TWO TALENTED MUSICIANS
(1929 - 2016)
Longest-tenured musician to play with one orchestra
Cited in the Guiness Book of Records
71 years with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra
(1922 -- 1972)
Trombonist, pianist, vocal coach, conductor, and music educator
Principal trombone St. Louis Symphony
St. Louis Grand Opera, 1955- 1964
JANE (FINDLEY) LITTLE
Devoted to the Double Bass
For more than 7 decades, Jane Little played double bass with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. As fate would have it, she died doing what she loved to do. In May 2016, she collapsed during an ASO Pops concert while playing “There's No Business Like Show Business.” Then 87 years old, she had played with the ASO without interruption since 1945, the longest-serving musician in the world to play with a single orchestra. [L1]
Jane Findley was born in Atlanta on February 2, 1929, scant months before the stock market crash that sent America and the rest of the world into a financial Depression. Her mother, a talented pianist, served as accompanist for a dancing school run by one of Jane's aunts. “I wanted to be a ballerina,” Jane later said, “but you need to have these nice feet, and mine just weren't right.” [L1]
She wanted to play piano, but her family struggled during the Depression. “We had no piano. I would go to the neighbors' house and use theirs. I picked out tunes and taught myself to play a little bit.” [L3] In high school, she took a musical aptitude test. Her score was off the chart. The school music director asked her to play in the orchestra. Jane wanted to play clarinet, but the all-girl school had no bass player, so she wound up with a double bass. A month later she was hooked.
A diminutive girl who stood five feet tall and weighed only 90 pounds, Jane said, “It was awfully difficult to push those heavy strings down, and to carry the instrument around, but I just loved it.” [NYT] In 1945 she became a charter member of the Atlanta Youth Symphony. Two days after her 16th birthday, she played her first concert with them on February 4, 1945. Back then, the city had no adult orchestra, but professional musicians joined the talented youth group, and in 1947 it was renamed the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. [L1]
While studying at the University of Georgia (now Georgia State University) Jane continued playing with the ASO. Atlanta had no concert hall so the ASO played concerts in a local theater which was also a venue for ice shows, wrestling and the circus.
“We'd come in for a Saturday morning rehearsal,” Jane said, “and they'd be taking down the wrestling ring, and picking up beer bottles.” One Saturday she heard ominous roars. The circus had performed there the previous night and had not yet picked up the cages for the lions and tigers. [L1] Back then, Jane had no idea that she was destined to become the ASO's longest-playing member.
Bread: .09/loaf Milk: .58/gallon
Car: $525 House: $7246
Average Income: $1582/year
President Calvin Coolidge
Top Books: A Room of One's Own, Virginai Woolf; A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
Classical Music Premiers: 1920: Pulchinella,Igor Stravinsky and La Valse, Maurice Ravel
Academy Awards: Best Picture: Broadway Melody; Best Actress, Mary Pickford in Coquette
The governor of Georgia appointed Rebecca Felton, 97, to fill the term of a deceased U.S. Senator, thus becoming the first female to serve in the U.S. Senate.
The Depression. Stock prices soared in 1929, but on October 29, 1929, Black Friday, the stock market crashed sending the world into a Depression that lasted throughout the 1930s.
During the 1920s, newspaper circulation rose from 24 million in 1920 to 40 million in 1930
But record sales fell from a high of 100 million/year in 1920 to only 10 million/year in 1931.
1922 -- 1972
So many wonderful instruments ...
why play only one?
Unlike Jane, who remained devoted to the double bass, Dorothy Ziegler played many instruments. Seven years older than Jane, she was born July 20, 1922 in Muscatine, Iowa.
Both her parents were musicians. Elmer Ziegler was a bandmaster, composer and music store owner. Wilma (Busch) Ziegler played piano, clarinet and oboe, and gave music lessons. Dorothy's younger brother, Frederic, played tuba and drums with the local concert band and later while serving in the US Navy. [Z1]
Dorothy began violin lessons at the age of two, but even before that she loved playing the triangle in her father's concert band.
“I can't remember any time when I wasn't playing something,” she said in a 1967 interview. “I started trombone at seven, played French horn a year or two, and bassoon and baritone.”
She also studied violin and piano seriously, but gave up the violin. “My teacher said it was very rare for anybody to achieve equally good techniques on two instruments, so I had to choose.” [Z2]
As a teenager Dorothy excelled at trombone and piano, winning top honors at state and national competitions.
Bread: $0.09loaf Milk: $0.55/gal
Car: $305 Gas: $0.25/gal
Average income: $1,155/year
President: Warren G. Harding
Constitutional amendments in 1920 had given women the right to vote, and Prohibition banned the sale of alcoholic beverages.
