Tuesday, May 26, 2009

A Salute to a Musical Institution

In the best SWNIDish tradition of lauding musicians that other people haven't heard of, we celebrate today with WSJ the career of a musician who is reaching retirement after having played with the same ensemble for sixty years.

Yes, sixty years. And he worked professionally for four years before that. And he still loves playing and plans to continue to play.

Stanley Drucker is not well known, except to classical music nerds, especially clarinetists (the nerdiest, bassonists excepted). But this year he retires after sixty years playing clarinet with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. As a section leader and soloist within the orchestra, Drucker was regarded as one of the world's greats at his art. But he also appeared frequently as a soloist, with some two hundred solo appearances--plenty for a guy with a full-time orchestra gig.

Barbara Jepson of WSJ notes that Drucker started playing at age 10, on a $20 clarinet that his non-musician parents bought him (buying your kid a clarinet in 1939, with Goodman and Shaw riding high, was like buying your kid a guitar in 1968). Within five years he was a student at the Curtis Institute, widely seen as the leading conservatory for orchestra players, and one year later he was working in the Indianapolis Symphony. A few stops along the way and he was in the Big Apple at age 20.

SWNID salutes Drucker, having spent many hours listening to him play the famous orchestral passages recorded by the New Yorkers while fantasizing about being a member of a major orchestra. And we salute him again for proving that there are lots of fine, fine players out there, enough to justify our decision not to try to be yet another one.

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