Jacob Nissly is the Co-Chair of the percussion department at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and teaches at the Aspen Music Festival. Nissly also serves as the Principal Percussionist of the San Francisco Symphony and previously was the Principal Percussionist of the Cleveland Orchestra and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and a fellow at the New World Symphony. In October 2019 Nissly premiered Adam Schoenberg’s percussion concerto “Losing Earth” with the San Francisco Symphony. Nissly holds a Bachelor of Music and Jazz Studies degree from Northwestern University and a Master of Music degree from the Juilliard School.
Rhythm! Scene: If you weren't a university percussion professor, what career could you see yourself having pursued?
Jacob Nissly: I have been the Principal Percussionist of the San Francisco Symphony since 2013, a full-time job with three to four concerts of new repertoire each week.
R!S: What's one thing in your institution or city/town (other than your school of music or music department) that you are proud to tell people about?
JN: San Francisco is among the most diverse cities in the world, and that diversity includes a wealth of music and musicians. The San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Opera, and SFJazz are all steps away from the Conservatory of Music.
R!S: What’s one thing most people don’t know about you?
JN: I am related to Clair Omar Musser and have run five marathons.
R!S: What is your favorite percussion instrument and why?
JN: In the orchestra I love to play the tambourine because it is such a distinct voice rhythmically and timbrally.
R!S: Where did you grow up and what’s one interesting thing about your childhood (musically or otherwise)?
JN: I grew up in Grimes, Iowa, and studied with Woody Smith. I marched in the DCI Finals with the Colts Drum and Bugle Corps when I was 15.
Photo by Cody Pickens