SanFran whistles up star principal flute

SanFran whistles up star principal flute


norman lebrecht

August 18, 2023

It was confirmed overnight that the San Francisco Symphony has signed one of the hottest toots on earth.

The South Korean flute player Yubeen Kim won last year’s ARD contest in Munich, having already caught attention as principal flute of the Berlin Konzerthaus Orchestra.

Yubeen, now 26, has been courted ever since by Europe’s top ensembles. SanFran must have a lot to offer.

The SFSO has also named Katherine Sioch as principal harp.

The orchestra still has two dozen unfilled seats.


  • Paul Terry says:

    Not Lizzo, then..?

    • Anon says:

      Why are Brits so obsessed with Lizzo? It’s extraordinary. The British Flute Society has actually been doing a whole thing on Lizzo’s impact on the world of flute playing. She’s a lovely young woman, but what are they thinking?

      In the US, the equivalent would be like the Van Cliburn Foundation heralding the influence of Dudley Moore on the world of piano.

      In the US, Lizzo is a pop figure. Dudley Moore was an actor. The fame that both have achieved has nothing to do with their musical worth or influence.

  • zayin says:

    “SanFran must have a lot to offer.”

    A lot of empty office builders for sale downtown, that one can convert to housing. Just don’t go out or come home when night falls, and it’ll be fine.

    Free shopping too, go into any store, and smash and grab.

    And don’t get hit by a driverless taxi.

    • SF resident says:

      FYI, those driverless taxis are about 200% safer than the rest of the idiots on the road.

    • Old Man in the Midwest says:

      I didn’t leave my heart in San Francisco.

      It was stolen.

    • Anon says:

      Maybe that’s why SF is one of the highest paid orchs in the US. Top 3 along with the MET & LA.

    • Beach Bum says:

      SF is a very small city, due to its geographical constraints, so its hard to hide problems that bigger cities push under the carpet. But it’s really no more dangerous than any other major city on the planet.

      Maybe you should quit watching YouTube videos. Especially videos I’ve seen where people make a video at dawn saying, “It’s a Ghost Town”. Maybe it’s empty because everyone is in bed and not many people LIVE at Fisherman’s Wharf!?

  • Evan says:

    Auditions are expensive and time-consuming and, depending on the orchestra’s CBA, there may be limitations and/or requirements on when and how often they are held. I imagine those two dozen spots will be filled only slowly over the next several years, but putting principal players into place should help expedite the process. Having sat a number of panels for several orchestras (though admittedly none of the prestige of the SFSO), principal wind players are among the most preferred panel members, so I imagine Ms. Kim will be called upon in that capacity with some frequency.

  • Trump it says:

    They should hire US citizens.

    • Anon says:

      I’m no supporter of Trump but I agree 100%. EU orchs give preference to their own citizens over non EU, why shouldn’t the US do the same?

      Why do US people insist on wanting to give citizens of other countries top employment opportunities in orchestras when there are US citizen musicians who need work & are well qualified?

      The upshot is that 1) the US is paying to educate & employ musicians from every country but our own & 2) with limited job opportunities, there is no where for US musicians to go, no jobs for them. The US becomes less & less important internationally in classical music. The US is only seen as a golden ticket, a funding source for musicians from every other country in the world.

      This isn’t a Trump thing or some nationalistic thing, it’s simple logic.

      The US is training musicians who need jobs. We are giving those job to non US players. Other countries usually restrict hiring to their own citizens, so US players can’t work easily anywhere else except the US.

      So where exactly are US orch players supposed to get jobs?

      • US citizen says:

        BS. Hire the best player. Period.

        • Anon says:

          BS back at you. Why should US citizen musicians be required to compete against the rest of the world for jobs in their own country? Musicians in other countries don’t have to.

          Orchestras should represent the communities they serve. Period.

          • orchestra musician says:

            BS. Music is international….That´s why we have also many fantastic US players here in Germany.Period.

