Longest serving orchestral players – the ultimate list

Hundreds of people have responded to a previous post I published about long serving orchestral musicians. Out of these reports and suggestions, I have compiled a league of honour of 26 men and women who served in one orchestra for more than half a century.

One significant trend emerges from this exercise. Almost all the players reported served in US, Soviet or pre-1945 British orchestras. Senior service in orchestras is almost unknown in continental Europe, obliterated by social legislation.

I have excluded freelancers who played in many orchestras, such as the excellent Martin Ormandy (Eugene’s brother) who joined the New York Philharmonic in 1921 and was in every pickup orchestra until 1996 (75 years). Or Eugene Levinson, who started in the Leningrad Chamber Orchestra at age 14, then joined Mravinsky’s orchestra and went on to become principal bass of the Minnesota orchestra and the New York Philharmonic. Retired last year after 26 years in NY, a 60-year career.

Here’s the premier league (last updated October 2016):

1. Bass: Jane Little, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra – 1945 to 2016 – 71 years, 105 days.
Asst. Principal Bass Emeritus of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, Jane Little, first performed with the ASO on February 4 1945 under their original name of Atlanta Youth Symphony for two years before the orchestra officially changed to Atlanta Symphony Orchestra in 1947.
http://www.atlantasymphony.org/About/Artists/ASO-Musicians/Jane-Little.aspx

UPDATE: Jane played in a concert on May 15, 2016. She suffered a collapse and died that day.

2. Violinist Frances Darger: Utah Symphony 1942 to 2012 – 70 years – retiring at the end of the 2012 season.

http://www.utahsymphony.org/about/the-orchestra/item/270-frances-darger


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3. Principal Timpanist Richard Horowitz: Metropolitan Opera Orchestra 1946 to 2012 – 66 years – retired 2012, died 2015, aged 91.
http://www.metoperafamily.org/metopera/season/bio.aspx?id=3964&type=1


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4. Violinist Felix Resnick: Detroit Symphony Orchestra – 1943 until his death in April 2008 at age 89. 65 years.
http://dso.pastsoftware.com/Collections.aspx?ID=33


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= 4 Lois Fees, violinist, Oklahoma City Philharmonic, 1951-2016.


6. Bassoonist David Van Hoesen: Lake Placid Sinfonietta NY – 1947 to 2011 – 64 years –  retired.
http://www.lakeplacidsinfonietta.org/orchestra.cfm


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7. Clarinetist Stanley Drucker: New York Philharmonic  1948 to 2009 – 62 years – retired.
In 1948, Drucker won a post in the New York Philharmonic clarinet section.
In 1960, he became the orchestra’s principal clarinetist. In January 2008,
the New York Philharmonic announced Drucker’s retirement from the orchestra
at the close of the 2008-2009 season, for a total of 61 years with the
orchestra and 49 years as its principal clarinet.  Guinness logs his career
at “62 years, 7 months and 1 day as of June 4, 2009?.
Drucker’s final concert with the orchestra was July 31, 2009 in Vail, Colorado.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/05/arts/music/05druc.html?pagewanted=all

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8. Leonard Mogill, Philadelphia Orchestra, viola, 62 years (pictured on the right, 1967, with Irving Segall), 1930-1992

http://articles.philly.com/1997-10-30/news/25538766_1_philadelphia-orchestra-violist-music-director-riccardo-muti


= 8. Violinist Earl Summers Jr.: joined the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra at age 12 as a section violinist in 1929, the founding year of the orchestra, and retired from performing in 1990 as Concertmaster of the WSO – 61 years.
http://wheeling.weirton.lib.wv.us/history/people/hallfame/Summers.htm
—————

10. Pat Francis, violinist, joined the San Diego Symphony in 1955 and retired, aged 77, in 2016.

11. Bassonist Oleg Talypine, 79, Leningrad/St Petersburg Philharmonic Orchestra, c.60 years.

See/hear him here (fast-forward to 3′ mark).

