Longest serving US second lays down his horn

Longest serving US second lays down his horn


norman lebrecht

June 02, 2015

Our friend Peter Witte, Dean of the UKMC Conservatory in Kansas City, has written an affectionate tribute to his father, Tom, who is retiring this week after 42 years as as second horn of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Peter believes his Dad is the longest serving current player in that position.


tom witte


He writes:

Astonishingly, one person has been playing in the horn section longer than Dad, Atlanta native and Georgia State University alumnus Brice Andrus. Brice began initially as assistant principal and then third horn with the ASO when Dad arrived. In 1975 Brice moved from my father’s right side, as third horn, to his left, becoming principal horn. That year, in tandem, Brice and Dad helped to build first a horn section, then a brass section, and ultimately an orchestra that became internationally acclaimed even as it remained locally committed….

What is clear is that the ASO’s 70 year ascent into the realm of America’s great orchestras was crafted through hundreds of musical partnership between stars like Brice Andrus and position players like Tom Witte, each specialist able to imagine and create something magical.

Read the full, lovely article here.


  • Peter Witte says:

    Thank you, Norman. Special people, these Atlantans.

  • Jim loyal says:

    Hi Peter,
    Just read your article about your Dad. Very touching, and you are lucky to have each other as father and son. I know your family as a student of your mother, at wheeler high school in the early 80’s. I’ll never forget the phone number, xxx-horn. Mrs. Witte, as I will always know her, was a second mom to me, though she probably never knew it. There is a memory of her that will always be with me – her conducting our orchestra, and a look of pure bliss on her face when we nailed it. I played my heart out to see that look, and I get goose bumps from listening to music that “nails it” ever since then. She pushed me musically, she pushed me personally, and I am forever in her debt. I was disheartened to learn that she left teaching to be an administrator, thinking that perhaps she had left her highest calling. But I know she made a difference, no matter her position. I’ll never look at a Volkswagen rabbit the same. Best to you all!

  • Mark McMahon says:

    Thank you for telling this amazing story. I have met you when you were a young(er) man – I was a student of Brice’s, was in the ASYO 1980-83, and was coached often by your Dad. They both had a huge impact on my life. I cannot begin to describe the poignant mix of feelings I had reading your homage, but tears of gratitude were flowing.

    Mark McMahon