Classical Music Premiers: Sleeping Beauty, Ottorino Respighi; Jacques Ibert, Escales, William Walton, Facade
The first commercial radio station, KDKA, in Pittsburgh, PA, went on the air on November 2, 1920. Other stations soon followed. By the end of the 1920s there were over 100 million radios in use in America.
In 1940 famed conductor Leopold Stokowski [photo below right ] auditioned more than 1000 young musicians and selected 90 of them to play in his All-America Youth Orchestra (AAYO). Dorothy was chosen to play trombone. [Z3]
Photo right: The first AAYO rehearsal in Atlantic City NJ, July 1940.
Stokowski conducts the first AAYO concert
July 1940, in Atlantic City, NJ
After two weeks of rehearsals, the group embarked on a tour of South America: Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, Brazil; Buenos Aires, Argentina, and Montevideo, Uruguay.
Stokowski, who had previously recorded for RCA Victor, convinced Columbia Records to finance the tour; in return he agreed to record for Columbia Records. Before their tour, Stokowski and the 1940 AAYO recorded two sides for Columbia, including The Star Spangled Banner and Irving Berlin's God Bless America, both as arranged by Stokowski. They later recorded other sides for Columbia. [Z2]
In 1943, Dorothy earned a bachelor of music degree with distinction from the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY, with a double major on trombone and piano. [Z1]
During the summers of 1941 and 1942, she had the distinction of playing trombone in the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra under BSO conductor Serge Koussevitzky. This paved the way her first professional job as trombonist with the National Symphony Orchestra, in Washington, DC, for the 1943-44 season.
In 1944, Dorothy, then 21, auditioned for and won the principal trombone chair with the St. Louis Symphony, a position she held for 14 years. [Z1]
The St. Louis Symphony playing a Pops concert in 1944
Dorothy and her trombone
During the summer of 1948, she played principal trombone with the Hollywood Bowl Symphony Orchestra. However, she continued her studies with pianist Earl Wild. [Z5]
In 1946, she was awarded a master of music degree in piano from the University of Southern California.
In 1947, she earned a performance certificate in piano from the American Conservatory, France, where she studied with famed pianists Robert and Gaby Casadesus. [photo at right] This led to a turning point in her career. [Z1]
In 1947, the St. Louis Grand Opera Guild hired her to be their accompanist. Thereafter, in addition to her performances on trombone and piano, Dorothy's resume included vocal coach and conductor. [Z5]
JANE LITTLE and the ASO: The Early Years
During the early years, ASO musicians were paid $35 every other week, and by 1930, the country was in the midst of a Depression. To earn a living, Jane traveled across Georgia to play with other orchestras.
“The symphony was only 22 weeks out of the year,” she said. “So what do you do the other 30 weeks?” [L2]
For 15 years she played with Theater of the Stars, the only woman in the band. She also played for opera companies and symphony orchestras, including the Savannah Philharmonic and orchestras in Macon and Columbus, Georgia, and Chattanooga, Tennessee. And always with a smile!
Her longtime friend Ellie Kosek said, "On our many trips to North Carolina, I would drive and listen to her stories which were pricelss. Who needed a radio?" [L5]
She also invested in real estate, in case her music career didn't pan out. But music was her passion. Henry Sopkin led the ASO for 21 years. When he stepped down in 1966, Robert Shaw, who had been working with George Szell in Cleveland, became the ASO music director. Shaw wanted each musician to audition for him. Jane quickly got to work. “I told my family that Christmas would have to be on hold that year. I was practicing seven or eight hours a day, going through all the literature.” [L3]
She admits to being nervous, but she needn't have worried. She aced the audition. “I never played better in my life!” she says. Shaw appointed her co-principal of the bass section. The following year, the ASO became a full-time orchestra.
Under Shaw's direction, the ASO gained a fine reputation, attracting impressive soloists and guest conductors, like Nathan Milstein, Isaac Stern, Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland. [L3] Photo right: Jane with music director Robert Shaw in 1963
One memorable performance featured pianist Arthur Rubinstein who played the Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto. “He plays the first big chords of the concerto,” Jane recalls, “and all of a sudden the piano starts rolling toward the edge of the stage. The people in the first rows were scattering. Everyone was in horror!” Fortunately, the footlights kept the piano from rolling off the stage. Stage hands secured the piano. Unfazed, Rubinstein carried on. [L3]
In 1948, Warren Little joined the ASO flute section. Jane was engaged to a naval officer at the time. She spent that summer studying with the principal bassist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. When she returned, her engagement ring was gone. She wanted to stay in Atlanta, her hometown, and play with the ASO.
On their first date Jane and Warren attended a performance by violin soloist David Oistrakh. It was a match made in heaven. They married in 1953 and made music together in the ASO until Warren's retirement in 1992. [L3] Photo right: Jane and Warren.
