angeles chamber orchestra wild Up. The group started in 2010, driven only by Mr. Rountree’s vision of a world-class orchestra that creates visceral, provocative experiences that are unmoored from classical traditions.
“For most people, programming and conducting are about restraint, intellect. I want to get rid of restraint: I want to tear the thing’s guts out. I want to go all the way there,” Mr. Rountree says. “I want to empower musicians. I want to energize an audience. It’s not that I’m a ‘conduit for the score’; everyone in the hall is a part of a circuit that connects the conductor, the musicians, the score and the listeners. A concert shouldn’t leave people when people leave the concert hall.”
This season, Mr. Rountree makes his debut with the Kitchener-Waterloo Symphony and San Diego Opera conducting Peter Brook’s La Tragédie de Carmen. He returns to the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Opera Omaha conducting Jonathan Dove’s Flight.
Mr. Rountree has conducted such ensembles as the Los Angeles Opera, Atlanta Opera, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s MusicNOW series, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Francisco Symphony’s SoundBox series, Ensemble LPR, the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra, Michigan Pops Orchestra, Winnipeg Symphony, Bohuslav Martinů Philharmonic, American Youth Symphony, and the Rose City Chamber Orchestra. He has also curated events for the Getty Museum, MCA Denver, and the Hammer Museum where a long-running wild UP residency brought the group to national prominence.
Orli Shaham is a pianist, broadcaster, music writer, and lecturer. She currently serves as Artistic Director for Pacific Symphony’s chamber music series in Costa Mesa, CA. This season brings her to venues from Carnegie Hall to the Sydney Opera House. Ms. Shaham has appeared at festivals including Tanglewood, Ravinia, Verbier, Mostly Mozart, La Jolla Music Society, Music Academy of the West, and Aspen Music Festival. Ms. Shaham’s 2015 recording Brahms Inspired includes music by Brahms and Chopin, along with new works by Brett Dean, Avner Dorman, and Bruce Adolphe. Other recordings include John Adams’s Grand Pianola Music with the San Francisco Symphony and Adams conducting for SFS Media, American Grace with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Nigunim: Hebrew Melodies recorded with her brother, violinist Gil Shaham. She hosts the nationally broadcasted radio shows Dial-a-Musician and America’s Music Festival series and is artist in residence on National Public Radio’s Performance Today. Ms. Shaham is creator of Baby Got Bach, a series of interactive classical concerts for young children. She made her San Francisco Symphony debut in 2003 as a Shenson Young Artist.
Pianist Molly Morkoski made her Carnegie Hall solo debut in 2007, and has been presented in New York City’s Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, Miller Theatre, (le) poisson rouge, Weill Recital Hall, Zankel Hall, Boston’s Gardner Museum and Jordan Hall, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Saint Louis’s Powell Symphony Hall, and Washington DC’s Smithsonian Institution. Internationally, she has been heard in Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek (Denmark), Le Conservatoire de Strasbourg (France), Suntory Hall (Japan), Teatro Nacional (Santo Domingo), and the United States Embassies in Nice and Paris (France). Ms. Morkoski has appeared at the Bang on a Can, Pacific Rim, and Tanglewood festivals.
An avid chamber musician, she is a member of the Exponential, Meme, and Open End ensembles. Ms. Morkoski has also performed with ensembles drawn from the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, New World Symphony, New York Philharmonic, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Saint Louis Symphony, and Speculum Musicae. She has worked closely with many of today’s most leading composers, among them John Adams, Louis Andriessen, John Corigliano, David Del Tredici, Mark Grey, John Harbison, Martin Kennedy, Aaron Jay Kernis, David Lang, Oliver Knussen, Steve Reich, Andrew Waggoner, and Charles Wuorinen. She resides in New York City and serves as an associate professor at Lehman College in the Bronx.
