We received word over the weekend that Edward Kleinhammer, a legendary member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s trombone section from 1940 until 1985, died on November 30 at his home in Hayward, Wisconsin. He was 94.
Born in Chicago in 1919, Edward Kleinhammer started his musical training at age ten on the violin and switched to trombone when he was fourteen. He studied with David Anderson (CSO trombone and bass trombone, 1929–1959) and Edward Geffert (CSO trombone, 1921–1941) and joined the Civic Orchestra of Chicago in 1938 and served for two seasons, and in 1940 he joined Leopold Stokowski’s All-American Youth Orchestra following a nationwide competition. Later that same year—at the age of twenty-one—at the invitation of Frederick Stock, Kleinhammer joined the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as trombone and bass trombone.
Kleinhammer’s tenure with the Orchestra was interrupted by military service in the U.S. Army during World War II, when he served in the 447th Army Air Forces Band from June 1942 until August 1945. His book The Art of Trombone Playing was published by Summy-Birchard in 1963, and he also was the inventor and originator of the optional E attachment for bass trombone, manufactured by the Frank Holton Company. Kleinhammer also co-authored Mastering the Trombone with Douglas Yeo, a former student and retired bass trombone with the Boston Symphony Orchestra.
After forty-five years in the Orchestra—serving under seven music directors: Stock, Désiré Defauw, Artur Rodzinski, Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, and Sir Georg Solti—Kleinhammer retired in June 1985.
He is survived by his wife Dessie. Services will be private and plans for a memorial service in Hayward are pending.
In November 1985, Jay Friedman, principal trombone of the CSO, provided a tribute to Kleinhammer in The Instrumentalist following his colleague’s retirement. Friedman wrote: “What a joy it is to work with Ed; he is the most conscientious musician I have ever met. He is a fanatic about practicing and preparing material, taking great care to get something as simple as an attack absolutely perfect. He arrives hours before rehearsals and concerts to make sure his preparation is as good as it can be. Because his personal standards of playing and conduct are so high, Ed never tries to compete with anyone but himself. He is humble about his own talents and generous in praising others. Shortly before he retired I asked Ed if he would continue playing after he left the Orchestra. As I expected he said no. I knew there was only one way he could be a musician, and that was by giving 110% of himself. Things will never be the same without Ed Kleinhammer.”