A tribute to Ira Weller
Volume 122, No. 4April, 2022
My dad Ira Weller, 67, an acclaimed violist and a beloved husband and father, died on March 10, 2022, after a long illness.
Ira was born in Philadelphia in 1955 to Sol and Miriam Weller, the youngest of four siblings (Judith, Susan, and Robert). A romantic and an intellectual, Ira was a voracious reader of poetry, philosophy, history, and literature. He lived in California, Israel, and Buffalo during his early life, before arriving in New York City to attend the Juilliard School, where he received his Bachelor (‘76) & Master of Music (‘77) degrees. From then on he made NYC his permanent home.
He met his wife of 44 years, violinist Laurie Smukler, at the Meadowmount School of Music when they were both in their early teens. They married in 1978. Their romance was passionate, intense, and unending throughout the rest of Ira’s life, rooted in shared artistic partnership and lifelong collaboration along all possible axes. Ira was an exceptional father to his two children, myself and my brother Julian, and to our partners, Vivian Shaw and Sophia Costanza. Brilliant, giving, mischievous, and kind, my father provided us with a foundation of love while exposing us to the greats: the Marx Brothers, Kierkegaard, the New York Yankees and Calvin & Hobbes (both 16th and 20th century versions).
In his professional career, Ira was a longtime member of Local 802 who performed with the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for nearly 30 years and was highly regarded as a chamber musician. He was the founding violist of the Mendelssohn String Quartet, with whom he recorded works by Dvorák, Mendelssohn, Mozart, Schoenberg, Weber, Toch, and Ran. His deep interest in contemporary music led him to play premieres of works by some of the most accomplished composers of the 20th and 21st centuries, including Tobias Picker, Shulamit Ran, and Philip Glass. Erudite and fascinated by the manuscript tradition of classical music, he co-directed (in partnership with his wife Laurie) the “Collection in Concert” series at the Pierpoint Morgan Library and also edited several works from the Library’s collection, including the rare “Billiard Sonata” by Felice Giardini and a newly discovered Scherzo from Mendelssohn’s String Quintet in A Major. Ira taught chamber music and viola at some of the most prestigious conservatories and programs on the east coast, including the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival, Mannes College of Music, the Bard College Conservatory of Music and the Purchase College Conservatory of Music. His teaching was known for its warmth, musical rigor, and attention to artistic detail. His colleagues and students loved him deeply as a musician, collaborator, and friend.
His loss is profound. The world is less rich in his absence.
In lieu of flowers, Ira’s family would appreciate donations to either the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival and School or to Partners in Health (https://www.pih.org).
Also see this tribute to Ira Weller from the musicians of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra.