Susan Wulff is the Associate Principal Bass with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra; she will be Acting Principal through the 2015-16 season. She graduated Magna Cum Laude with a double Bachelor of Music degree in bass and vocal performance at CSU, Sacramento, completing her Master of Music and Advanced Studies degrees at the University of Southern California under the tutelage of Dennis Trembly, followed by private studies with David Moore.
In addition to the San Diego Symphony and the San Diego Opera Orchestra, Susan has been a member of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra and New West Symphony, and she has worked extensively with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Hollywood Bowl Orchestra and the Los Angeles Mozart Orchestra. Susan’s musicianship and versatility have garnered her work in diverse genres: she has performed on many Hollywood soundtracks and appeared with Willie Nelson, Julian Lennon and Andrea Bocelli on The Tonight Show, as well as recording with Grammy-winning jazz vocalist Dianne Reeves. Susan’s “jazzy” side can also be heard on several of Hallmark’s loveable “Hoops & Yoyo” e-cards.
Susan has participated in several prominent music festivals including Sun Valley Summer Symphony, Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival, La Jolla SummerFest, Mainly Mozart, Peter Britt, Pacific Music Festival and the National Repertory Orchestra where she was a featured soloist in 1999. Her other passions include Contemporary and Hip Hop Dance, gourmet food, single malt scotch and building things.
GETTING TO KNOW SUSAN WULFF…
Q: How did you choose your instrument?
A: When I was 12 years old I played in a cover band with my brother and sisters. Once I got to Jr. High School I played electric bass in the Jazz band. At the age of 16 I won a competition from the Traditional Society of Jazz Bassists and was awarded two months of lessons on the upright bass. My mom encouraged me to get a good technical background by taking classical lessons. I fell in love with the sound of an acoustic bass and the orchestra so my focus turned from Jazz to Classical music....the rest is history.
Q: What is your favorite travel destination?
A: Big Sur. Simply breathtaking.
Q: What is your choice for dining in San Diego?
A: My favorite restaurant is in my North Park neighborhood, Carnitas Snack Shack. The farm fresh dishes are very creative and extremely delicious!
Q: Where might you find me on a Saturday night if I’m not performing with the Symphony?
A: Enjoying the company of my son and/or friends either at a concert, a friend’s house or home.
Q: The non-musical accomplishment you are most proud of is...?
A: Naturally birthing a healthy baby boy and being a mother.
RUNNING WITH “THE WULFF PAC”:
THE SURPRISING JOURNEY OF SUSAN WULFF
Once upon a time, there was just a boom box and two microphones. This humble beginning sparked a decade’s worth of performances for the San Diego Symphony Orchestra’s Associate Principal Bassist Susan Wulff. Years before she made her way to the Jacobs Music Center stage, Susan was already a veteran performer, playing in her traveling family band (performing alongside her brother and two sisters), said band inevitably being named “The Wulff Pac.” The Wulff Pac toured from crowded camp grounds to jam-packed festivals throughout California with a variety show in which Susan played the bass. Susan’s mother would run the sound boards while her father acted as the group’s roadie, loading up equipment and packing everyone into their big truck to get them to their next show.
Susan’s life was her band. Wulff Pac practiced up to five hours a week and played six to eight shows each month – not an easy feat amidst the traveling, keeping up with school work and taking dance lessons. The band quickly rose to fame and even filmed a few music videos, some of which are still aired on television to this day.
“Disaster” struck when Susan’s older sister left The Wulff Pac to elope – the band was on the fritz. As the dust eventually began to settle, something magical happened. At the age of 16, Susan was presented with the opportunity to learn how to play the upright bass after winning free lessons. While Susan never planned on becoming a classical musician, a love affair began – a love affair that would ultimately lead to Susan’s success as the Associate Principal Bassist of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra.
While still in high school, Susan auditioned for the orchestra at California State University, Sacramento. It was not the audition that Susan had envisioned; no standing ovations or seas of applause. However, there was something that stood out about Susan to the judges, and the decision was made to give her a spot in the orchestra. The improvement that Susan displayed in her first year with the CSU Sacramento Orchestra was said to be the most progress in a musician they had ever seen.
Still performing a balancing act in her own life, she would rush from her jazz practices to her orchestra practices. She lived in the music and continued to flourish. Choosing music to be her life, she is now living out those dreams with the San Diego Symphony Orchestra. And the rest is history…
Except for The Wulff Pac. We still like when Susan tells that story—and shares pictures!
FUN FACT: During her Wulffpack days, Wulff was also pursuing her love for dance. While at the dance studio one day, famous sculpture Richard MacDonald waltzed in and requested that she and her sisters model for a new sculpture series he was creating. Susan and her sisters graciously obliged. Wulff’s performer spirit was literally set in stone. (Susan continues to dance when she isn’t playing the bass.)