Meet The Musician: Yi Zhou


The 2016 Season marks the 40th anniversary of the SF Ballet Orchestra. As Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson recently remarked, “The finest dance can only happen with the support of an equally world-class orchestra.” To celebrate our world-class musicians, we have introduced you to various members of the Orchestra throughout the season and today, we’d like to introduce Principal Violist Yi Zhou.

Zhou began playing viola at age 12, in his hometown of Beijing. After seven years, he switched to the viola because of its “rich tone, more human voice,” he says. Pitched a fifth lower than the violin, the viola has “a slightly bigger sound, and the bow technique is different.” Playing it requires being sensitive to other instruments, he says; from his mid-orchestra chair “one ear hears the first violin and one ear hears the cello. It’s like playing chamber music.”

Yi Zhou (© Chris Hardy)

Yi Zhou (© Chris Hardy)

Zhou became principal violist at Los Angeles Opera after completing his training, which included studying with Kim Kashkashian at Boston’s New England Conservatory. He joined the SF Ballet Orchestra in 2015. An avid chamber musician and frequent guest artist, he enjoys the ballet repertory. In Onegin he plays “a big solo, very dramatic,” from [Tchaikovsky’s] The Seasons. He likes Tchaikovsky’s music in general because “it’s very touching. You can feel his loneliness in his heart.”

Familiarize yourself with Tchaikovsky’s sweeping score:

Act I


Act II




Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan in Cranko's Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan in Cranko’s Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)

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