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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.

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During Sir Georg Solti’s tenure as music director, more than seventy musicians—many of whom are still members—joined the roster of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra:

David Babcock, horn 1969–1971
Edwin Barker, bass 1976–1977
John Bartholomew, viola 1980–
J. Lawrie Bloom, clarinet and bass clarinet 1980–
Ella Braker, violin 1976–2003
Loren Brown, cello 1985–
Catherine Brubaker, viola 1989–
Li-Kuo Chang, viola 1988–
David Chickering, cello 1978–1986
Roger Cline, bass 1973–
Timothy Cobb, bass 1985–1986
Larry Combs, clarinet and E-flat clarinet 1974–2008
Alison Dalton, violin 1987–
Franklyn D’Antonio, violin 1981–1986
Patricia Dash, percussion 1986–
Joseph DiBello, bass 1976–
Louise Dixon, flute 1973–
Fox Fehling, violin 1979–
Jorja Fleezanis, violin 1975–1976
Barbara Fraser, violin 1975–1996
Daniel Gingrich, horn 1976–
Rachel Goldstein, violin 1989–
Rubén González, violin 1986–1996
Bruce Grainger, bassoon 1986–1996
Jerry Grossman, cello 1984–1986
Tom Hall, violin 1970–2006
Laura Hamilton, violin 1985–1986
Erik Harris, bass 1989–1993
Michael Henoch, oboe 1972–
Marilyn Herring, librarian 1982–1997
Russell Hershow, violin 1989–
Richard Hirschl, cello 1989–
Michael Hovnanian, bass 1989–
Thomas Howell, horn 1971–1991
Nisanne Howell, violin 1976–
Albert Igolnikov, violin 1979–
Mihaela Ionescu, violin 1987–
Jacques Israelievitch, violin 1972–1978
Timothy Kent, trumpet 1979–1996
Mark Kraemer, bass 1974–
Melanie Kupchynsky, violin 1989–
Lee Lane, viola 1971–2009–
Stephen Lester, bass 1978–
Kathryn Lukas, flute 1985–1986
Elizabeth Matesky, violin 1972–1973
Blair Milton, violin 1975–
Diane Mues, viola 1987–
Michael Mulcahy, trombone 1990–
Joyce Noh, violin 1979–
Bradley Opland, bass 1984–
Daniel Orbach, viola 1988–
Nancy Park, violin 1984–
Jonathan Pegis, cello 1986–
Paul Phillips, violin 1980–
Charles Pikler, violin and viola 1978–
Gene Pokorny, tuba 1989–
Max Raimi, viola 1984–
James Ross, percussion 1979–
David Sanders, cello 1974–
Ronald Satkiewicz, violin 1979–
Florence Schwartz, violin 1989–
Norman Schweikert, horn 1971–1997
John Sharp, cello 1986–
Sando Shia, violin 1989–
Philip Smith, trumpet 1975–1978
Gregory Smith, clarinet 1983–
Gary Stucka, cello 1986–
Robert Swan, viola 1972–2008
Susan Synnestvedt, violin 1986–
David Taylor, violin 1979–
Charles Vernon, trombone and bass trombone 1986–
George Vosburgh, trumpet 1979–1993
Jennie Wagner, volin 1974–
Gail Williams, horn 1978–1998
Thomas Wright, viola 1981–
John Bruce Yeh, clarinet and E-flat clarinet 1977–

CSO roster – September 1969

CSO roster – June 1991

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