Resident Artists

In small, hands-on programs, our resident artists—guitarist Julian Lage, trumpeter Sean Jones, tenor Nicholas Phan, 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 Performances’ 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 Dvořák 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.

Julian Lage, guitar

Julian Lage

Julian Lage is an American guitarist, composer and arranger living in NYC. Often categorized as a jazz musician, his music is rooted in both traditional and acoustic forms. He was the subject of an Academy Award nominated documentary Jules at Eight. Among others Julian has collaborated with Jim Hall, Mark O'Connor, Nels Cline, Chris Eldridge, Scott Colley and Antonio Sanchez. In addition to his own quintet he has recorded with Gary Burton, David Grisman, Eric Harland, Anthony Wilson, Martin Taylor, Joshua Bell and Yoko Ono. Julian’s album Sounding Point was nominated for a Best Contemporary Jazz album Grammy in 2010. His most recent duo album Free Flying with Fred Hersch received a coveted 5 star review in Down Beat magazine.

Nicholas Phan, tenor

Nicholas Phan

Named one of NPR’s “Favorite New Artists of 2011,” American tenor Nicholas Phan is increasingly recognized as an artist of distinction. Praised for his keen intelligence, captivating stage presence and natural musicianship, he performs regularly with the world’s leading orchestras and opera companies. Also an avid recitalist, in 2011 he co-founded the Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago (CAIC) to promote art song and vocal chamber music.

This season, Phan appears as Inverno in the American premiere of Alessandro Scarlatti’s La gloria di primavera with Philharmonia Baroque and as Tamino in Mozart’s Magic Flute with Boston Baroque. He sings the tenor arias and Evangelist on a tour of Bach’s St. John Passion with Apollo’s Fire, and the Evangelist in the St. Matthew Passion with the Strasbourg Philharmonic. As Artistic Director of CAIC, he curates and performs in the organization’s fourth annual Collaborative Works Festival. Other season highlights include solo recitals in Istanbul, Sonoma, and at the Library of Congress; returns to Da Camera of Houston and the Dallas and Kansas City Symphonies; and his Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center debut.

Phan has appeared with leading orchestras including the New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, BBC Symphony, and English Chamber Orchestra. He toured extensively throughout the major concert halls of Europe with Il Complesso Barocco, also appearing at the BBC Proms and the Edinburgh, Ravinia, Rheingau, Tanglewood and Marlboro music festivals. In opera, he has appeared with the Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Seattle Opera, Glyndebourne Opera, Frankfurt Opera, and the Maggio Musicale in Florence, while in recital he has been presented by Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Boston’s Celebrity Series, and Atlanta’s Spivey Hall.

Phan’s most recent solo album, A Painted Tale, was released on Avie Records in February. His first two solo albums, Still Fall the Rain and Winter Words, both featuring the music of Benjamin Britten, made many “best of” lists, including those of the New York Times, New Yorker, and Boston Globe. Phan’s growing discography also includes a Grammy-nominated recording of Stravinsky’s Pulcinella with Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony, the opera L’Olimpiade with the Venice Baroque Orchestra, and the world premiere recording of Elliott Carter’s orchestral song cycle, A Sunbeam’s Architecture.

Sean Jones

Sean Jones

Music and spirituality have always been fully intertwined in the artistic vision of trumpeter, composer, educator and activist Sean Jones. Singing and performing as a child with the church choir in his hometown of Warren, Ohio, Sean switched from the drums to the trumpet upon his first exposure to Miles Davis at the age of 10. Twenty-five years later, he still cites Miles’ overall artistic vision and purity of sound as his greatest personal influence.

But it was another immortal visionary who had a most profound impact when Sean was a 19-year old student at Youngstown State University—the magnificent John Coltrane through his masterpiece, A Love Supreme—“All at once, everything just came together for me. My past, my present, my future. I knew the course I needed to pursue.” Already exhibiting a superb control of the instrument through his private studies with master trumpeter and educator Esotto Pellegrini and his intensive listening to his other primary influences, Woody Shaw Freddie Hubbard and Clifford Brown, the young trumpeter committed himself to artistic excellence the pursuit of transcendence.

Five years later, after receiving his Master’s Degree from Rutgers University, Sean had a 6-month stint with the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra. This marked the beginning of a relationship with Wynton Marsalis, whose personal work ethic and ability to break barriers had already made a significant impact on the emerging artist. Wynton offered Sean a permanent position as lead trumpeter and Jones remained there until 2010.

A highly respected and in-demand musician even while at Rutgers, Sean was prominently featured with a number of artists, recording and/or performing with many major figures, including Illinois Jacquet, Jimmy Heath, Frank Foster, Nancy Wilson, Dianne Reeves, Gerald Wilson and Marcus Miller. The relationship with Miller led to another highly impacting experience when Sean was selected by Miller, Herbie Hancock and Wayne Shorter for their Tribute to Miles tour in 2011.

The trust and support of those giants led Sean to a decision to focus on performing with his own ensembles. Already touring and performing regularly with his own groups while at Lincoln Center, Sean also began his longtime relationship with Mack Avenue Records, for whom he has just released his seventh recording: = never before seen. He’s currently performing with the quartet on his latest CD, who have been working together since 2007—with pianist Orrin Evans, bassist Luques Curtis and drummer Obed Calvaire. But Sean is also looking toward projects with new and larger ensembles, including orchestras. In addition, he’s planning on more forays into the world of Western classical music, while working on solidifying his pedagogy and increasing his lecturing and writing activities.

Heavily involved in education, Sean has recently joined the Berklee College of Music’s distinguished faculty as the Chair of the Brass Department. He has also taught at Duquesne University in his adopted hometown of Pittsburgh and at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, while regularly offering master classes and clinics all around the world. In addition, Sean also serves as Artistic Director of both the Pittsburgh and Cleveland Jazz Orchestras and is working toward organizing the various Jazz orchestras all over the country.

Clearly a passionately committed, heavily focused and deeply spiritual man, Sean relies upon his serious study of philosophy—especially that of 13th century theologian and mystic Meister Eckhardt; and Don Miguel Ruiz, whose vision is drawn from the ancient wisdom of the Toltec native people of Southern Mexico—to fuel the pursuit of his expansive and generous vision.

“If we can’t be ourselves fully, then what we’re putting out is a lie—or a half-version of ourselves…I know in the end, my body of work is going to show a progression of who Sean Jones is in its most honest form. What I’m hearing, what I believe and what I have to say.”