Shinji Eshima

Associate Principal Contrabass

Shinji Eshima


Shinji Eshima, born in Berkeley, CA, a graduate of Stanford University and of the Juilliard School is a double-bassist in the San Francisco Ballet and San Francisco Opera Orchestras. He is on the faculty at San Francisco State University and the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. His former students can be found in orchestras around the world, including San Francisco Symphony, Utah Symphony, London Philharmonia, Montreal Symphony and the Concertgebouw of Amsterdam. His instrument is the Plumerel bass (1843) featured in the painting by Degas, The Orchestra of the Opera.

As a composer, he studied with Heinrich Taube. He has composed for a variety of venues including theater, documentary film, chamber music, opera and even Buddhist hymns. His music has been commissioned and performed around the world by such artists as Christine Brandes, Sally Munro, Steven Dibner, Carey Bell, Emil Miland, Rufus Olivier, Gary Karr, Frank Proto, the ensemble Adesso and the Grammy-nominated Bay Brass.

In 2011 the San Francisco Ballet commissioned him to compose a ballet for Yuri Possokhov. The result was RAkU, created for Yuan Yuan Tan. It has since toured the globe with San Francisco Ballet. It was recorded by the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, conducted by Martin West at the famed Skywalker recording studio and released on CD and iTunes. In 2014 RAkU joined the repertoire of The Joffrey Ballet. It returns to both companies in their 2015 seasons.

As a result of his collaboration with chanters in RAkU from the San Francisco Zen Center, he was commissioned to compose a new work for their 50th anniversary in 2012. The result was “All’s Farrow” composed for a new bell sculpted of bullets by the artist Al Farrow and choreographed by dancer Pascal Molat. This bell now resides in the center courtyard of the San Francisco Zen Center waiting to be struck on the day the last bullet is made in the world.

His 2nd ballet with Yuri Possokhov called Il Fazzoletto saw him collaborate with the writer Jerome Oremland, artist Andrew Mezvinky and dancers Peter Brandenhoff and Maria Kochetkova. He is currently working on a new commission by Earplay for ‘cellist Thalia Moore and a new San Francisco Ballet commissioned score, again with Yuri Possokhov called Swimmer, which incorporates 4 recorded songs of Tom Waits. It is set to premiere in April 2015.

In 2011, the city of Berkeley, California named the day December 6th Shinji Eshima Day, in his honor for his contributions to the arts.

He currently lives in Mill Valley with his wife, Balanchine répétiteur Sandy Jennings Eshima and their prized Meyer lemon tree.