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Jorja Fleezanis in 1975 (Terry’s Photography)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family mourns the passing of Jorja Fleezanis, a member of the Orchestra’s violin section during the 1975-76 season and a passionate, lifelong educator. She passed away at her home in Lake Leelanau, Michigan on September 10, 2022, at the age of seventy.

Born on March 19, 1952, in Detroit, Michigan, Fleezanis began violin instruction at the age of eight, and as a teenager, attended the Interlochen Center for the Arts on scholarship and performed with the Detroit Youth Orchestra. She furthered her studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music and Cincinnati Conservatory of Music. Fleezanis’s teachers included Mischa Mischakoff (CSO concertmaster from 1930 until 1937) in Chicago; Donald Weilerstein and David Cerone in Cleveland; and Walter Levin in Cincinnati. She was assistant concertmaster of the Cleveland Concert Associates Orchestra, concertmaster of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, and concerto soloist with the University of Cincinnati Philharmonia Orchestra.

According to a 1975 program book biography, “Of Greek descent and the only musician in her family, Detroit-born Jorja decided to shoot for the Chicago post as the test of her talent. She made it to the finals on three separate occasion, each time told by Maestro Solti personally that he would like her to audition again. Even after her third audition, Solti still wavered, calling for some further test. So she sat in with the Orchestra for a week—comfortable, exhilarated, totally in her element. At last Sir Georg was convinced and hired her on the spot.”

Following her season in Chicago, she later served as associate concertmaster with the San Francisco Symphony. In 1989, she won the audition as concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra, becoming (at the time) only the second woman in the United States to hold that title in a major orchestra when appointed. Fleezanis remained in that position for twenty years until her retirement in 2009, as the longest-tenured concertmaster in the Minnesota Orchestra’s history. During her time as concertmaster, two works were commissioned for her: John Adams’s Violin Concerto and John Tavener’s Ikon of Eros.

Jorja Fleezanis (Indiana University photo)

A passionate educator, Fleezanis was professor of orchestral studies at Indiana University’s Jacobs School of Music from 2009 until her retirement last year. She also served as an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota’s School of Music from 1990 until 2009; at the Round Top International Festival Institute in Texas from 1990 until 2007; artist-in-residence at the University of California, Davis; guest artist and teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory from 1981 to 1989; and artist and mentor at the Music@Menlo Festival from 2003 until 2010. Fleezanis had been teacher and coach with the New World Symphony since 1988 as well as on the faculty of the Music Academy of the West since 2016. She was a visiting teacher at the Boston Conservatory, the Juilliard School, the Shepherd School of Music, and the Interlochen Academy and Summer Camp, along with serving as a frequent guest and clinician at the Britten Pears Centre at Snape Maltings in England.

A longtime member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association, Jorja Fleezanis was preceded in death by her husband, American music critic and author Michael Steinberg.

This article also appears here.

Jonathan Pegis in 2010 (© Todd Rosenberg Photography)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family mourns the loss of Jonathan Pegis, who served as a member of the cello section from 1986 until 2018. He died yesterday of natural causes, at home in Waterloo, Iowa. Pegis was sixty-one.

“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jon Pegis, a very kind person and a wonderful player,” commented Riccardo Muti. “I will remember him and his wonderful contribution to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.”

Born in Rochester, New York on May 7, 1960, Jonathan Pegis gave new meaning to the phrase “born into a musical family.” He was one of seven children, all whom played string instruments. Pegis began his studies at the Eastman School of Music’s Preparatory Department, where his first teacher was Alan Harris; he also studied with Lee Fiser, Paul Katz, and Lynn Harrell. Pegis completed undergraduate studies at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. While there, he joined the LaSalle Quartet and viola Donald McInnes on chamber music tours of the United States and Germany. Their 1982 recording of Schoenberg’s string sextet Transfigured Night for Deutsche Grammophon later received Japan’s Tokyo Record Academy prize.

Pegis returned to Rochester in 1984 to become a member of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and to attend Eastman, where he earned a master’s degree and a performer’s certificate. In 1986, he was invited by Sir Georg Solti to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s cello section, a post he held until his retirement in 2018. During his tenure, he frequently performed in chamber music, including concerts on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Series and the Northwestern University Winter Chamber Music Festival. He also appeared as soloist at Chicago Cello Society concerts, with the Texas Chamber Orchestra, Highland Park Strings, and the Signature Symphony in Tulsa. In 1993, Pegis joined the faculty at Northwestern University, where taught cello orchestral studies until 2012. He also was a regular contributor to the cellobello.org blog.

Schoenberg’s Transfigured Night was recorded in 1982 for Deutsche Grammophon by the LaSalle Quartet along with viola Donald McInnes and cello Jonathan Pegis.

When he announced his retirement, Pegis expressed, “What a pleasure and memorable journey it has been to be a part of this tremendous organization for over thirty years. A dream come true! These few words are inadequate to express the privilege it has been to share with such an outstanding organization, exceptional colleagues—musicians and staff. I am most grateful for the lifetime of experiences and memories that we made throughout the world!”

Pegis is survived by his wife Dawn, along with sons Michael and Jason from his previous marriage to Lisa Rensberger. Services are pending, and in lieu of flowers, the family has requested memorial gifts to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

This article also appears here.

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