= 11. Violinist Jerome Wigler: Philadelphia Orchestra – 1951 to 2011 retired – 60 years – age 91.
http://www.juilliard.edu/alumni/news/spotlight/archive/2009-10/200910.php


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= 11 Paul Renzi, Principal Flute of the San Francisco Symphony from 1944 until 2004. 60 years

http://articles.sfgate.com/2004-07-26/entertainment/17434623_1_san-francisco-symphony-principal-flutist-davies-symphony-hall

 

= 11 Victor Simon, cellist, Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, Moscow, 60 years – still playing

http://www.bso.ru/en/orchestra/index.php?page=7&&id=112

= 11 Marcia Hinkle, violinist Omaha Symphony, started 1957. 60 years – retired 2018

 

marcia-hinkle

16 Carole Nelson, Fargo-Moorhead, 59 years.

17 Richard D. Kelley, double bass, Los Angeles Philharmonic, 1956-2013. 57 years.

= 17 Mary Sauer, hired by Fritz Reiner as principal keyboardist of the Chicago SO 1959; 57 years. Retired November 2016.

 

kelley
19 Principal Trumpet Adolph (Bud) Herseth: Chicago Symphony Orchestra – 1948 until 2001, and served as principal trumpet emeritus from 2001 until his retirement in 2004.  56 years.
http://abel.hive.no/trompet/herseth/

= 19  Alexander Lepak – timpanist Hartford Symphony 56 years —http://articles.courant.com/2009-03-26/news/lepakobit.art_1_funeral-mass-throat-cancer-television-miniseries

= 19 Emilia Moskvitina, principal harp, Moscow State Philharmonic and Bolshoi Symphony, appointed 96, still playing

= 19 Herb Light, violinist, Philadelphia Orchestra, 1960-2016 – 56 years.

= 19 Ernest Zala – violinist, Fort Wayne Philharmonic, 56 years

= 19 Norma Durst Violist with Seattle Symphony for 56 years Retired in 2004.

= 19 Arnold Rosé, concertmaster of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, 1882-1938. 56 years.


25 Percussionist Joe Sinai: San Francisco Symphony ”His career as a symphonic performer began in 1915 [and continued to 1970] … for 55 years with the San Francisco Symphony.”
http://www.meredithmusic.com/joe-sinai-san-francisco-symphony

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= 25 Raphael Fliegel performed with the Houston Symphony for 55 years, almost half of that time as concertmaster.

http://www.chron.com/news/houston-deaths/article/Deaths-Ray-Fliegel-HSO-violinist-for-55-years-1498681.php

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= 25 Anthony Bianco, double-bass in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra for 55 years, 1944-1999

http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/postgazette/obituary.aspx?n=anthony-bianco&pid=154271023&eid=sp_shareobit


= 25 John Lambros, concertmaster and first violin, Charleston Symphony, 55 years. Died 2016.

= 25 Newton Mansfield, violinist. Joined the New York Philharmonic 1961, retired 2016.

29 Donald Gibson of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra died in 2010 at 77 years of age. He was a member of the orchestra for 54 years.

—————–

=30 Phil Blum, cellist with the Chicago Symphony from 1955 until his death in 2009, 54 years.

———————–

 

= 30 Broderyck Olson, first violins, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, in his 54st season.

= 30 Michele Zukovsky, principal clarinet Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra, retiring December 2015 after 54 years.

 

34 Lynne Turner, harp player of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra since 1962. 53 years.

=34  Alvin Score joined the Detroit Symphony Orchestra in 1960. He died, still playing, in 2013. 53 years.

= 34 Jules Eskin, principal cello Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1963-2016. 53 years

= 34 John Martin, principal cello, National Symphony Orchestra. Retired 1994.

 

38 Mario Difiore retired from the Detroit Symphony after 52 years.

= 38 June Shipper, 72, retired from the second violins of the Waco Symphony in May 2015, after 52 years

= 38 Roger Ruggieri played 52 years in the double-bass section of the Milwaukee Symphony, mostly as principal; he retired in June 2015.

= 38 Christopher Wolfe, Assistant Principal Clarinet of the Baltimore Symphony retired in June 2015 after 52 years of service.

=38 Kalman Cherry, Retired in 2010 after 52 years with the Dallas Symphony as the Principal Timpanist.

 

43 Maurice Sharp, principal flute of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1931-1982. 51 years.
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= 43 Timpanist Alan Taylor: Royal Opera House Covent Garden Orchestra, 1951 to April 1, 2002. 51 years.  (d. May 15, 2002, aged 71)
http://www.s142342584.websitehome.co.uk/alantaylor/
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= 43 Hanns Joachim Westphal,  Berliner Philharmoniker, Violin, 1960-2011; 51 years

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=43 Willard Darling, 4th horn of the Detroit Symphony, 51 years. September 1951 until 2002 (d. 2015).

https://www.facebook.com/detroitsymphony/photos/a.139013442615.111110.20771377615/10152867397887616/

=43 Broderyck Olson, first violins, Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, in his 51st season.

