Volume CIII, No. 3March, 2003
Arnold L. Arden – Saxophone
Samuel Carmell – Violin
Larry Charles – Woodwinds
Paul Clement – Cello
Adolph Coleman – Violin
Richard Dunlap – Trombone
Robert G. Fields – Piano
Sam Levitan – Bass
Thomas E. Parker – Piano
Ben Roberts – Bass/Violin
Joe P. Salemi – Trombone
Scott Shukat – Piano
Harry M. Smyles – Oboe
George Stephan – Trombone
Joseph Terracina – Drums
Larry Charles Bergstein, 65, a woodwind player and an 802 member since 1954, died on Jan. 6.
Mr. Charles was born and raised in Brooklyn. He was a star athlete at Ft. Hamilton High School. After graduating from college and serving in the military, he taught in the New York Public School System.
He went on to a varied and eclectic career in music, playing Broadway, club dates, Latin gigs, big band jobs and working in the studio. He was also a contractor and bandleader.
Mr. Charles played in Woody Herman’s and Warren Covington’s bands as well as other travelling big bands from the 1950’s and 1960’s. Colleagues say that he played with so many different bands of so many different types it’s almost impossible to list all of them. He played with early Motown musicians, including Diana Ross and the Supremes. In the 1960’s and 70’s he was especially in demand, playing all over the New York scene, including performances with Tito Puente.
He was busy up until the end of his life working many freelance dates – so busy that he didn’t have time to sit in a Broadway chair as he did earlier in his career. One of Mr. Charles’ last engagements was with Mel Torme.
But friends say that despite his considerable talent and skills as an instrumentalist, his real fame and renown came from being “a true character.” Mr. Charles seemed to touch every person that ever entered his circle – an entire generation of New York City players each have their funny stories and anecdotes about him.
He is survived by his wife Karen, daughter Sarah, brother David, and cousins Stacy, David and Doris.
Sam Levitan, 89, a bassist and an 802 member since 1929, died on Jan. 4.
Mr. Levitan was a busy musician whose career spanned the entire spectrum of work in the New York City music scene. He was a member of the NBC Symphony under Arturo Toscannini. He performed on many television shows including the Voice of Firestone and the Bell Telephone Hour. He was a member of the Symphony of the Air, Brooklyn Philharmonic, Music For Westchester Symphony and the Little Orchestra Society under Thomas Sherman. Mr. Levitan also performed with the New York Philharmonic and City Opera.
On Broadway, he was a member of many orchestras including productions of The Rothschilds and Porgy and Bess.
Mr. Levitan was also a busy contractor. He was the personnel manager of what was then called the Brooklyn Philharmonia, under Siegfried Landau and Lukas Foss, and also of the Music For Westchester Symphony. For many years, he was the contractor for PBS productions at WNET (Channel 13). In this capacity, he contracted for Dance In America and Jukebox Jive as well as several themes for other PBS shows. He contracted for movie scores and jingles as well.
He is survived by a daughter and a son.
Ben Roberts, 93, a bassist and violinist and an 802 member since 1941, died on Dec. 29.
Born Ben Rabinowitz, he attended Ithaca Conservatory of Music on a Bamberger Scholarship. He later transferred to Juilliard where he studied under Jascha Heifetz and Sasha Jacobs. He graduated from Columbia in 1934.
Early in his career, Mr. Roberts played in the Catskills. Later, he taught music in the Newark School System while playing professionally for various resorts, clubs and events. He favored strolling violin groups.
Mr. Roberts moved to Las Vegas in the 1960’s where he played in many of the hotel showroom orchestras for major entertainers like Andy Williams, Robert Goulet, Bobby Darin, Tony Bennett and many more.
He was also a successful business owner. He owned and operated the Throckmorton Hotel in Loch Arbour, N.J. for over 20 years. Prior to that he owned and operated the Brindley Rest in Bradley Beach, N.J. He even drove a taxi in Las Vegas for a few years in the 1960’s until he made his way into music.
Mr. Roberts retired early in the 1970’s and spent his last 32 years in Florida, playing tennis until the age of 85, attending cultural events, mastering the piano, playing bridge and enjoying his retirement. He bought a motor home and toured the U.S. for about nine months. He was a devoted family man who loved to spend time with his daughter and grandchildren.
He is survived by his son Charles, daughter Leta, daughter-in-law Wendy, granddaughters Lauren, Tamarah and Sharisse, and great-grandsons Matthew, Joshua and Cole.