A tribute to John Dexter

Volume 123, No. 7July, 2023

John Dexter, 76, a violist and a member of Local 802 since 1972, died on May 21, 2023. John was born into a family of professional musicians who at an early age recruited him for the family quartet. His musical training began in Des Moines, Iowa where he earned his first performance degree at Drake University. He then traveled to New York City to study at Juilliard with such luminaries as Dorothy Delay and Lillian Fuchs. Performing in a string quartet from his earliest years proved a powerful force on his performance career and he began his concertizing with the Madison String Quartet. During the time he served as their violist from 1973 to 1979, John was a member of the Colgate University and Hamilton College faculties, performed extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe, and made several recordings of contemporary music.

Joining the Manhattan String Quartet in 1980, John made 20 critically acclaimed recordings, gave Music Mountain radio broadcasts to millions, and presented three Shostakovich string quartet cycles in New York City and on Radio France. His touring with the quartet took him to Asia, Europe, North and South America, and on three historic tours of the former Soviet Union during the glasnost era of the 1980s.

His recording of Anthony Newman’s Viola Concerto on Newport Classics has been accorded high praise by the critics for his virtuosity and musical poetry.

As principal violist, John performed with the New York City Opera Orchestra, Philharmonia Virtuosi, the Joffrey Ballet in New York City, the American Symphony Orchestra, the American Composers Orchestra, and the Hong Kong Philharmonic. John also maintained a very active teaching studio and was in high demand as a chamber music coach.

He is survived by his partner Karan Spanard; his siblings Rosalyn Salzman, Paul (Helen) Dexter, Leslie Dhono Isworo, and Marc (Bernadette) Dexter; and five nieces and nephews.