Volume 113, No. 4April, 2013

Dick Hafer

Dick Hafer

Dick Hafer

Dick Hafer, 85, a saxophonist and a Local 802 member since 1956, died last Dec. 15, 2012.

During Mr. Hafer’s 60-plus years as a professional musician, he played with many of the best big bands in jazz. He started his career with the Charlie Barnet Orchestra, then went on to play with Woody Herman, Claude Thornhill, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton and many others. He recorded with Ruby Braff, Herbie Mann, Bobby Hackett, Charlie Mingus and Nat King Cole.

Mr. Hafer played with the studio band on the Merv Griffin Show in the 1960s. He also worked with such legendary vocalists as Peggy Lee, Billie Holiday, Ella Fitzgerald, Tony Bennett and Johnny Hartman. He spent many years playing on Broadway shows and working as a studio musician.

In the 1990s, Mr. Hafer released two albums under his own name: “In a Sentimental Mood” and “Prez Impressions (a tribute to Lester Young).”

Mr. Hafer is survived by his wife of 59 years, Betty, as well as his daughter Lisa Watson and son-in-law Bryan Watson. He is also survived by his grandsons Taro, Alex, and Chris, and granddaughter Cameron. His son, Tim, preceded him in death.

Sonny Russo

Sonny Russo

Sonny Russo

Santo “Sonny” Russo, 83, a trombonist and a Local 802 member since 1945, died on Feb. 23. Mr. Russo played, toured or recorded with just about everyone, including Stan Kenton, Buddy Morrow, Artie Shaw, Tito Puente, Buddy Rich, Ralph Flanagan, the Sauter-Finegan Orchestra, Neal Hefti, Jimmy and Tommy Dorsey, Maynard Ferguson, Machito, Bobby Hackett, Benny Goodman, Doc Severinsen, Tony Bennett, Lena Horne, Perry Como, Dinah Washington, Liza Minnelli, Paul Anka, Ray Charles, Eydie Gorme, Al Cohn, Zoot Sims, Mousey Alexander, Milt Hinton, Urbie Green and even Elvis Presley, to name just a few. He also played in Broadway shows.

While touring with the World’s Greatest Jazz Band, Mr. Russo was invited to the White House to play for President Ford and his family.

Mr. Russo recorded and toured with Frank Sinatra for over 20 years. He was also a fixture in the “Tonight Show” orchestra in the late 60s and early 70s, where he once shared the stage with Louis Armstrong, who was a guest.

Mr. Russo was also a first-call studio musician. He performed on the soundtracks to “The Godfather,” “Goodfellas” and “Sophie’s Choice,” among others. He was a regular in the orchestra that played for Jerry Lewis’ muscular dystrophy telethon; he later played behind Lewis’ comedy show.

Mr. Russo is survived by his son Santo, who was a member of Local 802 in the late 70s and early 80s. He is also survived by his sons Bruce and John; brother Ronald; daughter-in-law Carmella; grandchildren Nicole, Elizabeth, Tara, Johnny and Amalia; and great-granddaughter Bella.

Mr. Russo’s career was too rich to fit into this small space. Musicians who have reminiscences about Mr. Russo can e-mail

Obituary from Wikipedia and from an interview with Mr. Russo’s son Santo. See a tribute letter to Mr. Russo by Bill Kirchner in Musicians’ Voice of this issue.

Saul Schechtman

Saul Schechtman

Saul Schechtman

Saul Schechtman, 88, a conductor and composer, died on Feb. 6. He had been a Local 802 member since 1946.

Mr. Schechtman earned a graduate degree from Juilliard, where he was later hired to join the conducting faculty. He left Juilliard to accept the position of music director of the Bronx Symphony Orchestra.

Mr. Schechtman was also a guest conductor with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He served as the conductor of the Bergen (New Jersey) Philharmonic and the chamber group Orchestra Piccola, and he conducted orchestras in Oslo, Reykjavik, Moscow, The Hague and Paris.

Mr. Schechtman composed the music for the play “Auntie Mame,” which was later turned into a film. He also conducted the music of the TV show “Omnibus.”

In 1960, he was asked by the State Department to serve as the music director for a pioneering U.S.S.R. tour of “My Fair Lady,” which comprised the first cultural exchange between the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Mr. Schechtman was also the music director of the original Broadway production of “Carnival!” and the pioneering all-black production of “Hello, Dolly!” (starring Pearl Bailey, Cab Calloway, Mabel King, Clifton Davis, Ernestine Jackson and Morgan Freeman).

A brilliant composer and pianist, Mr. Schechtman wrote orchestral, choral, and chamber works, and two collections of piano pieces.

His many art songs include a lovely setting of Robert Frost’s “Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening,” for soprano and piano, and the more recent “Song of Ruth” and “Psalm 23.”

Mr. Schechtman is survived by his daughters Carol Kimmel and Julia Schechtman Pabst.