Stephen Paulson joined the San Francisco Symphony as Principal Bassoonist in 1977 and made his SFS solo debut the following year in Vivaldi's C major Bassoon Concerto. Since then, he has been a frequent soloist with the Orchestra, performing with conductors such as Kurt Masur, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Christopher Hogwood, and Helmuth Rilling.
Paulson has served on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music since 1978. He has been a guest artist and faculty member at the Aspen Music Festival, the Grand Teton Music Festival, and Music in the Vineyards. He has also been a guest coach with the New World Symphony. In 1995 he was one of four SFS musicians chosen by Sir Georg Solti to play in Solti's World Orchestra, celebrating the 50th anniversary of the United Nations.
Stephen Paulson graduated with honours from the Eastman School of Music. He studied bassoon with K. David Van Hoesen and Mordechai Rechtman and composition with Samuel Adler. From 1970 to 1977 he served as co-principal bassoonist of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. Prior to that, he performed with the Rochester Philharmonic for four seasons, serving as principal bassoonist with that ensemble from 1968 to 1970. February 2016, Paulson received a stellar review following his performance of the Mozart Bassoon Concerto with the San Francisco Symphony.