Contemporary and classical vocalist Amy Foote has performed everything from leading roles on the operatic stage to world premieres of contemporary chamber music. She has performed with the SF Contemporary Music Players, Friction Quartet, Elevate Ensemble, Composers Inc., and Nonsemble 6 performing Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Ms. Foote recently appeared as the Vixen in West Edge Opera’s production of The Cunning Little Vixen. Her solo compositions and programs are inspired by the purposefulness of liturgical ritual, the stillness of John Cage, and the playfulness of the Fluxus movement.
Mezzo-soprano Danielle Sampson is an avid performer of baroque, classical, and contemporary music. Her 2015-16 season highlights included performances with Pacific MusicWorks, Early Music Vancouver, and Amaranth String Quartet. In 2015 she performed with the Boston Early Music Festival as Melanto in Monteverdi’s Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria and La Virtù and Pallade in L’incoronazione di Poppea, and with Early Music Vancouver in Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater and as the Sorceress in Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. She performed as Ruggiero in Handel’s Alcina with Black Box Baroque last April, and appeared with Liaison, Nash Baroque Ensemble, and Jarring Sounds for the 2016 Berkeley Early Music Festival. Ms. Sampson has sung with the Baroque Chamber Orchestra of Colorado, American Bach Soloists, California Bach Society, San Francisco Symphony Chorus, and San Francisco Bach Choir, among others. She is a founding member of the guitar/voice duo Jarring Sounds (with Adam Cockerham), and performs with Cappella SF, the new Bay Area octet Gaude, and Seattle’s Byrd Ensemble. She earned her bachelor’s degree at the University of Denver’s Lamont School of Music, and her master’s degree at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. She currently resides in Seattle.
Steven Dibner, San Francisco Symphony Associate Principal Bassoon, studied at Indiana University with Leonard Sharrow. He earned a master’s degree from Juilliard, where he studied with Stephen Maxym, and went on to play with the New Jersey Symphony, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, before joining the SFS in 1983. He has performed at music festivals in Aspen, Marlboro, and San Diego.
David Henderson holds degrees from the University of Michigan and Juilliard School, and received a first prize in saxophone from the Bordeaux Conservatory. He works regularly as an orchestral saxophonist with the SFS, and with the San Francisco Opera and Ballet. He has performed with orchestras from across the country and around the world, and has appeared as soloist with the Oakland East Bay Symphony and Bay Area Rainbow Symphony. For nearly twenty years he was a member of the San Francisco Saxophone Quartet, and since 2006 he has played with the Premiere Saxophone Quartet, formerly artists-in-residence at San Jose State University.
Jill Rachuy Brindel, who joined the SFS in 1980, studied at Indiana University and Chicago Musical College. She currently occupies the Gary & Kathleen Heidenreich Second Century Chair. She has served as assistant principal cello of the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, principal cello of the Mendocino Music Festival, and as a member of the Navarro Quartet and the Houston Symphony. Ms. Brindel actively promotes the music of her late father, composer Bernard Brindel. She coaches the cello section of the SFS Youth Orchestra.
Jacob Nissly was appointed Principal Percussion of the San Francisco Symphony in 2013. Previously, he was the principal percussion of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony. He also served as a member of the New World Symphony. Mr. Nissly has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera, Houston Symphony, and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and with the Verbier Festival Orchestra and Pacific Music Festival. He teaches at the San Francisco Conservatory and was previously on the percussion faculty at the Eastman School of Music. Mr. Nissly holds a Bachelor of Music and Jazz Studies from Northwestern University and a Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School. He began his percussion studies with Woody Smith in Iowa.
Tom Hemphill joined the San Francisco Symphony’s percussion section in 1974. A graduate of Oberlin Conservatory, he was a member of the Toledo Symphony before joining the SFS, and he has also retained a strong interest in jazz. Mr. Hemphill has been featured with the Orchestra in music including Stravinsky’s Les Noces, Steve Reich’s Three Movements, George Antheil’s Ballet mécanique, Russell Peck’s Liftoff!, Michael Tilson Thomas’s Island Music, and several works by Lou Harrison. He was an organizer of the San Francisco Percussion Ensemble and has served as a coach of the SFS Youth Orchestra.
