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Ralph Johnson and Lois Schaefer onstage with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in December 1953

If you’ve tuned into CSOtv recently, you may have noticed that in the December 1953 concert, Lois Schaefer is sitting in the first-chair position!

Hired by fifth music director Rafael Kubelík in 1951, Schaefer served the Orchestra as assistant principal flute until 1954. She was the third woman rostered in the flute section, following Caroline Solfronk Vacha (1943-1946) and Peggy Hardin (1945-1951).

Born in Yakima, Washington, on March 10, 1924, Schaefer attended the Interlochen Summer Arts Camp as a teenager, later studying at the New England Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Georges Laurent (principal flute of the Boston Symphony Orchestra), Frank Horsfall, and Sebastian Caratelli. She completed her bachelor’s of music in flute performance in 1946 and an artist diploma the following year.

Lois Schaefer in the 1960s (image courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives)

During her time in Chicago, Schaefer also taught at Chicago Musical College. By 1956, she returned east and was hired as principal flute of the New York City Opera, where she would remain for ten seasons. During this time, she also performed and recorded with the NBC Opera Theatre Orchestra, the RCA Victor Symphony Orchestra, and the Columbia Symphony Orchestra.

In 1965, Schaefer was hired by then–music director Erich Leinsdorf to the position of flute and principal piccolo for the Boston Symphony Orchestra, her “dream job.” During her twenty-five-year tenure, she also served as principal piccolo for the Boston Pops Orchestra. “In more than 2,000 Boston Pops performances of [John Philip Sousa‘s] ‘The Stars and Stripes Forever,’ a moment always arrived when Lois Schaefer was the star of the show,” wrote Bryan Marquard in the Boston Globe. “Though she was a master of the memorable piccolo solo that is the highlight of the song, she didn’t take her eyes off the musical score—not in her first concert, not in her 2,000th. She was determined to never make a mistake on her notoriously difficult instrument, which sometimes waits silently through portions of concerts, only to suddenly be highlighted for all ears to hear.”

Schaefer served on the faculty of the New England Conservatory of Music from 1965 until 1992. She also was a board member of the National Flute Association, receiving their second-ever lifetime achievement award in 1993.

According to her sister Winifred Mayes, a cellist with the BSO from 1954 until 1964, Schaefer was “very, very happy in Boston. . . . She loved the orchestra and the people in it. She always felt very secure and warm towards them, and they towards her. I think it was perfect for her.”

Lois Schaefer in the late 1980s (photo courtesy of the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives)

In her final season in Boston, Schaefer was soloist in Daniel Pinkham‘s Concerto Piccolo, written especially for her. Upon her retirement in 1990, Globe music critic Richard Dyer wrote, “For her twenty-five years as solo piccolo, Lois Schaefer has been the highest, brightest voice in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. . . . To hear her in a Rossini overture is like watching the sunlight dance on rippling water. She can also break your heart with a perfectly placed high pianissimo in a Mahler or Shostakovich slow movement.”

Lois Schaefer died at the home she shared with her sister in Sequim, Washington, on January 31, 2020, at the age of ninety-five. She was survived by her sister Winifred Mayes until her passing, also in Sequim, on December 15, 2020, at the age of one hundred and one.

Lois Schaefer performs as first-chair flute in a December 9, 1953, Hour of Music telecast, currently available on CSOtv. Guest conductor and former music director Désiré Defauw leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in Grétry’s Three Dances from Cephalus and Procris, a suite from Fauré’s Pelleas and Melisande, and Schumann’s Fourth Symphony.

Special thanks to Bridget Carr and the Boston Symphony Orchestra Archives.

William and Shirlejean Babcock (Vincent Cichowicz collection)

The Chicago Symphony notes with the sorrow the passing of William Babcock—a former member of the Orchestra’s trumpet section from 1951 until 1958—on June 10, 2019, in Townshend, Vermont. He was 94.

Born in New London, Connecticut on May 7, 1925, Babcock began playing the piano at the age of four and trumpet at seven. He won many high school competitions as a trumpet player, was first solo cornet in the All New England High School Band for three years, and graduated from Bulkeley School for Boys in 1943.

After graduation, Babcock enlisted in the US Air Force and was called into duty on June 14, 1943, serving for nearly three years, active in combat flying in the European theatre.

Benefiting from the G.I. Bill, he enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music in January 1946. While in line for admittance, Babcock met not only his future colleague Adolph “Bud” Herseth but also his future wife Shirlejean Wallace (whom he would marry on March 29, 1947). During his three years at the conservatory, he studied with Boston Symphony Orchestra trumpets Roger Voisin and Marcel LaFosse. Babcock performed at Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center (under the guidance of BSO principal trumpet Georges Mager), with the New England Opera Theater and at Boston’s Shubert Theatre, and also as a substitute with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky, Charles Munch, Leonard Bernstein, and Pierre Monteux.

William Babcock (Vincent Cichowicz collection)

Rafael Kubelík, during his first season as music director, hired Babcock into the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s trumpet section, beginning with the 1951 Ravinia Festival season. He was a member of the section until 1958, when he became principal trumpet of Chicago’s NBC Orchestra, where he remained until 1965. Babcock continued to work as a freelance musician and private trumpet teacher into his retirement, and he and his wife were longtime members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association.

William Babcock’s beloved wife Shirlejean—after sixty-seven years of marriage—preceded him in death in 2014. He is survived by his children Douglas, Richard, Barbara LaMontagne (Henry), Laura Casoli (Darrel), and granddaughter Melissa. Memorial gifts may be made to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and services have been held.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family notes with sorrow the passing of Rudolph “Rudy” Nashan, a member of the trumpet section from 1950 until 1963. He died on August 9, 2017, at the age of 94.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra trumpet section in the fall of 1950: left to right, Renold Schilke, Gerald Huffman, Rudolph Nashan, and Adolph Herseth

Nashan was born in Münster, Germany on July 25, 1923, and the family soon immigrated to the United States, settling in Chicago. He began playing the trumpet in elementary school and continued lessons while attending Lane Tech. Nashan was a member of the Civic Orchestra of Chicago from 1941 until 1943, and following the outbreak of World War II, in 1942 he joined the U.S. Army, serving in a military band in Skokie, Illinois. During his service, he worked not only as a trumpeter but also as a translator for incoming German war prisoners who had been transported to the United States as farm laborers from South Africa.

After the war, Nashan attended the New England Conservatory of Music and studied with Georges C. Mager, then principal trumpet of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Shortly after receiving his performer’s certificate, new music director Rafael Kubelík invited him to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra as second trumpet, where he served for ten years, moving to fourth trumpet in 1960.

As a tireless advocate for the rights of musicians, in 1962 Nashan was one of the founding members of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians. He resigned his post with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1963 when he was elected vice president of the Chicago Federation of Musicians, where he was instrumental in completing the merger of the segregated Chicago locals.

Nashan later worked as an artist representative for the National Endowment for the Arts for the New England area and also served as principal trumpet and personnel manager of the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. Upon his retirement, he and his wife Catherine moved to Belfast, Maine, where he taught several young trumpeters privately and at local colleges. Nashan was a longtime member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association.

His first wife Catherine preceded him in death. Nashan is survived by his second wife Patricia and two children from his first marriage, Rebecca Devereaux and Georges Nashan. Service details are pending.

In 2012, ICSOM held its fiftieth anniversary meeting in Chicago and to commemorate the event, a documentary was produced. Nashan was one of several Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians prominently featured in the film, offering first-hand accounts of working conditions in orchestras in the early years.

the vault

Theodore Thomas

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