Music directors in San Francisco are like airports: they must have a TLA. Alongside MTT, we have NSS, aka Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, who heads the New Century Chamber Orchestra. NSS is actually the name of her music label, we did not just ascribed that tag to her.

She is a fiery performer, who described herself as "possessed" when she plays the violin. True that: we've seen her perform, and she is quite passionate and animated. But it's no show. Now that we chatted with her on the phone, we can tell that she's as intense off the stage: speaking fast and purposefully and propulsively.

And politically incorrect. What you see is what you get. Anyhow, born in Italy, she moved to the US at age eight, and studied at Juilliard (where she's one of the famous former students interviewed for the Alumni News, check out that 1981 picture). On top of her career as a soloist, she took the music director position with the NCCO two seasons ago, and she'll be leading the chamber orchestra in an all American program, starting tonight in Berkeley, tomorrow in Palo Alto, Saturday in SF and Sunday in San Rafael, which includes the world premiere of William Bolcom's latest violin concerto, written for Nadja, as well as some works by Barber and Copland.