Bass-baritone Jonathan Woody has appeared with Toronto’s Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra, Bach Collegium San Diego, Cleveland’s Apollo’s Fire, and the American Classical Orchestra. He performed in the premiere of Ted Hearne's The Source, which he also recorded for New Amsterdam Records and performed at Los Angeles Opera’s REDCAT. The Source will come to San Francisco Opera Lab in February 2017. Other recent premieres include works by Missy Mazzoli, Du Yun, Zachary Wadsworth, and Laura Schwendiger. In 2016, Mr. Woody was named the winner of the first Tafelmusik Vocal Competition in Toronto and was festival soloist for the first annual Portland Bach Festival in Maine. Other festival credits include the Carmel Bach Festival, Oregon Bach Festival, American Bach Soloists Academy, and Amherst Early Music. On the operatic stage, he has appeared with Opera Lafayette, Gotham Chamber Opera, New Amsterdam Presents, Beth Morrison Projects, and he was a 2015-16 vocal fellow for the American Opera Projects’ Composers and the Voice forum. Mr. Woody has recorded extensively with the Choir of Trinity Wall Street on the Musica Omnia and Acis labels, and he is featured on their Grammy nominated recording of Handel’s Israel in Egypt. Other recording credits include New York Polyphony’s Roma Æterna (BIS Records), the Choir of Trinity Wall Street’s Missa Gentis Humanae (Musica Omnia), and John Musto’s Volpone (Wolf Trap Opera Company). This season he sees his first commissions as a composer for groups including Lorelei Ensemble (Boston) and Trident Ensemble (New York). Mr. Woody enjoys a richly varied life in the arts based in Brooklyn, NY, and holds degrees from McGill University and the University of Maryland, College Park.
Helen Kim joined the San Francisco Symphony as Associate Principal Second Violin in the 2016-17 season. She enjoys a versatile career as teacher and performer. A member of the Saint Louis Symphony from 2011 to 2016, she made solo appearances with the 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.
Chen Zhao joined the SFS in 2000. He was born in Shanghai and moved to the US at age twelve to study with Heiichiro Ohyama at the Crossroads School in Santa Monica. He later studied with Felix Galimir at the Curtis Institute of Music and with Camilla Wicks at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. In 1999 he joined the New World Symphony in Miami. Currently a violin coach for the SFS Youth Orchestra, Chen Zhao is on faculty at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and regularly coaches with the Stanford Symphony Orchestra.
Katie Kadarauch joined the SFS in 2007 as Assistant Principal Viola. A native of the Bay Area, she was Principal Viola of the SFS Youth Orchestra and earned a bachelor’s degree and graduate diploma from the New England Conservatory. She also studied at the Colburn Conservatory of Music, during which time she performed with the Los Angeles Philharmonic and recorded film scores for movies such as Get Smart, Spider-Man, and Avatar. Ms. Kadarauch was the violist of the former Janaki String Trio, which recorded for the Naxos and Yarlung labels. She plays on a Peter Rombouts viola ca.1720, on loan from the San Francisco Symphony.
Peter Wyrick, SFS Associate Principal Cello, is the occupant of the Peter and Jacqueline Hoefer Chair. Born in New York to a musical family, he began studies at the Juilliard School at age eight. He made his solo debut at age twelve. He has been principal cellist of the Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra and associate principal cellist of the New York City Opera Orchestra. As a member of the Ridge String Quartet, he performed throughout the world and recorded the Dvořák piano quintets with pianist Rudolf Firkusny, an RCA recording that won France’s Diapason d’Or and a Grammy nomination. He has also recorded the Fauré cello sonatas with pianist Earl Wild for dell’Arte records.
Robin Sutherland, occupant of the Jean & Bill Lane Chair, studied with Rosina Lhevinne at the Juilliard School and with Paul Hersh at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. While still an undergraduate there, he was appointed Principal Keyboards of the San Francisco Symphony by Seiji Ozawa. Mr. Sutherland was for thirty seasons co-director of the Telluride Chamber Music Festival in Colorado. A re-mastered, limited edition release of Robin Sutherland’s 1996 recording of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations is available on SFS violinist Sarn Oliver’s SarnWorks label.
