Samuel Nelson

Samuel N.

San Francisco, CA
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Lesson Details


Levels Taught:
Beginner, Intermediate, Advanced
Teaching students about:
-scales and arpeggios
-proper bow technique
-left hand facility
Improving these skills can greatly increase the enjoyment of playing in students.
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Samuel teaches



Samuel passed a background check that includes a SSN verification, national criminal record check, and sex offender registry search. Learn More
Samuel delivers an exceptional lesson experience and ranks in the top 15% of our teachers nationwide.
Teaches students:
Ages 7+ and special needs

Teaching since:
August 2010

I'm Sam, and I've been playing the viola for 17 years, and teaching for a total of 7-8 years. I'm at graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, but I'm a native born South Dakotan. I'll tell you a little bit about myself and my philosophies as a teacher.

I love sharing what I've learned with students, and I'm particularly interested in teaching students what they want to work on, but also giving them the tools that they need to hone their facility. I teach from either a traditional standpoint, or from Suzuki books in order to teach technique through Dr. Suzuki's repertoire selections.

I know that playing a stringed instrument is quite challenging, so I do prefer students who are willing to commit to lessons, and a time that we meet each week. Committing to a time aids in students preparation for lessons, as individual practice is crucial if you are looking to advance in your craft.

I always hope to open the eyes of my students and teach that confidence, determination and hard work can not only progress them in learning an instrument, but with most skills in life. Most importantly I never want my students to feel that music is a burden! I want them to always enjoy themselves when they are practicing or performing.

I don't provide instruments or the accessories that go along with it, so please be prepared to have those things before our first lesson. I may also provide a list of sheet music to order after our first lesson if I feel we do not have the necessary materials.

I only travel to homes in the city of San Francisco for lessons at least an hour in length. If you live outside of the city in the Bay Area, you are more then welcome to find a time to come to my studio for lessons.

I do not teach beginners online (via Skype), as I believe it is vital to have an instructor in the room in order to make physical adjustments to maintain proper bow hold, posture, and left hand positioning. I'm more than happy to teach intermediate-advanced students online!

My Performance Bio:

Sam is a native born South Dakotan who began his viola studies at the age of ten. He started taking private lessons at the age of fourteen with his teachers Coral White, and Carol Knowles. Eventually, at the age of eighteen, he continued his studies with Kate Weeks in South Dakota.

Sam is a graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music where he studied viola with Jodi Levitz. He worked closely with Mark Sokol and Bettina Mussemeli as chamber music professors, and studied orchestral excerpts with Katie Kadarauch, Don Erlich, Scott Sandmeier and Adam Smyla. He has performed in master classes for David Kim, Helen Callus, Jay Liu, Jonathan Vinocour, Jerzy Kosmala, Hank Dutt, William Goodwin, Jackie Schwandt, and Kelly Hall-Tompkins.

Mr. Sam was the principle violist of the South Dakota All State Orchestra from 2007-2009, principle violist of the J. Laiten Weed Honors Orchestra from 2008-2010, and associate principal of the Black Hills Symphony from 2006-2010. In 2008, he was the 1st prize winner of the Lucy Palermo Weed String Competition, and won South Dakota's ASTA viola division. Two years later, he received the Henry Charles Smith Award in the SDSO's Young Musician's Competition, and also claimed 2nd prize in the BHSO's Young Artist Competition. Sam is also the former principle violist of the San Francisco Youth Orchestra which toured Germany, Austria and Luxembourg in the summer of 2012. Featured performances took place in the concert halls at the Gastieg in Munich, Berlin Philharmonic and at the Rheingau Musik Festival. In 2013-2014, Sam was the principle violist of the San Francisco Conservatory Orchestra.

In 2011-2012, he was invited in to the Orlando Chamber Soloists, which is now known as the Chamber Music Festival of the Black Hills. In summer of 2015, he joined UFOMT as a violinist and violist performing operas, musicals, orchestral programs, and a chamber music series. Recently, he began performing with the band Evanescence. In summer of 2018, he was invited to join the San Francisco Conservatory of Music as a guest artist in a workshop for young composers. He currently works throughout the San Francisco Bay Area as a teacher, soloist, chamber musician, orchestral musician.

