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Resident Artists

In small, hands-on programs, our resident artists—guitarists the Beijing Guitar Duo, pianist Vijay Iyer, soprano Jessica Rivera, music historian Robert Greenberg and the Alexander String Quartet—work directly with students and teachers in public schools around the Bay Area. Our artists-in-residence program provides arts education in schools and community centers, builds new audiences, and furthers the careers of talented artists by providing the time and freedom necessary to explore new ideas and develop new works. The scope of SF Peerformances’ work in the community reflects the commitment to making the arts an essential part of everyone’s life—a central part of SF Performances’ mission since our founding.

Visit our photo gallery of SF Performances’ Resident Artists in action.


In 1989, San Francisco Performances created its first (and ongoing) artist residency program with the Alexander String Quartet. Working in partnership with San Francisco State University, the Quartet created a chamber music curriculum entitled “The Story of the String Quartet” for high school students in the San Francisco Unified School District. In 1997, with the support of the Wallace Readers Digest Foundation, San Francisco Performances expanded the residency model and created three new residencies in jazz, guitar and contemporary dance. These residencies, which continued over a four-year period, helped expand audiences for the organization and helped to develop strong collaborations with new community partners.

Resident artists’ consistent presence in the Bay Area over several years gives both school students and adult audiences the opportunity to form a close bond with the artists. By making the performing arts accessible across economic and generational boundaries, San Francisco Performances helps all community members build a deep personal connection to the performing arts.

Alexander String Quartet

Alexander String Quartet

The Alexander String Quartet (Zakarias Grafilo and Fred Lifsitz,violins; Paul Yarbrough, viola; Sandy Wilson, cello), in joint residence with San Francisco Performances and San Francisco State since 1989, helped create the popular school series, The Story of the String Quartet. The curriculum was written by San Francisco Performances for non-music students. Rather than experience an isolated one-time performance, these students are introduced over time to music as a powerful voice for cultural expression.

The Alexander String Quartet captured international attention in 1985 as the first American Quartet to win the London International String Quartet Competition, receiving both the jury’s highest award and the Audience Prize. Debut concerts in New York City and London, followed by rave reviews, established the Quartet as one of chamber music's most compelling ensembles.

Since 1989, they have directed the chamber music studies program at San Francisco State University. They also teach at Baruch College of the City University of New York, St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, and Allegheny College in Meadville, Pennsylvania. In May of 1995, Allegheny College awarded Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts degrees to the members of the Quartet in recognition of their unique contribution to the arts. The Alexander’s annual calendar of concerts continues to include performances at major halls throughout North America and Europe. When they are not on tour, the members of the Quartet live in San Francisco with their families. The Alexander Quartet has recorded the complete Beethoven quartet cycle for BMG's Arte Nova Classics. They have also made recordings of Brahms and Mozart clarinet quintets and Schumann and Dvorák string quartets. Other recent recordings include sur pointe, a CD of contemporary compositions produced by Foghorn Records.

Robert Greenberg

Robert Greenberg

Robert Greenberg, historian/lecturer, received his Ph.D. in music composition, With Distinction, from the University of California, Berkeley, where his principal teachers were Andrew Imbrie and Olly Wilson in composition and Richard Felciano in analysis.

Greenberg’s compositions for a wide variety of instrumental and vocal ensembles have received numerous honors, including commissions from the Koussevitzky Foundation in the Library of Congress and San Francisco Performances. Recent performances of his works have taken place in New York, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, England, Ireland, Greece, Italy and The Netherlands.

In May 1993, Greenberg taped a forty-eight lecture course entitled “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music” for the Teaching Company/SuperStar Teachers Program. The course was named by Inc. Magazine (1996) as one of “The Nine Leadership Classics You've Never Read,” and lead to the development of ten further courses, among them “The Symphonies of Beethoven”, “How to Listen to and Understand Opera”, and “The Chamber Music of Mozart”, totaling over 500 lectures.

Greenberg has performed, taught and lectured extensively across North America and Europe. He is currently a faculty member of the Advanced Management Program at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, and he has served on the faculties of the University of California at Berkeley, California State University at Hayward, and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Greenberg has lectured for some of the most prestigious arts organizations in the United States, including the San Francisco Symphony (where for ten years he was host and lecturer for the Symphony’s nationally acclaimed “Discovery Series”), Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, the Chicago Symphony at Ravinia Festival, and the Chautauqua Institute. In addition, Greenberg is a sought after lecturer for businesses and business schools, and has recently spoken for such diverse organizations as S.C. Johnson, Deutsches Bank, the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business, Harvard Business School Publishing, and the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco. Greenberg has been profiled in the Wall Street Journal, the Times of London, the San Francisco Chronicle, the San Jose Mercury News, and the University of California Alumni Magazine, Princeton Alumni Weekly, and Diablo Magazine.

In February, 2003, The Bangor Daily News (Maine) called Greenberg “the Elvis of music history and appreciation”, an appraisal that has given more pleasure than any other.

Beijing Guitar Duo, guitar

Beijing Guitar Duo

Composed of Meng Su and Yameng Wang, the Beijing Guitar Duo first met at the Central Conservatory in Beijing, China, where they both studied with Chen Zhi. In 2006, the year of their graduation, they met Manuel Barrueco while he was on tour in Hong Kong. At his personal invitation, they applied and were accepted to his studio at the Peabody Conservatory of Music in Baltimore, USA, on a full scholarship. At his recommendation, they officially formed the Beijing Guitar Duo in December 2009.

