Benjamin Simon, conductor
Ben Simon has successfully made the transition to conductor following twenty-five years as a violist performing in several of the United States’ most elite ensembles, including the New York Philharmonic, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Naumburg award-winning New World String Quartet, and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra. In 2002 he was appointed Music Director of the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra and transformed that organization into one of the premier professional ensembles in northern California.
Following his graduation from Juilliard, Simon played with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra for one year, and also participated in three successive international tours. Simon became Principal Violist of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra in 1980, a position he held for eight years. He was a frequent soloist with the orchestra, conducted small ensembles on occasion, and spent three summers at the Marlboro Music Festival. Simon was also featured in the 25th Anniversary Music from Marlboro concert in New York City, which included Murray Perahia and Felix Galimir.
In 1988 he joined the Naumburg-Award winning New World String Quartet, performing over eighty concerts a year in major venues and summer festivals in the United States, Europe, and Asia. The quartet recorded extensively for MCA Classics; they won a 1991 Grand Prix du Disque for their recording of the string quartets of Debussy, Ravel, and Henri Dutilleux. The New World SQ was quartet-in-residence at Harvard University and performed with artists David Soyer, Raphael Hillyer, Ursula Oppens, Gilbert Kalish, Donald McInnes, Joel Krosnick, Harold Wright, David Shifrin, Carol Wincenc, Christopher O’Riley, John Perry, and James Tocco.
Following four seasons with the New World SQ, Simon joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in 1992 and was an active studio musician in LA as well. He has performed on the soundtracks of over eighty major motion pictures. In 1993, Simon joined the Stanford String Quartet, the ensemble-in-residence at Stanford University, replacing Bernard Zaslav. For the next five years, he taught viola and chamber music at Stanford, lectured on music in the Department of Continuing Studies, and concertized with the quartet. Simon was also Principal Violist of the New Century Chamber Orchestra for three seasons, 1994-’97.
Although conducting takes the lion’s share of Ben’s time and energy, he can still be heard performing onstage at the SFCO’s Classical at the Freight and around the Bay Area with various friends and colleagues.