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=47 George Rubino, double bass, Portland Symphony Orchestra. ‘over 50 years’.

= 47 Ann Stepp, viola, Portland SO. ‘over 50 years’.

 

= 49 Principal Harpist Sidonie Goossens: “…Her professional debut in 1921
at a Prom concert, and took part in the first tour by the London Symphony
Orchestra.  She was Principal Harpist when the BBC Symphony Orchestra gave
its first public concert under its founder, Sir Adrian Boult, in October
1930, and she was still in the post when the Orchestra celebrated its golden
jubilee in 1980, the year she officially retired.”
At age 91 in 1991, she became the oldest person to perform at the Last Night
of the Proms concert, televised by the BBC.  She died at the age of 105 on
December 15, 2004.    50 years with the BBC Orchestra.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/entertainment/3393369.stm
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50. “Violinist Newton Mansfield joined the New York Philharmonic in 1961? to 2011- 50 years

51. Shirley Rosin, Milwaukee 2nd violins, half a century, retiring June 2015.

52. Evelyn Pupello, violinist, Florida Orchestra. 50 years. Retired June 2015.

53 Thomas Thompson joined the Pittsburgh Symphony in 1966 (hired by William Steinberg). He retires in summer 2016 after 50 years.

54 Tom Battenberg, 75, principal trumpet of the Columbus Symphony. Retired summer 2016 after 50 years in the seat.

55 Monique Gunnels joined the Columbus (Georgia) Symphony as second flute, aged 13, in 1965. She retired in 2015. 

56 William Foster, viola, National Symphony Orchestra. Retired 2018.

57 Bob Jenkins, Omaha Symphony oboe, retired 2018

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  • harold braun says:

    WOW!!!!!!!

  • harold braun says:

    I think Mr.Wigler hasn`t retired yet.At least he did play on the Philadelphia Orchestra European Festivals Tour earlier this month.

  • What a great list! How about Walfrid Kujala? Member Chicago Symphony flute section, 1954 – 2002, 48 years. (Principal piccolo from 1957 or ’58). Also loved The Maestro Myth.

  • David Sanders says:

    Phil Blum, cellist with the Chicago Symphony from 1955 until his death in 2009, 54 years.

  • I was fortunate to have been a student of Frank Crisafulli who was a trombonist in the Chicago Symphony starting in 1938, and although I am not sure of the exact date of his retirement from the Symphony I know he served well over 50 years.

  • Camille Avellano says:

    Since you made mention of Eugene Levinson’s career, my father, Joseph Guastafeste, retired last season after 49 years as principal bassist of the Chicago Symphony, preceded by 10 years as principal in the Dallas Symphony, preceded by 2 years in the New Orleans Symphony (at age 19) – a 61 year career.

  • Douglas Howard says:

    Kalman Cherry, principal timpanist of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra, retired in 2009 after fifty-one years in that position. He joined the DSO in 1958 upon his graduation from the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. At Curtis he studied timpani with the late Fred D. Hinger.

  • Ed Lacy says:

    I didn’t realize such a list existed, but I’m not far from being on it myself. I am principal bassoonist of the Evansville (Indiana) Philharmonic Orchestra. I joined the orchestra in 1959, played from 59 t0 65, then 67 to 72, and again from 79 to the present. That’s 44 of the past 53 years, according to my calculations.

    BTW, I believe that Frederick Moritz was principal bassoonist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for more than 50 years. I met him when he was in his 90’s, and he was still playing, although not in the orchestra. Fred played the world premiere performance of Strauss’ “Ein Heldenleben” as a young man. He was a percussionist at that time. He also played the first performance or side Russia of Tchaikovsky’s Pathetique Symphony.

    • Keep right on, Ed! Where were you in between?