Jane and Warren Little in 1955
DOROTHY ZIEGLER 1947 -- 1972
NEW CAREER GOALS
During her twenty years playing trombone with the St. Louis Symphony, 14 years as principal, Dorothy often performed as piano soloist with the St. Louis Symphony, St. Louis Chamber Orchestra, and the Springfield (Illinois) Symphony Orchestra.
She also taught at the St. Louis Institute of Music (trombone and piano), Washington University (trombone and vocal coach) and the University of Southern Illinois (trombone). [Z5]
However, after 1947, her main focus shifted to opera and conducting. From 1951 to 1958, she directed the Washington University Opera Theater. In 1955, she was appointed conductor and artistic director of the St. Louis Grand Opera Guild, a post she held until 1964. From 1963 to 1965, she conducted the Kirkwood (Illinois) Symphony Orchestra. [Z1]
Never one to rest on her laurels, in 1957 Dorothy attended the Julliard Institute for Opera Conductors and won an American Symphony Orchestra League award in 1961 to study with conductor Max Rudolph. She also studied conducting privately with Nadia Boulanger, Felix Waldman and Boris Goldovsky. [Z1]
In 1962 Dorothy released an innovative “music minus one” recording, Your Rehearsal Accompanist, which was widely used by instrumental and vocal soloists.
Dorothy's friend, Robert Weatherly, then principal trumpet of the St. Louis Symphony, produced the recording.
Photo right: record jacket back cover
In 1964, Dorothy joined the faculty at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana, as vocal and opera coach. For the 1965-66 season of the Metropolitan Opera National Company, she was vocal coach and assistant music director for two productions. In 1967 she was the assistant conductor for the Lake George Opera Festival. [Z1]
In 1966, she accepted a faculty position at the University of Miami in Florida. From 1966 to 1971, she directed the University of Miami Opera Theater. During that time she played trombone in the University of Miami faculty brass quintet, and principal trombone with the Fort Lauderdale Symphony, Greater Miami Opera Guild and the Miami Beach Symphony. [Z5]
Her piano performances continued. A reviewer said of one concert, “She must be complimented both as an accompanist and as a soloist. She was very much the star, approaching the piano with decisiveness and complete involvement.” [Z4]
In 1970, Dorothy traveled to Moscow as piano accompanist for three opera singers in the Tchaikovsky International Competition. After she returned, she lamented the lack of an American organization to screen young performers.
“The young Russians are screened and re-screened before they ever go before those judges. Here, entrants only have to obtain two letters of recommendation from their school and they're in.” Her three contestants won no prizes. However, one signed a contract with the Berlin Opera and another has won consistently good reviews.
The only American to win a vocal prize came in sixth in the women’s division. With considerable amazement, Dorothy said, “Sixth is considered a high prize over there!” [Z6]
From 1970-1971, her teaching activities at the University of Miami included private trombone students, coaching the trombone choir, private voice students, and opera workshop. [Z5]
Sadly, her brilliant career was cut short when she was diagnosed with cancer. On March 1, 1972, Dorothy Ziegler died at the age of forty-nine.
Survivors included her parents and her brother, Fred Ziegler, who said of his sister, whom he greatly admired, "She never married. Her true love and life was music!” [Z7]
Her University of Miami colleague, tubist Constance Weldon said: “Dorothy was a respected colleague and dear friend … the most multi-talented person I have ever known.” [Z8]
Doris Reno, the Miami Herald music editor, said: “Miss Ziegler may be one of the most versatile musicians [Miami University] ever put under contract. [Z4]
CHASING THE RECORD
The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra continued to gain international renown. Jane acquired a new bass, crafted by Italian master Carlo Giuseppe Testore. Although this magnificent instrument stood 6 feet high and weighed 30 pounds, it could not hide Jane's sartorial flair.
Her fellow ASO bassist, Michael Kurth, joked that Jane would “rather sacrifice all the varnish on the back of her bass than wear jeans without rhinestones.”
When Jane was her 70s, the ASO manager once asked her to go home and change after she arrived to play a concert in a blouse he considered too revealing. [L1]
Yoel Levi became music director in 1988, followed by Robert Spano, who took over in 2000. In 2002, Jane's husband, Warren Little, died. By then, Jane had endured several injuries, including a broken shoulder, elbow and pelvis, and a cracked vertebra after a fall. Such injuries might have discouraged another musician. Not Jane.
Music was her passion, and now she had another goal. Breaking the record for professional longevity. Her closest rival was Frances Darger, who had played violin with the Utah Symphony for 70 years and retired in 2012 at the age of 87.
