TimpaniRyan J. DiLisi


Praised by the San Diego Union-Tribune for showing “a remarkable degree of both subtlety and insistence…an uncanny sense of when to power forward…and when to hold back,” Ryan J. DiLisi was appointed Principal Timpanist of the San Diego Symphony Orchestra in October 2010. Prior to joining the SDSO, Mr. DiLisi held the position of Principal Timpanist of Symphony in C and Assistant Timpanist of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra. Additional performance highlights include appearances with the Mainly Mozart Festival Orchestra, the Philadelphia Orchestra and the New World Symphony.

Mr. DiLisi’s musicality and dramatic style have shaped him into an exciting soloist. At the age of 17 Mr. DiLisi won the Albert M. Greenfield Competition, which led to solo performances with the Philadelphia Orchestra. Additionally, he has performed as a soloist with the New England Conservatory Percussion and Wind Ensembles, the San Diego State University Wind Ensemble and, most recently, with the San Diego Symphony, a performance that the San Diego Union-Tribune summed up as “extraordinary.”

A native of Southern New Jersey, Mr. DiLisi began his formal studies with Don Liuzzi, Principal Timpanist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Mr. DiLisi earned his Bachelor of Music degree (studying under Will Hudgins of the Boston Symphony Orchestra) from the New England Conservatory of Music. Following his roots, Mr. DiLisi returned to Philadelphia to earn his Master of Music degree from the Boyer College of Music at Temple University under the mentorship of Alan Abel and Angela Nelson, both Philadelphia Orchestra percussionists.

In his free time, Ryan DiLisi enjoys cooking, watching Italian soccer and spending time with his wife Katie.


Q: How did you choose your instrument?

A: From an early age I was drawn to the drums. While attending football games with my family, I would turn to watch the drummers in the marching band. Before I owned drums, I created a box drum set, hanging my tin can cymbal from a yardstick. The passion to play was always there. My dedication to the timpani took off while studying with Don Liuzzi, timpanist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Watching him perform left no doubt in my mind about my career path. 

Q: What is your favorite travel destination? 

A: Italy. My father was born in Sicily, so Italian culture has always been a big part of my family life. I was fortunate enough to travel to Italy with my family, learning of my father’s roots and meeting his relatives. I'll always remember my dad bargaining with merchants in Italian, and always going just one block farther to find that perfect restaurant! I was able to share these same joys with my wife on our honeymoon. 

Q: What are some favorite composers and/or musical periods? 

A: Beethoven is an obvious choice, and undeniably my favorite. His music spans the entire breadth of human emotion. Shostakovich is another favorite because of his ability to so vividly create pictures of time. In addition, he wrote some of the most fun and challenging timpani parts in our repertoire. Respighi is also a favorite. He is the perfect bridge between romanticism and impressionism. Respighi had a dramatic flair about his writing that other popular romantic era composers don't quite match. 

Q: What is your choice for dining in San Diego? 

A: Both my wife and I are avid cooks. So my honest answer is our own kitchen – Chez DiLisi. 

Q: What is your favorite San Diego Symphony Orchestra memory? 

As a somewhat recently appointed member of the SDSO, my favorite memory is winning the job! 

Q: The San Diego Symphony Orchestra is essential to San Diego because... 

The SDSO is an approachable musical experience for people of all walks of life. The Orchestra incorporates all genres of music throughout its season – whether it be classical or pop, there is something for everyone. The Orchestra values its loyal patrons and is always looking for ways to give back to the community. Being a part of an organization that not only inspires its musicians but also its community is an honor.