Each young woman came to the partnership with exceptional credentials, including a string of competition awards. Both were born in the coastal city of Qingdao, in the province of Shandong, China. Ms. Su‘s honors include victories at the Vienna Youth Guitar Competition and the Christopher Parkening Young Guitarist Competition, while Ms. Wang was the youngest guitarist to win the Tokyo International Guitar Competition at the age of 12, and she was invited by Radio France to perform at the Paris International Guitar Art Week at age 14. Both young artists had given solo recitals both in China and abroad, and had made solo recordings before they formed the duo.

Among their first achievements, the Beijing Guitar Duo received the Solomon H. Snyder Award, which underwrites the New York debut of select exceptionally talented students. As a result, the duo made their New York debut at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall in April 2009 to critical acclaim. It was with this concert that the Beijing Guitar Duo launched their international concert career. This past season took the duo to countries such as Holland, Germany, Ireland, Finland, Croatia, China, and the US. The duo has also toured extensively with their mentor Manuel Barrueco, appearing in such countries as Germany, Finland, Spain, as well as the United States. In 2009 the Beijing Guitar Duo released their debut recording, Maracaípe, for Tonar, their exclusive label. The title piece, written and dedicated to them by Sérgio Assad, received a Latin Grammy Award nomination for best contemporary classical composition. Their second recording, titled Bach to Tan Dun and released in October 2011, features music of Bach, Scarlatti, Tedesco, Granados, as well as the world premiere recording of Tan Dun‘s Eight Memories in Watercolor in an arrangement for two guitars. Future projects include a trio recording with Mr. Barrueco and the duo’s third album.

Jessica Rivera, soprano

Jessica Rivera

Possessing a voice praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for its “effortless precision and tonal luster,” Jessica Rivera is established as one of the most creatively inspired vocal artists before the public today. The intelligence, dimension, and spirituality with which she infuses her performances on the great international concert and opera stages has garnered Ms. Rivera unique artistic collaborations with many of today’s most celebrated composers including John Adams, Osvaldo Golijov, and Nico Muhly, and has brought her together in collaboration with such esteemed conductors as Bernard Haitink, Sir Simon Rattle, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Robert Spano, and Michael Tilson Thomas.

Ms. Rivera was heralded in the world premiere of John Adams’s newest opera, A Flowering Tree, singing the role of Kumudha, in a production directed by Peter Sellars as part of the New Crowned Hope Festival in Vienna. Since then, she has performed A Flowering Tree for her debut with the Berliner Philharmoniker with Sir Simon Rattle and, under the composer’s baton, with the San Francisco Symphony, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at Lincoln Center, and the London Symphony Orchestra at the Barbican Centre. The London performances were recorded and are now commercially available on the Nonesuch Records label.

The artist made her European operatic debut as Kitty Oppenheimer in Peter Sellars’s acclaimed production of John Adams’s Doctor Atomic with the Netherlands Opera, a role that also served for her debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and she joined the roster of the Metropolitan Opera in a past season for its new production of Doctor Atomic under the direction of Alan Gilbert. She gave concert performances of Doctor Atomic with Robert Spano and the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and her portrayal of Kitty Oppenheimer was captured in Amsterdam and is commercially available on DVD on the BBC/Opus Arte label.

Vijay Iyer

Vijay Iyer

Composer-pianist Vijay Iyer is one of today’s most acclaimed and respected young American jazz artists. In an unprecedented series of wins, Iyer received top honors in five categories of the 2012 Down Beat International Critics Poll, including Jazz Artist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year (for Accelerando), Jazz Group of the Year (for the Vijay Iyer Trio), Pianist of the Year and Rising Star Composer. No other artist in the sixty-year history of the magazine’s poll has ever taken five titles simultaneously. A few days earlier, the Jazz Journalists Association voted Iyer Pianist of the Year in the 2012 Jazz Awards. (This is far from his first such accolade; in the 2010 Jazz Awards, the JJA voted Iyer Musician of the Year, an honor previously given to Herbie Hancock, Ornette Coleman, and Wayne Shorter.) Earlier in 2012, he won two major arts prizes: the $225,000 Doris Duke Artist Award, and the $30,000 Greenfield Prize.

Iyer has also composed orchestral and chamber works; scored for film, theater, radio and television; collaborated with poets and choreographers; and joined forces with artists in hip-hop, rock, experimental, electronic, and Indian classical music. He has performed and recorded with Steve Coleman, Rudresh Mahanthappa, Mike Ladd, Roscoe Mitchell, Wadada Leo Smith, Amiri Baraka, Amina Claudine Myers, Butch Morris, Oliver Lake, dead prez, Karsh Kale, Talvin Singh, Imani Uzuri, Craig Taborn, and DJ Spooky, among others. 

A polymath whose work has spanned the sciences, arts, and humanities, Iyer holds a B.S. in Mathematics and Physics from Yale College, and a Masters in Physics and an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in Technology and the Arts from the University of California at Berkeley. He teaches at Manhattan School of Music, New York University, The New School, and School for Improvisational Music. His writings appear in Music Perception, Journal of Consciousness Studies, Current Musicology, JazzTimes, Wire, The Guardian, and the anthologies Uptown Conversation, Sound Unbound, Arcana IV, and The Best Writing on Mathematics: 2010.