Musician Spotlight: Nathan Walhout, Cello

Cellist Nathan Walhout joined the San Diego Symphony in 2020. Prior to starting with the Symphony, Mr. Walhout was pursuing his Master’s degree at Rice University studying with Brinton Smith. Mr. Walhout graduated in 2019 with his Bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan studying with Richard Aaron. Before college Mr. Walhout studied at the Music Institute of Chicago Academy with the late Gilda Barston.

1. Tell us about your musical journey. How did you decide to become a professional classical musician? How did you come to the San Diego Symphony?  

I began playing the cello when I was 4 years old in Wheaton, Illinois. My older brother had just started the violin, and I wanted to play too. My parents suggested I play the cello so that my brother and I wouldn't be in competition. I continued playing the cello throughout high school and pursued cello performance at the University of Michigan. During the first year of my master's degree at Rice University, I won the audition for the San Diego Symphony. After moving to San Diego, I finished my degree online while preparing to join the San Diego Symphony. 

2. What is your favorite San Diego Symphony memory so far?  

If I had to choose, I'd say my favorite San Diego Symphony memory so far was definitely getting the chance to play Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker for the ballet at the San Diego Civic Theatre. Amidst all the amazing concerts we've had at The Rady Shell and our unforgettable tour to Carnegie Hall last October, there was just something special about my first run of The Nutcracker in December 2022.  This ballet score holds a special place in my heart—it's one of my earliest classical music memories and being part of it was magical. 

3. You have participated in and won many prestigious music competitions throughout your career. What do you enjoy about the competitive atmosphere? How does this differ from when you perform with the San Diego Symphony?  

Competing in music competitions used to give me a rush. I enjoyed the challenge of preparing and performing under pressure. It was always satisfying to see how months of preparation would pay off, regardless of winning or losing. There was always a great sense of accomplishment. 

Playing with the San Diego Symphony is a completely different experience. It's about collaborating with other musicians and a conductor to create something amazing week after week. Instead of just me, it's about all of us coming together to make great music for the audience. It's a different kind of fun, but still incredibly rewarding. 

4. When not performing with the San Diego Symphony, how do you like to spend your free time?  

When I'm not performing with the San Diego Symphony, I like to be active. Biking and running are my usual go-tos, although San Diego's hills were a surprise after Texas and Michigan! Lately, I've been going to the climbing gym with my wife a few times a week. It's a fun challenge. You can't beat the weather here—it's awesome year-round. Having a steady job with the San Diego Symphony gives me the freedom to explore new hobbies! 

5. What are you looking forward to most with the San Diego Symphony in 2024? 

I'm eagerly anticipating the reopening of Jacobs Music Center this fall. While performing at The Rady Shell has been a beautiful experience, there's a unique magic to playing indoors with traditional hall acoustics. Having only played in our indoor hall once during my audition in February 2020, I'm thrilled at the prospect of returning to that space, especially with so many new musicians in the orchestra who share my enthusiasm. I can't wait to be a part of it. 



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