Benjamin Simon, Music Director
Ben has performed for audiences around the world as violist of the Naumburg Award-winning New World String Quartet, the Stanford String Quartet, the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and the Los Angeles and New York Philharmonic Orchestras.
A native of San Francisco, Ben began his conducting studies in the Bay Area with Denis DeCouteau, continuing at Yale College and the Juilliard School with Otto Werner Mueller and at the Aspen Music Festival with Dennis Russell Davies. Ben has led orchestras and contemporary ensembles in the United States and Europe, and conducted performances for the theater as well as sound tracks for major motion pictures. He has taught at Harvard and Stanford Universities and has been a member of the music faculty at UC Berkeley since 1998.
Ben served as director of the Crowden School in Berkeley from 1999 to 2002, where he founded the popular chamber music series Sundays at Four. In 2002, he succeeded founding music director Edgar Braun at the SFCO, and in the same year was appointed music director of the award-winning youth ensemble, the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra. 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.
Kristen Steiner, Executive Director
Kristen brings with her a rich background in operations, development, orchestral performance, and social media. She has spent several years pursuing her passion for the performing arts from a variety of angles. Her most recent connections include Youth Musical Theater Company, where she oversaw development, marketing, public relations, and general operations; Vallejo Symphony and the Young People’s Symphony Orchestra, for whom she acted as music librarian; and composer John Adams, running the office and managing the archive. Kristen is also a graduate of Cal Performances’ development fellowship program. She holds degrees in violin performance and in psychology from the University of California at Davis.
Kristen first came on board in February of 2012 as the SFCO’s operations coordinator. It was within this position that she familiarized herself with the organization, its mission and its community. The board of directors appointed her executive director in June of 2013.
An avid musician herself, Kristen performs regularly with the Berkeley Symphony and with myriad local theater groups and chamber ensembles. She is a long-time member of the Dolanc String Quartet, based in Davis, California.