          • Anon says:

            LOL. Right. And where are those “many” US players? A handful mostly in smaller, regional or opera orchs in jobs which Germans or EU players didn’t want. And I guarantee you that 1. they were hired before current restrictions on non EU players were in place or 2. they won auditions where EU/German players were prioritized in previous rounds.

            Only one high profile US player in Germany comes to mind – Bendix-Balgley in Berlin. Berlin, fortunately, prioritizes international hiring. They’re one of the few European orchs with the resources to be able to implement the complicated & expensive hiring process for bringing in non EUs.

            Germany is not regularly bringing in top international players to fill their best orch jobs as the US is. They can’t. German orchs are publicly funded. Taxpayers & politicians wouldn’t have it.

            US orchs are privately funded so they can do whatever they want. And they’re abusing that ability, to the detriment of US players & conductors, who they are not allowing a fair shot at the best jobs in their own country.

            “Music is international” is an ideal not a practicality. It’s a naive & ignorant statement in terms of orchestral hiring. Every country is governed by its own laws. Orchestras are funded & managed according to those laws.

            The US is going in a direction with its hiring practices which is often preventing its own players from getting a foothold in the profession.

            And yes, a few US players are able to cut thru the politics of foreign orch hiring & get jobs. I happen to be one of them. But it’s never been easy & it’s getting more difficult all the time.

          • orchestra musician says:

            Absolute nonsense….German orchestras regularly hire international players….Just have a look at their rosters.

          • Anon says:

            Non EU players? Big difference between international & non EU now for hiring purposes.

            Look at Berlin Phil’s 2 newest violin additions, for example. One was EU the other from Australia. They were announced at the same but it took 6 weeks longer for the non EU to be added to the roster. Even with the best of intentions & Berlin’s resources, hiring a non EU is more expensive & complicated.

            I have to correct you: there are not a lot of US players in major German orchs. Read the rosters yourself. And def not in high profile positions. I’m not talking about filling out lower paying tutti rosters in regional orchs. If there are any US names, that’s probably where you’re seeing them.

            The US is a totally different situation from Germany. Top US orchs – the most prestigious & best paying – are routinely hiring foreign players over US players in the most high level positions. They’re not even considering US players fairly for these jobs. The US mindset for classical music is that foreign – which usually means white European male – is always better. Yubeen, who’s an amazing player, was offered SF only after a white European male, Sebastian Jacot, turned it down. Just saying.

            You can’t compare Germany & the US in terms of orchestral hiring. Different funding, different priorities, different national laws.

            Germany also doesn’t represent the rest of the world in its hiring practices. Germany has more orch jobs per capita than any other nation on earth. The US doesn’t. The US is regularly giving the best of those jobs to foreign players. Germany isn’t doing that. In the US, foreign players aren’t taking tutti jobs in small regional orchestras, they are occupying many of the most high profile positions in the country.

            It’s not as simple as you’re trying to making it. It’s a fact: there is not the same reciprocity of hiring for US players abroad as there is for foreign players in the US. The upshot is that US players have fewer job opportunities orchestrally.

          • Anon says:

            But I have to add here that this is a great appointment with Yubeen. There are few, if any, players in the US or the EU who can come close to him. SF made a good call.

            Yubeen is in a class of his own – he’s won nearly every major flute competition, is an extraordinary player & he’s only 26. Plus, he’s a very nice, outgoing young man. He’s curious & connects easily with his fans & he seems to embrace every new opportunity with gusto.

            With a player of Yubeen’s level, yeah, it’s totally worth hiring a non US person. He’s that good.

      • Gareth says:

        Really an orchestra needs the best players they can attract. Country of origin shouldn’t come into it. Extraordinary musicians in solo positions elevate an orchestra.
        Who wouldn’t want to hear the best?

        • Anon says:

          True, but “extraordinary” by whose standards? A white male European conductor? A committee with other non US players? It’s not always objective. US players should given the chance to be extraordinary, too.

