Brass Students Join San Francisco Symphony Players at Davies Symphony Hall

sfcm brass at Davies

SFCM students and SFS players work together on stage at Davies Symphony Hall.

For the first time since 2020, all SFCM brass students played in a side-by-side ensemble reading with brass players of the San Francisco Symphony at Davies Symphony Hall.

By Mark Taylor

It’s taking classroom time to a whole new level—the stage level to be exact.

SFCM brass students performed in a side-by-side ensemble reading with members of the San Francisco Symphony brass section at Davies Symphony Hall on May 2.

“This was a really inspiring and incredible experience that most conservatory music students don't get to experience,” said Yolanda Zheng, ‘25, a horn player. “Being able to sit right in the bell of these professionals and learning on-the-spot how to match their sounds was extremely helpful for my ears and for my playing,” she added. Zheng was one of 28 students to play on the famed stage.

Yolanda Zheng, '25 (center) working with members of SFS at Davies.

SFCM faculty Paul Welcomer is behind the class, which used to be a recurring event before 2020. “This class came about because I remember vividly the first time I sat with big-time professional players. People can talk all they want, but it is just different when you’re sitting there hearing mature, easy, focused, ringing sounds all around you. It was a huge ‘a-ha’ moment for me, and literally life-changing,” Welcomer said. 

Paul Welcomer on the Davies stage with students and SFS players.

Welcomer, a trombone player, has been part of the SFS since 1993. “Many other professionals remember this moment in their lives too, and I don’t want it to come when my students are in their first finals for an audition, or at a paid gig: I want them to be ready when they walk in the door,” he added.

 Henry Nordhorn, '23 (center) working on stage with SFS players at Davies Symphony Hall.

Welcomer hopes to make the class experience a recurring event from now on. “This is one of the only times members of our Symphony brass section get to speak directly to all the Conservatory brass students. For the students to get feedback directly from these accomplished professionals is invaluable,” he added.

SFCM trumpet players Michail Thompson and Karlee Wood play alongside SFS players at Davies.

“We worked on blend, projection, intonation, clarity, and all things brass,” Zheng said of what she learned on the classroom stage. She adds that it not only gave her some on-stage performance experience, but also inspiration: “It gave me a somewhat tangible example of what I should listen for whenever I am in the practice room, which helps me hold myself to a higher standard,” she continued. “I look forward to future side-by-side events because there truly is no better way to learn than to just do!” 

Learn more about studying Brass at SFCM.