History of San Francisco Ballet Orchestra

The San Francisco Ballet Orchestra
Music Director and Principal Conductor Martin West leads the orchestra in rehearsal at the War Memorial Opera House.
Photo by Erik Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet Orchestra is internationally recognized as one of the top ballet orchestras in the world. Since its 1975 performance debut with SF Ballet’s Nutcracker under Music Director Denis de Coteau, the Orchestra’s home has been the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House. First known as the Performing Arts Orchestra of San Francisco, the ensemble took the name San Francisco Ballet Orchestra in 1983. Martin West (pictured below) is the Music Director & Principal Conductor of the SF Ballet Orchestra.

With a core group of about 50 members, increased to 65 or more players for certain productions, the Orchestra’s performance season includes the annual production of Nutcracker and a winter/spring repertory season. The Orchestra’s repertory ranges from such classics as Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake and Adolphe Adam’s Giselle to abstract works and contemporary symphonic pieces, some of them written for SF Ballet. Over the years, the Orchestra has accompanied such prestigious ballet companies as American Ballet Theatre, Paris Opera Ballet, Ballet Nacional de Cuba, The Royal Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, and Paul Taylor Dance Company.