Ormandy’s piccolo calls it a day

Thirty-five years after he joined the Philadelphia Orchestra, Kazuo Tokito is playing his last concerts this weekend.

His colleague says: Even on his last day at work, Kazuo Tokito is – as always – the first one on stage warming up. Happy retirement, Kaz.

kazuo tokito

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  • Congrats to him, a worthy successor to Kincaid student and piccoloist John Krell (1952-1981 in PhilaOrch). I would suggest that Kazuo might have been hired by Riccardo Muti (named MD in 1979, effective 1980). But others may know the actual story concerning the timing of his appointment.

    • Good point… my inf was that he was hired from Vancouver by Ormandy. Maybe he took a while to make the move.

    • Kazuo Tokito always considered the Vancouver Symphony job as a stepping stone to a better orchestra. He practiced 4 hours a day while in the Vancouver Symphony which was
      a major feat to be doing. None of his colleagues were working at that intensity but Kazuo had his mind of greater things so it wasn’t much of a surprise when he left Vancouver for the Philadelphia Orchestra position which he won through an audition. The man worked like a fiend behind the scenes so it was wonderful to hear when he landed the Philly job.
      Further to another comment re: Sarah Jackson (former 2nd flute Vancouver Symphony) and how she ended up as piccolo in the Los Angeles Philharmonic…..similar story of how she, also, practiced a lot and used the Vancouver job as a means to another position.
      Vancouver is, as many know, a gorgeous city but the obscenely expensive housing costs there mean that many musicians have won jobs with the orchestra, looked around at how they would be restricted to living in an apartment on the wage, and said “thanks but no thanks.” That is WHY people bolt from the job.
      Later flutist/piccolo-ist Dr. Kathleen Rudolph left the Vancouver Symphony to freelance and teach in Toronto. Former 1st flute Camille Churchfield of the Vancouver Symphony went from there to teaching in the Ottawa area. And so it goes.
      The Vancouver Symphony plays in the gorgeous old-but-restored Orpheum Theatre and the conductors are quite good, repertoire decently varied but the housing affordability remains an unsolved issue for the musicians who work there. With the closing of the CBC (Canadian Broadcasting Corporation) radio orchestra there is even less work there now in 2017. And the Vancouver Opera cancelled their monthly operatic productions — truncating 3 or 4 of them into one month of work called a festival in April. This gives you an idea ….for anyone reading this….at how the Vancouver professional music scene is shrinking at a time when musicians desperately need every last penny of income to afford a roof over their heads. Vancouver housing costs are on a par with New York City now.
      The whole housing thing is a mess. It directly impacts artists who live in the city. Sad but true.

  • Well, what I remember was that he apparently won his Phila audition on a plastic Yamaha piccolo!

    Orch. management quickly took him aside & avised him to upgrade his instrument, but his success is an urban legend to all flutists who don’t have the money for a good instrument. It’s not the instrument, it’s the player, and Mr. Tokito is living proof. An inspiration!

    • That seems unlikely, as he had a regular job in the VSO at that time! Why would he have used a student pic? And those early plastic Yamaha pics were pretty awful 🙂 What is slightly odd is that the VSO has sent TWO pic players to major US orchestras, since Sarah Jackson won her audition in LA in 2003. Coincidence? Perhaps Something in the Water 🙂

      • It is true re: the plastic picc. The 1st flute in the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra from 1963-1076/then 2nd flute 1977-1988)–Harriet Edwards Crossland (student of William Kincaid’s/a Curtis grad) also had a plastic body Yamaha piccolo with a silver plated headjoint that she used in the orchestra. She told me that the plastic-Yamaha picc played better than her expensive Powell wooden piccolo.
        Kazuo Tokito had the same Yamaha plastic piccolo and used it for outdoor
        concerts etc. with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (1977-1980) where he was . assistant Principal flute & 3rd flute & piccolo. He also had a wooden Yamaha piccolo. At that time (was playing on a Murumatsu flute (one of the 1st in British Columbia) with a Cooper head. Kazuo was on the leading edge with his Cooper-scale Murumatsu with the Cooper head & he played much more consistently in tune because of his excellent equipment choices, than any of the other flutists around Vancouver at that time.
        –from a former student of them both.

        • Hi!
          Do you know if Harriet Edwards Crossland is still in the in the Vancouver area? I am doing a genealogy project. Your assistance is greatly appreciated.

          Best Regards,

          Anthony Crossland

  • I, personally, will be glad to see him go. He is the only piccolo player I have ever heard play it in orchestra with vibrato, and in those high pitches, it is very disturbing to the ear, not to mention a break with musical tradition. On flute, he sounds terrific. The rest of the section is near retirement as well, the whole section could use an overhaul. It has not upheld the “Philadelphia Sound” for years.

  • Most interesting. Of course, Harriet, who was a brilliant player, only occasionally played picc in the VSO, as she was principal flute or second later. She was never a piccolo specialist, as such. I studied with her colleague, Conrad Crocker, also a Kincaid student. He was VSO 3rd and solo picc through much of that era until his early passing. He played a Powell picc, I believe, and had no time for student piccolos. But really, the scale on those early Yammys was horrible! Amazing that those terrific players used them!

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