Tradition of Excellence

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Robert Watt ready to retire from LA Philharmonic

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Robert Watt, the first African-American to play the French horn in a major orchestra in the United States — and the first person of color to play with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, will retire after performing for 37 years. Upon his retirement, the Los Angeles Philharmonic will have three remaining Black members – the most in major orchestra or symphony in the nation. Says Watt, “African-American players make up less than one-tenth of 1 percent in the orchestra/symphony profession.”

“In the old days, African-Americans couldn’t even get any auditions, let alone go to the concerts,” he said. “It’s like the interest was killed when people were excluded. When you’re kept away for so long, the interest dies. Even though there’s a strong black music culture, the interest in classical music is very low, but the reasons are clear.”

Read more at Los Angeles Wave

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Written by Symphony

December 28, 2007 at 5:03 pm

One Response

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  1. Without in any way taking away from the life achievement of Robert Watt I need to point out that Henry Lewis was “the first person of color to play with the Los Angeles Philharmonic”. This is the first part of the Wikipedia page on Mr. Lewis: “Henry Jay Lewis (October 16, 1932 – January 26, 1996) was an African-American double-bassist and orchestral conductor. Originally from Los Angeles, California, Lewis attended The University of Southern California and at age sixteen, joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic, becoming the first black instrumentalist in a major symphony orchestra. After six years as a double-bassist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra…”. Henry Lewis joined the orchestra a full twenty-two years ahead of Mr. Watt. Again, this is not meant to take away from the achievement of Mr. Watt. Rather, it is to honor the extraordinary achievement of Mr. Lewis way back in 1948.

    Robert Linder

    February 8, 2009 at 2:41 pm


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