    • Tom Politeo says:

      I met Frederick Moritz on the top of Mt. Hollywood (Los Angeles) around 1985, at the time he was Dean of the Double Reed Society. It was a pleasure to meet him (he took great delight in nature, and was eyeing a hawk flying overhead). He shared many stories (at my asking) of his career. His teacher was taught by …. was taught by (direct line) to Mozart, something he seemed to take pride in. He played under Toscanini in Chicago as well as his long tenure in Los Angeles. Unhappy with Germany at the end of WWI, he came to the USA. He said he’s pretty much played every piece of classical music written for Bassoon. I didn’t remember him talking about being a percussionist, but after all these years, I may have simply forgotten. I wish I had a still camera and a tape recorder with me.

  • Joseph Golan, who just passed away this summer, was a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for 49 years, from 1953-2002. He held the position of Principal Second Violin for 33 years, from 1969 until his retirement. He was appointed to the violin section by Fritz Reiner, was appointed to the position of Principal Second Violin by Sir Georg Solti, and retired under Daniel Barenboim.

  • Robert Naglee, second bassoonist, joined the Oregon Symphony (then called the Portland Symphony) in 1959. Still active in 2011 – his 52nd season!

  • […] there are those that have been playing professionally for over 60 years. WOW. Check out this blog entry by Norman Lebrecht. Here’s a few of the people and some years for […]

  • harold says:

    Milton Preves,Viola,Chicago Symphony 1934-1986(Principal 1939-1986)

  • tripleforte says:

    I’ve been attending symphony concerts for 58 years, and still going strong. Going tonight as a matter of fact.

  • Mark says:

    Here’s a slightly different twist. For ninety-two years the Philadelphia Orchestra has had two second clarinetists. Jules Serpentini (1920-1962) and Raoul Querze 1962 to present.

  • Andrew says:

    Don’t forget about Joe Guastafeste, principal bass of the Chicago Symphony for 50 years (retired last year) and he was also in Dallas for about 10 years before that I believe.

  • Robyn Zimmann says:

    Ian Polster, Springfield Symphony Orchestra (Ohio). Trombone, 1962 to Present. (Principal 1962 thru 2007). Starting his 51st season with the SSO on October 8.

  • harold braun says:

    Michelle Zukovsky,principal clarinet with the LA Philharmonic,just celebrated 50 years with the orchestra at its gala season opening night(all Gershwin program with Dudamel)

  • harold braun says:

    Michelle Zukovsky,principal clarinet,LA Phil,50 years with the orchestra(entered 1961).

  • ML says:

    There are still two Reiner hires in CSO: Mary Sauer, principal keyboardist since 1959 and counting, and Lynne Turner, harp since 1962 and counting.

  • Steve Alcott says:

    Orin O’Brien. Double bass NY Phil since 1966.

  • baron z says:

    I imagine you will find more in the Minnesota Orchestra. They had a very stable membership for decades.

  • Don Ciccio says:

    Christopher Wolfe, Assistant Principal Clarinet of the Baltimore Symphony is retiring at the end of this season (2014-2015) after 52 years of service.

  • Jon H says:

    William Haroutounian, has been violinist in National Symphony Orchestra (Washington) for 53 years.

  • Ron Wasserman says:

    Arnold Goldberg principal timpanist at the New York City Ballet, from 1948 or 1949 (not positive)to his retirement in 2014. 60 some odd years.

    Got to this page researching Eugene Levinson.

    • Ron Wasserman says:

      Still waiting for Arnold Goldberg to be included. The NYC Ballet plays a full symphonic repertoire, and has a longer annual season than many of the orchestras sited above.

  • Richard Reissig says:

    Mention should be made of Met Opera violist, Marilyn Stroh. Marilyn joined the Met Orchestra in 1961, (same year as me), and is now in her 54th year there. She.s on the 2nd stand inside of the viola section.

  • DAVID EDWARDS says:

    ALSO JANE LITTLE BASS WITH THE ATLANTA SYM ORCHESTRA IS PROBABLY THE ONLY PERSON WHO HAS BEEN A MEMBER OF THEIR ORCHESTRA SINCE IT FOUNDING, JANE IS AMAZING BEEN IN THE ASO SINCE 1945

  • Holly Golightly says:

    Almost exclusively an American list!! What about Alice Harnoncourt from Concentus Musicus, Wien?

  • Val Rodov says:

    Bruce Bailey, Seattle Symphony Orchestra cellist since 1962

  • Kris says:

    Don’t forget Jay Friedman, principal trombone of the CSO. Joined in 1962 and still playing.

