The underage orchestra: a definitive list

The underage orchestra: a definitive list


norman lebrecht

June 03, 2014

After the London Symphony Orchestra appointed a school-leaver as its co-principal trombone last week, we put out a call for the youngest-ever players in an international class orchestra.

Setting aside 14 year old Duaa Majid Azzawi who was appointed second oboe in the Iraq National Symphoy Orchestra in 2009, this is what our readers have offered by way of a definitive listing:


At 15 years old:

Barry Tuckwell, principal 3rd horn with Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (later with LSO)

Gregor Piatigorsky, principal cellist in the Bolshoi Theatre orchestra (later at Berlin Philharmonic).

Raymond Cohen, violinist, Halle Orchestra.

Leon Goossens, oboist, Henry Wood’s Queens Hall Orchestra.

Charles Treger, violinist, Detroit Symphony (according to a 1976 newspaper report).

Gerd Seifert, horn player, Hamburg State Opera (later Berlin Philharmonic).

Gunther Schuller, horn, joined American Ballet Theatre orch at 15, moving at 18 to Cincinnatti.

Neville Marriner, violin, played in the LSO in 1939.

At 16:

Szymon Goldberg became concertmaster of the Dresden Philharmonic at 16 and of the Berlin Philharmonic three years later.

Peter Steiner, cellist, joined the Deutsch Oper Berlin in 1944, before spending 48 years in the Berlin Phil.

Stanley Drucker, clarinet, entered the the Indiannapolis Orch at 16 and the New York Phil at 19.

stanley drucker

Lawrence Leonard, cellist, was 16 when he joined the LSO in 1939.

Michal Winfield may have become principal oboe of the Halle at 16.

Danilo Stagni became principal horn at La Scala when he was 16.

At 17:

Arthur Isadore Berv, horn, joined the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1923.

Bart Claessens joined Concertgebouworkest as 2nd trombone/basstrombone at 17.

Arnold Rosé was 17 when he took the concertmaster’s seat at the Vienna Opera in 1881.

arnold rose

Venezuelan double-bassist Edicson Ruiz entered the Berlin Philharmonic at 17, waiting three more years for tenure.

Roger Voisin became assistant principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at 17 in 1935; he became #1 trumpet in 1950.

Walter Weller, violin, joined the Vienna State Opera orchestra.

At 18:

Conductor Ward Stare started out as principal trombone of Lyric Opera of Chicago, aged 18. 

Michael Thompson was appointed Principal Horn of the BBC Scottish SO at 18.

Emmanuel Pahud was 18 when he was named principal flute at Basle Radio Symphony.

pahud young


Mark Abbott was named assistant principal horn in the Detroit Symphony Orchestra at age 18.

Paul Renzi became principal flute with the San Francisco Symphony in 1944 at age 18.

Jaap van Zweden, concertmaster at Concertgebouw at age of 18.


  • Halldor says:

    When you said ‘international class orchestra’ I didn’t realise that ‘professional’ was implicit in that statement. Because I can think of several international – class symphony orchestras in which not a single member is aged over 18.

    • norman lebrecht says:

      It’s implicit.

      • Halldor says:

        OK, for the purposes of this exercise maybe – but the GMJO, the EUYO, and the NYOGB (to name just three) are unquestionably orchestras of international standing. It’s remarkable for under-18s to hold full-time positions in adult professional all orchestras, no question, and this is an intriguing list, but we shouldn’t forget that adult pros don’t hold a monopoly on orchestral excellence.

  • Micaela says:

    Here’s a new one! Ramon Ortega Quiero – 1991,Granada, Spain – was appointed Principal Oboe of the Bavarian Radio Orchestra (Bayrische Rundfunk) in Munich by Mariss Jansens in 2008 at age 17!

    No suprise since Barenboim accepted him in the West-East Orchestra (non pro training orch.) at age 12!

  • Micaela says:

    Oops spelled his name wrong – Ramon Ortega QUERO.

  • harold braun says:

    Addendum:Ellis McLintock joined the Toronto Symphony as 4th trumpet in 1937,at age 16.One year later,he was appointed principal trumpet.

  • John DUFFY says:

    OLIVER BANNISTER was appointed as Principal Flute of the Halle Orchestra at age 16. He held that position for about 25 year before assuming a similar role at Royal Opera House for another 25 years.
    Brilliant musician and a lovely human being

  • JJC says:

    Didn’t Lynn Harrell play in the Cleveland Orchestra with Szell at age 18?

  • Jeffrey Solow says:

    Cellist Robert LaMarchina was 15 when he joined the NBC Symphony under Toscanini

  • Jeffrey Solow says:

    He was appointed principal of the LA Philharmonic at 18