His dream is to revive interest in Western Art Music so that is once again accessible to every human who is curious. He never wants music to be a burden for his students, and hopes that teaching the benefits of preparation, confidence, focus and determination can inspire his students in all areas of their lives. He loves working with his students on what they are interested in, and aims to enhance them with the technical and musical facility they need in order to play beautifully.

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Violin/Viola Teacher
Jul 2014 - Present

Associate Principle Violist
Aug 2006 - Jun 2010
Black Hills Symphony Orchestra

Learning and preparing orchestral repertoire for performance.


B.M. Viola Performance
Aug 2010 - May 2014
San Francisco Conservatory of Music


Fluent / Native Proficiency
Limited Proficiency


B.M. Viola Performance
May 2014
San Francisco Conservatory of Music


Merit Scholarship
Aug 2010
San Francisco Conservatory of Music

Photos & Videos

Photo by Samuel N.

Photo by Samuel N.

Photo by Samuel N.
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12 Reviews

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Laurie Jan 20, 2019
Violin · In studio

Very detailed and specific, really hones in on technique. Also, he is very kind and has a really cute and funny cat

Danielle Feb 26, 2018
Violin · In home

My 9yo daughter has been taking lessons with Sam for half a year now and she really enjoys her lessons- she actually wants to practice playing her violin and learn. We have in-home lessons and Sam is always on time. If you're thinking about lessons for yourself or your child, I would definitely recommend Sam!

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Carissa Feb 16, 2018
Violin · In home

Sam seems very comfortable teaching kids and is a confident teacher that makes the student feel at ease. He has very practical tips and focuses on the students well being and encourages them to try their best!

Corinna Feb 7, 2018
Viola · In studio

Having studied with different teachers for various instruments my whole life, I must say that Sam was one of the best I've encountered. His unique way of teaching adult students has helped me grow both technically and musically. Sam is punctual, respectful, and his passion for music is definitely contagious. I highly recommend Sam to anyone who is serious about studying music.

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G. C. Feb 6, 2018
Viola · In home

Sam has prepped our daughter for an audition for SOTA and after all their hard work, we are over the moon that she had been accepted. Sam's lessons had played a huge part in her doing well in her audition. He picked a complex piece for her solo which I felt had slow and fast movements and tempos, as well as emitted both a lighthearted and melancholy mood. The piece felt much like a roller coaster ride of sounds and emotions all in one piece. Sam has been and continues to be such a great fit for our daughter.

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G. C. Jun 12, 2017
Viola · In home

Sam has been the viola instructor for our daughter Ava (12 years-old) for over a year now. We can't say enough good things about Sam. He's punctual, easy to work and talk with, flexible with his schedule and gives wonderful feedback on how Ava's doing. He is patient, mild-mannered, attentive, encouraging, supportive, and he really makes the most of the time spent teaching Ava. It didn't take more than a few lessons until we can hear an improvement in Ava's playing. He nurtures the passion she has musically and his support as an instructor helps motivate her to become better with each lesson. She practices on her own without being reminded as she wants to be able to even make the slightest improvement between each lesson. It's great and we're lucky to have found the perfect instructor for Ava the first try:) Thank you! Sam:)

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Alexdrea C. Jan 11, 2017
Violin · In home

Great ideas for Alex to work on scale technique and reminders for holding form.
Enjoyed the experience.

Kiley M. Oct 27, 2016
Violin · In home

My family loves Sam! What a treasure! He has so much skill, talent and patience. 5 Stars is not enough

Chris P. Jul 1, 2016
Viola · In home

I'm one of Sam's adult students, and have taken 3 lessons from him. He's incredibly skilled and a joy to learn from. Sam's an excellent teacher for a few reasons: he's the epitome of a patient teacher (learning a stringed instrument requires a LOT of patience), he's punctual, and he's focused yet flexible (he's got a good sense of what you need to learn, but is willing to customize his lesson for you). I've enjoyed learning from Sam and am looking forward to more lessons!

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melis Jun 3, 2016
Violin · In studio

Sam is real professional. He knows how to communicate with you, and where to focus on as your weakness part... I can say that his passion about violin, effected me a lot.

Srinivas Parthasarathy Mar 16, 2016
Violin · In studio

Sam is great..very patient and makes the lesson enjoyable.

Simone M. Sep 4, 2015
Violin · In home

Samuel is a wonderful instructor. My daughter is 5 and is having a wonderful first experience. He's professional, on time and patient.

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