City of Berkeley honors music lecturer

Composer and Music Lecturer Shinji Eshima will join a select group of Berkeley residents on December 6 when he is honored with a city proclamation for his contributions to arts and culture. Previous honorees include Pulitzer Prize winning poet Robert Haas and noted classical music conductor Kent Nagano, an SF State alum.

A photo of Music Lecturer Shingi Eshima

A master of the double bass, a stringed instrument that produces notes twice as deep as a cello, Eshima has been a member of the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet orchestras since 1980 and 1982, respectively.

Also an award-winning composer, Eshima has written music for a variety of venues including theatre, documentary films, chamber music and opera. His ballet, "RAkU" -- in collaboration with choreographer Yuri Possokhov -- premiered at the SF Ballet in February 2011 and will return for more performances in 2012. A CD of the composition, which was recorded by the Ballet orchestra at Skywalker Ranch, will be released in January. 

A grandson of one of the first female Buddhist monks in the U.S., Eshima's compositions are often inspired or informed by Japanese culture or history. "Even though I was born and raised in the U.S. and have visited Japan only once, my music sometimes incorporates Japanese cultural references or elements," Eshima said. "'RAkU' began as a violin and double bass duet titled 'August 6,' which reflected on the 1945 atomic bombing of Hiroshima." It features Zen monk chants, which were performed live at each of the ballet performances by monks from the San Francisco Zen Center. Eshima is currently at work on another composition for dance with the renowned choreographer Jacques d'Amboise. 

Eshima has taught double bass at SF State since 1992 and hosted last summer's international bass conference, which brought hundreds of musicians to campus. He notes that students of such instruments as the double bass must devote most of their time to music if they hope to pursue a career as a musician. "It's a really competitive business," he said. "For double bass there are only three or four openings each year in the whole country."

-- Denize Springer