“I'd thumb through the Guinness book and say, wouldn't it be neat?” Jane recalled. “A lot of people do crazy things like sitting on a flagpole for three days. I just kept on. It was just me and the lady in Utah, so finally I said, “I'm going to do this.” [L2]
And break it she did, during a performance on February 1, 2016. [L2]
The audience gave her a five-minute standing ovation. At right, Jane and her bass after the concert
Of her achievement, the principal bassist with the New York Philharmonic, Timothy Cobb, said, “It's just mind-boggling. It takes a tremendous amount of physical power, frankly, and just brute force to play in a big orchestra. I have had friends who've made it into their 70s but [for Jane to be] pumping it out in the orchestra is really something.” [L4]
Musing over her life in 2015, Jane said, “Suppose I had been absent the day we took that music test? I probably wouldn't have this career. I must say I've had a charmed life.” [L3]
Although she was receiving chemotherapy treatments for cancer, Jane continued playing concerts. But on May 1, 2016, Jane collapsed on stage while playing “There's No Business Like Show Business.” Rushed to the hospital, she died the following day at the age of 87. [L1]
Tributes poured in, including an extended obituary in the New York Times.
In a Facebook post, the ASO spokesperson said, “We can say that Jane was fortunate to do what she loved until the very end of her storied ife and career. The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was truly blessed to have Jane as part of our family for the past 71 years and we all miss her passion, vitaity, spirit and incredible talent.” [L4]
“Her footprints are permanently etched on that stage,” said one concert-goer. “Everyone who ever attended a concert was amazed to see this tiny woman with that huge instrument!”
Bassist Michael Kurth, who was playing next to Jane when she collapsed, said, “She seemed to be made of bass resin and barbed wire. She was unstoppable. She outlasted every era of this orchestra. The next, most longest tenured member was here twenty years less than she was. There are no words to describe how remarkable she was. You think of superlatives and you just run out.” [L4]
The ASO associate principal viola, Paul Murphy, may have summed it up best. “Hollywood could not have scripted it better. For her to go out at the end of a concert, the golden age of Broadway, during an encore that included the words “let's go on with the show.” [L4]
ROLE MODELS: Dorothy's parents were talented musicians who encouraged her musical development from a very young age. Jane's mother was a pianist, who fostered her love of music. Jane was fortunate to attend a school where music was encouraged, and the music director was responsible for putting a string bass into her hands. Although Jane never received a college degree, she studied with several prominent bass players, including the principal bass of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Dorothy acquired several music degrees, and studied privately with prominent pianists and conductors.
OBSTACLES: Both Jane and Dorothy played instruments not then considered suitable for women, in Jane's case the bass, in Dorothy's the trombone. However, their obvious ability to play their instrument apparently overcame any criticism. Nor did Jane or Dorothy mention encountering any gender bias. If they did, they didn't tell anyone, at least not for publication.
MENTORS in Dorothy's case, her parents, Leopold Stowkowski, and many of her private teachers. In Jane's case, her parents, early music teachers, her husband, Warren Little, and one would have to include music director Robert Shaw, who recognized her extraordinary talent.
LEGACY: Due to her many achievements, Dorothy remains an inspiration to female trombonists and conductors. Jane will live on in the memories of her ASO colleagues and other prominient musicians as an outstanding bassist, along with anyone who witnessed her remarkable tenacity in breaking the Guinness World Record for professional longevity with a single orchestra.
L1 "Jane Little, Atlanta's Venerable Bassist, Dies at 87," Margalit Fox, NY Times 5-21-2016
L2 "With 71 Seasons At ASO, Bassist Jane Little Beats World Record," Gabbie Watts, 2-3-2016
L3 "Jane Little Traces the Steps of Her 70-Year Career," 8-1-2015, Journal of the American Federation of Musicians
L4 "An amazing way to go," Geoff Edgers and Fred Barbash, Washington Post, 5-1-2016
L5 "Atlanta Symphony remembers Jane Little,"
WXIA, 2017, http://www.11alive.com
dMarie Time Capsule, Saturday, February 2, 1927
Time Life, This Fabulous Century, 1920-1930
Z1 Dorothy Miriam Zielger (1922-1972, Susan Fleet, page 1543, Scribners American Biography
Z2 "Miss Ziegler -- Musician," Doris Reno, 11-12-1967, Miami Herald
Z3 "All-American Youth Orchestras Created by Leopold Stokowski in 1940 and 1941"
Z4 University of Miami News Bureau release, 3-2-72, Author collection
Z5 Resume: Dorothy Ziegler, University of Miami, March 1971, Author collection
Z6 "Screening Is the Answer, Says Pianist," Doris Reno, 8-9-1970, Miami Herald
Z7 Fred Ziegler, letter to author, 4-13-1996
Z8 Constance Weldon, note to author, 2-29-1996
dMarie Time Capsule, Thursday, July 20, 1922
© copyright 2017 Susan Fleet