SFCM Grad Joins Prestigious London Conservatory Faculty

Marco Behtash Scott Pingel.

SFCM graduate Marco Behtash and SFCM professor Scott Pingel.

Marco Behtash (‘12) joined the London based conservatory in Fall, 2022. His former teacher Scott Pingel reflects on his success across the pond.

By Mark Taylor

It’s the largest and lowest-pitched bowed string instrument in the modern symphony orchestra, and playing one is no easy task, let alone teaching it. But SFCM graduate Marco Behtash is preparing for a lifetime of both after being officially appointed to faculty at the Guildhall School of Music in London, one of the most respected music schools in Europe. 

“Exciting, humbling, intimidating, and fun!” are words Behtash used to describe how he felt when he got the news. Born in Berkeley, California, Behtash started playing double bass at age 14, guided by Shinji Eshima of the San Francisco Opera. He furthered his studies at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with Scott Pingel and graduated in 2012. 

After completing his studies at SFCM, he moved to London for his master's with the late Rinat Ibragimov at the Guildhall School. In 2016, he joined the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where in 2022 he was promoted to Principal Bass.  

“I've always enjoyed talking bass with other players, exchanging ideas and experiences. To me teaching is a natural extension of that. I'm so grateful to everyone who was generous, encouraging, and patient with me as a student,” Behtash said. Speaking on his Bay Area influence, he added, “I feel lucky to have experienced contrasting approaches and mindsets in SF that now inform my view of what I'm doing here.”

At SFCM, for instructor Scott Pingel, seeing his former students' success came as no surprise. “I am absolutely thrilled for him. It is delightful to see a former student such as Marco passing on traditions and exploring new avenues in such prestigious positions. I have no doubt it will be very fulfilling for him and for those with whom he works in this wonderful stage of his career, and I wish him all the best!” Pingel continued. “Though he is certainly naturally gifted, such gifts are largely useless unless one makes the time and expends the effort toward refining them. Marco embodied that great love for what we do matched by discipline.”

While still a working musician, when it comes to his students, Behtash hopes to inspire them to "become free-thinking, curious, and fun musicians.” He continued, “To me, teaching is the perfect way to continue that cycle of sharing the bass love, passing down what was given to me and supporting the next generation of players. I especially enjoy those moments when something really 'clicks' for a student, it just feels like such a win for everyone!” 

Behtash is not the only former student of Professor Pingel’s to earn a faculty spot at a prestigious overseas music school. Tian Yang Li, (‘13), has been teaching double bass at Central Conservatory in Beijing, China since 2019. For Pingel, this brings a sense of not only pride in former students, but the influence and love of the double bass, around the world: “These two of my former SFCM students have obtained two of the most prestigious teaching positions in Europe and Asia, and are carrying on their SFCM education to the broader world.” 

Learn more about studying double bass at SFCM.