From MUSE to Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra to the White House

December 7, 2016

written by Debbra Schwartz


Drawn to classical music from his earliest days, pursuing his love of the cello through the Oakland Symphony’s MUSE program and the Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra, 15-year-old cellist Nicholas Reeves never dreamed that as a teenager, he would be performing in the White House, honored by First Lady Michele Obama, at the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Awards, which is exactly what happened on November 15, 2016img_5910.

As a participant in the Sphinx Program 2016 Summer Institute at Roosevelt University in Chicago, Nicholas had the opportunity for intensive chamber music training with the Catalyst Quartet, whose first violinist hails from the Bay Area and whose father is a member of the Oakland Symphony violin section. Nicholas and the other members of his group, The Perfect Fourth, were featured as representatives of the Sphinx program, which fosters music education of African American and Hispanic students, and which was one of the twelve organizations receiving an award at this year’s White House ceremony.

Nicholas has had the good fortune to be from a family with the ability to share their passion for music with their children.  His father Geoff is a musician in his own right, and music has always been a vital part of life in the Reeves home. Nick’s mother Brenda stresses how important it is to give fledgling musicians the opportunity to observe live music. His parents not only took him to a wide variety of performances where he could see and hear some of the great musicians at work, but they sought out excellent teachers to nurture him and his older brother along the way.

Nicholas, who looks forward to music school and a career as a cellist, is being ably guided in his study of his instrument by Joseph Hebert, Assistant Principle Cellist in the Oakland Symphony Orchestra, and he plans to continue his work in the Oakland Symphony Youth Orchestra under the direction of Omid Zoufonoun. Says Zoufonoun of the young artist, “The thing that stands out to me is the level of energy he puts into the music. He’s extremely committed, pouring every ounce of everything he’s got into every note.”

Read the East Bay Times article “Oakland teen’s cello playing rocks the White House.”

See the Nicholas Reeves’ performance at the White House (Starts at about 48:40).


  • Thank you Debra for the very nice article and recognition. Nick indeed a part of the Oakland Symphony family and owes a lot to the many mentors he’S encountered along the way.
    I also want to recognize Dina Weinshelbaum, Nick’s first teacher for 5 to 6 years starting in 1st grade and to Rob and Margo Shafer for their guidance and for supplying cellos along the way.

  • Thank you Debbra for such a nice article about Nick. Yes, he is indeed a member of the Oakland Symphony family. He has been lucky to be around, be taught by and nurtured musically by such a great group of people and musicians from an early age. I too feel fortunate to know so many of the symphony community.
    I do want to also recognize Nick’s first teacher, Dina Weinshelbaum, who started Nick along in the first grade and taught him for 6 years. I also want to add Rob and Margo Shafer who provided support and cellos : ) for so many years. This truly a great community.
    Geoffrey Reeves

  • The apple does not fall far from the tree. Nicholas Reeves, our 15-year-old cellist, did our MUSE program proud in his performance at the White House. Thank you Nicholas. And thank you Joseph Hebert.

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