The Men and Women of The Cleveland Orchestra


Some day, there maybe be young boys and girls who will wait outside Severance Hall hounding the picolo player for an autograph. Some day, when a new principal trombonist is named, the announcement in the hall, "Now playing for 
Cleveland . . . ," will be met with a great roar from the audience. 

For, whatever the ups and downs of Cleveland's sports teams have been, throughout it all, for nearly a century, the city has been superbly and supremely represented all over the world by the Cleveland Orchestra.

“There is general agreement that, among the 325 professional orchestras in America, the old pantheon of the Big Five—the orchestras of Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Cleveland and Chicago—still holds,” wrote editor and writer Charles Michener in a 2005 New Yorker article. “The Cleveland is the only one with a collective identity. . . . ”

In reviews the world over, over many years, the orchestra has not only been seen as consistent, but as consistently outstanding. 

“It,” however, is really a “they,” which is why in 1993 the Cleveland Arts Prize recognized the musicians as individuals when it awarded the Special Citation for Distinquished Service to the Arts to "the men and women of the Cleveland Orchestra,” so as to honor not just the 105 musicians who were members of the orchestra in its 75th anniversary year, but the 800 or so players who had ever numbered in its ranks. While the “collective identity” of which Michener wrote has helped to burnish the orchestra’s—and by extension, the city’s—reputation, it has also fostered the near-anonymity of its players that obscures the excellence and the artistry each brings to each concert.

Three decades previous to the awarding of the citation, at least one man was content to consider the orchestra entirely of a piece: George Szell. In a 1963 article in Time Magazine, the Cleveland Orchestra's legendary musical director called the ensemble “this glorious instrument—an instrument that perfectly reflects my musical ideals.” During his innovative quarter-century tenure, Szell enlarged the orchestra, extended the performing season to year-round and inaugurated international tours that further extended the orchestra’s reach and reputation. Musical directors since then have broken new ground in performances, recordings, tours and residencies, perpetuated the orchestra’s commitment to educational and community outreach and restored Severance Hall, the orchestra's home since 1931.


Cleveland Arts Prize
P.O. Box 21126 • Cleveland, OH 44121 • 440-523-9889 •