  • Willard Darling, 4th horn of the Detroit Symphony, 51 years. September 1951 until 2002. (I know this because he’s my father) 🙂 He passed away in 2015.

    https://www.facebook.com/detroitsymphony/photos/a.139013442615.111110.20771377615/10152867397887616/

  • Al Jacobsen says:

    Thomas Thompson joined the Pittsburgh Symphony in 1966 (hired by William Steinberg). He will be retiring this summer after 50 years.

    https://www.pittsburghsymphony.org/pso_home/biographies/musicians/thompson-thomas

  • Diane Schneider says:

    I’m enquiring about my grandfather Stephan Klamar who played trumpet, clairinet for the DSO in the 1930’s

  • Anne Mischakoff Heiles says:

    Mischa Mischakoff was a concertmaster for some 70 years, if you count his student days at the St. Petersburg Conservatory, 1905-1913, then St.Petersburg Phil, Bolshoi Ballet solo violinist until 1921, Warsaw Phil 1921-22, New York Symphony, 1924-27, Philadelphia 1927-30, Chicago Symphony 1930-37, NBC Symphony 1937-52, Detroit 1952-68, Baltimore, and then in retirement a semi-professional, orchestra in Michigan (Southfield) and ending with playing Beethoven Concerto with them at age 80 in 1975.

  • David Sanders says:

    Mary Sauer, pianist of the Chicago Symphony, is retiring in November.57 years.

  • Eric Brahinsky says:

    My uncle Morris Shulik was a member of the first violin section of the Philadelphia Orchestra for 53 years, from 1947 until 2000:
    http://www.saratogian.com/article/ST/20050820/NEWS/308209992
    Previous to that he was in the Pittsburgh Symphony for one year.

  • Trombone says:

    Jay Friedman has been holding a trombone chair in the CSO for 55 years now, still sounding amazing.

  • Luigi Nonono says:

    Marilyn Costello served as Principal Harp with the Philadelphia Orchestra for 46 years.

  • John Nikolatos says:

    The program from last night’s San Antonio (TX) Symphony concert (with the stellar mezzo, Susan Graham) listed the orchestra musicians by years of service. Four have 40+ years of service: bassoonist Ron Noble, clarinetist Rodney Wollam, bassist James Chudnow and violinist Cleo Aufderhaar. Eleven others have 30-39 years of service.

  • Cathy Metzger says:

    Bill Wilder asst principal percussionist and asst principal timpanist with the Atlanta Symphony will be starting his 50th year with the ASO in September

  • Jon Kahananui says:

    Norman,

    I believe Kenneth Kuchler; deserves some recognition. He was a violinist with Utah Symphony. He was with them well before the war; came back after in 45-until his death in 2008. He was I believe one of the very first members; and as serving as associate concertmaster, then!

  • Barbara Barber says:

    Can I get a copy of the archive of your original article from 2011? In this list, my mom, Helen Gerald, was listed as No. 6 – 63 consecutive years in the Amarillo Symphony. I am wondering why you excluded her in your 2016 update.

  • Vincent Osborn says:

    I’d like to add a name to your list: Ronald G. Kari joined the Duluth Superior Symphony Orchestra (Duluth, MN) in 1962 and he is now the assistant principal violist – he has yet to miss a performance! The orchestra plays seven classical and three Pops per year.

    • Chicago Musician says:

      A very belated response to your entry: Larry Blackman, former violist with the Vancouver Symph., had a funny line in his bio (paraphrasing): “… played hundreds of concerts on viola, and no one noticed …”

  • Marian Green says:

    Oliver A Green, Jr,, played bass clarinet and clarinets in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. He joined the orchestra in 1948 and retired in 2006. He also served as personnel manager for 25 of those years.)

  • DAVID EDWARDS says:

    BRICE ANDRUS HAS BEEN WITH THE ATLANTA SYM ORCH SINCE 1966; 51 YEARS. HE IS CURRENTLY PRINCIPAL HORN

  • Larry Weinman says:

    James Krummmenacher bassist with the Pittsburgh Symphony 50 years

  • Paula Royce-Bravo says:

    Victor Aitay, who performed for 19 years as concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO), died on 24 July at the age of 91. He played with the orchestra for 50 seasons, also serving as assistant and associate concertmaster, and concertmaster emeritus until 2003.

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