Resident Artists

In small, hands-on programs, our resident artists—guitarists the Beijing Guitar Duo, pianist Vijay Iyer, 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 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 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.

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 was 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. The most recent project, China West, a trio recording with Mr. Barrueco released in 2014.

Nicholas Phan, tenor

Nicholas Phan

Named one of National Public Radio’s Favorite New Artists of 2011, Nicholas Phan continues to distinguish himself as one of the most compelling young tenors appearing on the prestigious concert and opera stages of the world today.

In celebration of the Britten centenary during the 2013–2014 season, Mr. Phan performs Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings with the Toronto and Kitchener-Waterloo Symphonies, and The Knight, and returns to the Baltimore Symphony for the War Requiem. Other engagements this season include returns to the St. Louis Symphony, Philadelphia Orchestra, Boston Baroque, and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa, performances of the Evangelist in Bach’s St. Matthew Passion with the Chicago Bach Project, the Oratorio Society of New York in Carnegie Hall, and the Charlotte Symphony, and recitals in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, New York, and Istanbul.

Mr. Phan has appeared with many of the leading orchestras in the North America and Europe, including the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Cleveland Orchestra, Philadelphia Orchestra, National Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Orchestra of St. Luke’s, Les Violons du Roy, BBC Symphony, English Chamber Orchestra, and the Lucerne Symphony. He has also toured extensively throughout the major concert halls of Europe with Il Complesso Barocco, and appeared with the Oregon Bach, Ravinia, Marlboro, Edinburgh, Rheingau, Saint-Denis festivals, as well as the BBC Proms.  Among the conductors he has worked with are Harry Bicket, Pierre Boulez, James Conlon, Alan Curtis, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Jane Glover, Manfred Honeck, Bernard Labadie, Nicholas McGegan, Zubin Mehta, John Nelson, Helmuth Rilling, David Robertson, and Michael Tilson Thomas.

An avid proponent of vocal chamber music, he has collaborated with many chamber musicians, including pianists Mitsuko Uchida, Richard Goode, Jeremy Denk; guitarist Eliot Fisk; and horn players Jennifer Montone and Gail Williams. In recital, he has been presented by Carnegie Hall, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Oberlin Conservatory of Music, and the University of Chicago. He is also a founder and the Artistic Director of Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago, an organization devoted to promoting the art song and vocal chamber music repertoire.

Also considered one of the rising young stars of the opera world, Mr. Phan recently appeared with the Portland Opera as Fenton in Falstaff, the Atlanta Opera as Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, and the Seattle Opera as Almaviva in Il barbiere di Siviglia. Other opera performances have included his debuts at the Glyndebourne Opera and the Maggio Musicale in Florence, as well as appearances with Los Angeles Opera, Houston Grand Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Deutsche Oper am Rhein, and Frankfurt Opera. His growing repertoire includes the title roles in Acis and Galatea and Candide, Nemorino in L’elisir d’amore, Fenton in Falstaff, Tamino in Die Zauberflöte, Don Ottavio in Don Giovanni, and Lurcanio in Ariodante.

Mr. Phan’s most recent solo album, Still Fall the Rain (AVIE) was named one of the best classical recordings of 2012 by The New York Times.  His debut solo album, Winter Words (AVIE) made the “Best of 2011” lists of The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, TimeOut NY, and the Toronto Star. His growing discography includes the Grammy-nominated recording of Stravinksy’s Pulcinella with Pierre Boulez and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO Resound) and the opera L’Olimpiade with the Venice Baroque Orchestra (Naïve). 

A graduate of the University of Michigan, Mr. Phan is the 2012 recipient of the Paul C Boylan Distinguished Alumni Award.  He also studied at the Manhattan School of Music and the Aspen Music Festival and School, and is an alumnus of the Houston Grand Opera Studio. He was the recipient of a 2006 Sullivan Foundation Award and 2004 Richard F. Gold Career Grant from the Shoshana Foundation.

Vijay Iyer

Vijay Iyer

Composer-pianist Vijay Iyer is one of today’s most acclaimed and respected young American jazz artists. Vijay’s most recent honors include a 2013 MacArthur fellowship, a 2012 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, an unprecedented “quintuple crown” in the 2012 Down Beat International Critics Poll (winning Jazz Artist of the Year, Pianist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year, Jazz Group of the Year, and Rising Star Composer categories), a “quadruple crown” in the JazzTimes extended critics poll (winning Artist of the Year, Acoustic/Mainstream Group of the Year, Pianist of the Year, and Album of the Year), the Pianist of the Year Awards for both 2012 and 2013 from the Jazz Journalists Association, and the 2013 ECHO Award (the “German Grammy”) for best international pianist.

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. Iyer has taught at Manhattan School of Music, New York University, and the New School, and he is the Director of The Banff Centre’s International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music, an annual 3-week program in Alberta, Canada founded by Oscar Peterson. 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. In 2014 he began a permanent appointment at Harvard University’s Department of Music, as the Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts.