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SFCM Students Perform with San Francisco Symphony

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Violinists Unji Hong and Suni Norman subbed in with the Symphony's performances of Mahler's sixth symphony, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas, playing alongside their teacher, Chen Zhao.

April 6, 2023 by Mark Taylor

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 is known for many things, including its colossal closing movement, which now also includes a moment two SFCM students will never forget. 

“I’m still shook from the bass drum in the last movement of the symphony,” said Suni Norman. The violinist, along with Unji Hong, was given the opportunity to perform with the San Francisco Symphony (SFS) on last-minute notice for three performances over the weekend of Michael Tilson Thomas (MTT) conducting Mahler 6. “Playing with SFS under the baton of MTT was an incredible experience,” Norman added.

“It was one of the greatest experiences!” said graduate student Unji Hong, who called performing on stage at Davies Symphony Hall not only exciting and rewarding, but a learning experience. “I could feel the camaraderie and bond with fellow performers together with a deep understanding of the music they played, and I felt a great sense of accomplishment,” Hong said. 

The concert was made doubly special as Hong was able to play on stage with her SFCM teacher, Chen Zhao, second violin of the SFS. “It was really special to perform with my SFCM students in our Mahler 6 concerts with the SF Symphony under MTT. I’m thrilled that they had this incredible opportunity!” Zhao said. 

SFCM students with their teacher at Davies Symphony Hall.

Orchestras frequently hire substitute players depending on the demands of the repertoire and whether musicians are out or double-booked. Though it’s rare for SFCM students to fill in with the San Francisco Symphony, it’s not the first time this has happened, last winter student oboe player Daniel Gurevich spent a week playing with the SF Symphony. 

Learn more about studying violin at SFCM.