          Respectfully, how many extraordinary foreign Principals do you have in the UK? The UK generally puts its own best players in those roles. That’s the way it should be, IMO. They’re saying “our players are among the best in the world & here they are”. This way, the UK asserts itself as a musical force internationally.

          The US just rolls over on its own players. The US has become nothing more than a breadbasket for non US players seeking high paying orch jobs. The US assumes its own players are inferior. It says “we don’t have anyone special, so we need to hire an outsider”, instead of maybe doing another round of auditions & giving a talented US player another look.

          Yubeen is objectively extraordinary – no argument there. But many other US Principal appointments not so much.

          The US needs to value & support its own orchestra players, and to give them opportunities. This is even more true for US conductors. US conductors are up against even more bias & devaluation professionally in their own country than any other classical music professionals. This should change, in my opinion.

  • Robin says:

    It’s also one of the most beautiful cities in the world!

  • Carrie K says:

    Katherine Siochi (correct spelling)

  • Donald Hansen says:

    It would really be great if people did not make assumptions when not having the facts. Mr. (not Ms.) Kim is thrilled to have been selected in a blind audition. He has performed with the SFO and received a warm welcome from the orchestra. It is where he wants to play. I don’t believe that money was the deciding factor. Please google to read more about him. Furthermore, San Francisco is a beautiful city with a great climate. Crime, yes. But where isn’t that true.

    • Anon says:

      He’s leaving an equally good orchestra in Berlin. People want to know why. It’s a big move. SF pays very well. It’s not the only reason he’s coming to SF but money doesn’t hurt.

      Don’t be naive. Do you seriously think orch players just go around choosing places they want to move to & play with no consideration whatsoever for the salary?

      Playing in an orch is a profession. We don’t do it out of the love of our art. Yubeen is one of the best players in the world. He has every right to ask for & to receive salary he deserves.

    • Ok says:

      He did not play a blind audition. He was invited directly to the orchestra round.

      • sfsmusician says:

        This is inaccurate info. Yubeen played a screened round and based on that, he was advanced to a trial week.

        • Followup says:

          A screened round of how many? Was this a second, invite-only audition which took place after those of last season?

      • Gerry McDonald says:

        Don’t know the truth of this but it is common practice for distinguished players with top level experience to be invited straight to trial!

  • SES says:

    That’s Mr. Kim

  • Iphigenia auf Aulis says:

    The whole thing is SO overrated

  • Cecilia says:

    The new sfo flute is not a Ms. but a Mr.

  • Classical Gas says:

    “The orchestra still has two dozen unfilled seats.”

    Norm – are you sure about that? What source is that stat pulled from?

  • Not Lizzo says:

    Must be money. Subeen is an extraordinary talent and I have no doubt many top European orchestras were courting him.

    Note that Sebastian Jacot – also an otherworldly player – won this SFO position last spring, along with Berlin and he chose Berlin, one reason why this position remained vacant for longer.

  • Diana Haskell says:

    Congrats to harpist Katherine Siochi (I corrected the spelling for you). Ms. Siochi was principal harp of the Minnesota Orchestra and has held positions as principal harp of the Kansas City Symphony and Sarasota Orchestra. Katherine was also the Gold Medalist of the 10th USA International Harp Competition!

    I looked this all up on her web page—it’s very easy to do, actually.

  • Amy says:

    Norman, you misspelled the principal harp’s name.
    It’s Katherine Siochi.

  • orchestra musician says:

    Who is Katherine Sioch?

  • Mr. Ron says:

    SFSO pays well, has an internationally renowned conductor, it’s a beautiful city in one of the grandest settings of all, and it has lots of money. All reasons to take the job.

  • Robert Levine says:

    There may be a place on earth called “Sanfran.” But not on the west coast of the US. “SF” or “San Francisco.” Or, if you’re in California already – “the City.”