Adam Larsen is a documentary filmmaker and designer for live performance who has designed for several SF Symphony productions including Debussy’s Le martyre de Saint Sébastien, Peter Gynt, Peter Grimes, On the Town, and most recently Das klagende Lied. He is the resident projection designer for SoundBox. Notable works include Hal Prince’s LoveMusik on Broadway; The Gospel at Colonus at the Athens, Edinburgh, and Spoleto festivals; The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle at the Singapore and Edinburgh festivals; Brief Encounters and My Fair Lady at the Shaw Festival; The Women of Brewster Place at Alliance Theatre and Arena Stage; Ghost Brothers of Darkland County and Native Guard at Alliance Theatre; big at Atlanta Ballet; Love Lies Bleeding, Fumbling Towards Ecstasy, and Balletlujah at Alberta Ballet; Saariaho’s Maa with Atlanta Symphony and GloAtl; Janáček’s From the House of the Dead at Canadian Opera; Dove’s Siren Song and Handel’s Semele with Pacific Musicworks; Adams’s A Flowering Tree and Handel’s Agrippina at Opera Omaha; Cage’s Second Hand and Foss’s Phorion, and Michael Tilson Thomas’s Four Preludes on Playthings of the Wind with New World Symphony; Dove’s Flight at Juilliard; Yoon’s Sunken Cathedral at Prototype; Mascagni’s Iris at Bard Summerscape; and recently the world premiere of Mazzoli’s Breaking The Waves at Opera Philadelphia. Mr. Larsen holds a BFA in cinematography from North Carolina School of the Arts. His documentary about autism entitled Neurotypical aired on the PBS series POV.
Mark Grey has worked with John Adams, Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Péter Eötvös, Terry Riley, Kronos Quartet, and the Metropolitan Opera on John Adams’s Doctor Atomic and Kaija Saariaho’s L'Amour de Loin, among others. Mr. Grey was sound designer and artistic collaborator for the premiere of John Adams’s Pulitzer Prize and Grammy award-winning work On the Transmigration of Souls, commissioned by the New York Philharmonic in 2002. Since 2007, he has designed six productions with Lyric Opera of Chicago, most recently The King and I (2016), The Merry Widow (2015-16), and Carousel (2015). He has designed productions for the Park Avenue Armory in New York City, Saint Matthew Passion with the Berliner Philharmoniker and Simon Rattle, and Circle Map with the New York Philharmonic in 2016. As a composer, Mr. Grey has received commissions from the Atlanta Symphony, Kronos Quartet, violinist Leila Josefowicz (who recorded his San Andreas Suite on Warner Classics in 2005), the Colorado Music Festival, the Paul Dresher Ensemble, the California EAR Unit, and Joan Jeanrenaud. His opera Frankenstein premieres at the Theatre Royal de la Monnaie in Brussels during their 2018-19 season.
Seth Reiser is a New York-based designer who works in theater, opera, dance, and music. Most recently in the Bay Area he designed the set and lighting for the Saint Louis Symphony’s performance of Messiaen’s Des Canyons aux étoiles… at Cal Performances. Other recent work includes the Berliner Philharmoniker’s performance of Bach’s Saint Matthew Passion at the Park Avenue Armory/Lincoln Center directed by Peter Sellars; Round-Up at BAM with Sufjan Stevens and yarn/wire; The Indian Queen with Musica Aeterna; Vietgone at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Between Riverside and Crazy at A.C.T in San Francisco; The Agony and Ecstasy of Steve Jobs by Mike Daisey; Reggie Watts and Tommy Smith’s Radio Play; and Taylor Mac’s Obie award-winning production of The Lily’s Revenge. Mr. Reiser lives in Rochester, NY, where he teaches lighting design at the University of Rochester. He received his bachelor’s degree from Ohio Wesleyan University and MFA from NYU/Tisch School of the Arts.