Erwin Price, in his own words

Volume 115, No. 6June, 2015

In his last weeks, Erwin Price took the time to write the following reminiscences, which he hoped would be published in Allegro.

I was born to Russian immigrant parents in the Dorchester neighborhood of Boston on July 4, 1922, and was educated in the Boston public schools. While still in school, I won a scholarship for trombone lessons at the New England Conservatory, from which I later graduated. I spent three summers at Tanglewood at the Berkshire Music Program, run by the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky. I then transferred to Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, also on scholarship. I studied with C.E. Gerhard of the Philadelphia Orchestra, joined AFM Local 77 and played with the Philadelphia Opera Orchestra under Sylvan Levin. I then played with the Philadelphia Orchestra for a year before being inducted into the Navy and posted to Washington, D.C. at the Navy School. I was made soloist in the band and an instructor in trombone and theory and harmony. During this time, I married Helen Gusikoff and lived off the base in an apartment in Anacostia until I shipped out as lead trombonist with a band to a Navy recreation station in Hawaii. During this time, I also played with the Ray Anthony Navy Band on its radio performances, usually twice a week.

After six months, I was re-assigned back to the mainland, near San Francisco, where I was discharged from the Navy after 36 months of service. I went to Los Angeles, where I lived for about six months and played several concerts in the Hollywood Bowl conducted by Leopold Stokowski. I later returned to New York City, where I worked and played in the final concerts of the NBC Symphony under Toscanini. At the same time, I also played in the CBS Orchestra on weekends under Bernard Herrmann, who was Alfred Hitchcock’s musical collaborator. (Herrmann was later succeeded by Alfredo Antonini.) I took a year-long break from NYC to play with the Pittsburgh Symphony, then returned to work for the WOR Mutual Network Symphony Orchestra and the Little Orchestra Society (under Thomas Scherman), with which I did an eight-week tour in Asia for the State Department.

My career became busier. I helped organize the New York Brass Quintet, played the Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, played contemporary music concerts at MOMA and Cooper Union, recorded with various groups, and began a 12-year stint with the Ed Sullivan Show. I played first trombone and solo trombone with the Cities Service Band of America on CBS. I played with the Joffrey Ballet Orchestra and several Broadway shows. I recorded film and TV scores. I also produced several series of educational school concerts. I was hired as assistant professor at St. John’s University, where I organized a band and taught music history.

I capped off my career in music by serving as a Local 802 union officer, first as a member of the Executive Board, then as the Recording Vice President. I also served on the AFM International Executive Board until my retirement from music at the age of 88.

My life in music was characterized by working and associating with the best musicians and performing outstanding events to audiences of all ages.

On a more personal note, my life was enhanced by being married to a fine, intelligent, wife and mother, and then to Rosie Tillotson, who then further helped me to greater accomplishments and a charmed life that I never could have imagined.

– Erwin Price