Mason Jones,Principal Horn, The Philadelphia Orchestra

When we were all going to school, this mans name was spoken each day as we discussed who was playing first and their particular qualities of excellence. He died last month. Here is the piece from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“Mason Jones, Phila. Orchestra hornist, dies
By Daniel Webster
For The Inquirer

Eugene Ormandy, auditioning teenage horn student Mason Jones in 1938, asked him what he’d like to play.


“The short call?” asked Ormandy.

“The long call,” said the young man, and flashed through one of the most taxing scenes from Wagner’s Goetterdammerung.

It was the memorable start of his 40-year career with the Philadelphia Orchestra, most of it as solo hornist, and a 70-year presence in Philadelphia music that ended Wednesday evening when Mr. Jones, 89, of Gladwyne, died at Lankenau Hospital’s Sanders House.

His son-in-law, John Orr, said Mr. Jones entered the hospital a few days before with a respiratory problem that had seemed minor.

Born in Hamilton, N.Y., in 1919, Mr. Jones started playing trumpet but changed to horn on the advice of his high school band director. He entered Curtis Institute in 1936 and became the star pupil of the legendary Anton Horner, who recommended him to Ormandy.

Mr. Jones was engaged in 1938 before he graduated from Curtis, played a season at third horn, then became solo hornist in 1939 while his teacher moved down in the section.

He was the orchestra’s principal horn – except for his 1941-46 tenure in the same post in the U.S. Marine Band – from 1940 until he retired in 1978; he continued playing after he became the orchestra’s personnel manager in 1963, and he kept that job until 1986.

Orchestra hornist Nolan Miller, now retired, said hearing Mr. Jones play Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5 with the Reading Symphony “made me decide I wanted to be a horn player.”

“I had been studying piano, but that sound changed my life,” he said. “When I joined the orchestra, he gave me lots of good advice.”

Shelley Showers, a current member of the horn section, called Mr. Jones “an inspiration and powerful influence on me. When I’m playing now, I can hear him saying so many things about the music, how it should sound, what it means. I studied with him his last year of horn-teaching but continued to play in his brass ensembles at Curtis. I miss his playing. It was so refined.”

Mr. Jones joined the Curtis faculty in 1946 and stayed for 49 years, coaching brass ensembles, conducting, and guiding two generations of young horn players, many of whom joined him in the orchestra’s section. At one time, five of his pupils were there, and dozens of others were in major posts in other orchestras. When he retired, he was succeeded by former students Miller and David Wetherill as co-principals and Daniel Williams and Jeff Kirschen in the section.

Mr. Jones seemed ideally suited to the horn. He never shared the anxieties and physical ills that beset many players. He knew he could play anything written, play it artistically and with conviction. Audiences recall his performances especially in Mahler and Sibelius symphonies, Beethoven’s “Eroica” and Strauss tone poems.

His career paralleled the orchestra’s recording heyday. His first recorded solo performance was in Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, conducted by Stokowski and with Sol Schoenbach, bassoon; Anthony Gigliotti, clarinet; Marcel Tabuteau, oboe; and William Kincaid, flute. He recorded Mozart concertos, Strauss concertos, and the Hindemith Sonata with pianist Glenn Gould. His solo playing was included in the orchestra’s “First Chair” recordings.

Mr. Jones was a founder and the last surviving member of the Philadelphia Woodwind Quintet, which had a prominent role in Philadelphia musical life, commissioning music, recording, and performing, sometimes on tour with the orchestra, sometimes in its own tours. He also played in brass ensembles and recorded with his colleagues when they joined brass sections of other orchestras.

He was believed to have been the last of the players to have performed in the 1940 Disney film Fantasia.

Stepping down as solo horn was difficult, he said, but he told friends at the time that he had played badly a few nights before, cracking notes in an uncharacteristic way.

“I’m retiring,” he said. “I don’t want to be a 60-year-old Siegfried.”

This past November, he was host for a gathering of his students at the Union League, and he had continued hearing the orchestra on Friday afternoons through December.

“I looked for him every time,” Shelley Showers said. “Knowing he was there made me feel better.”

Mr. Jones is survived by a son, Frederick Mason Jones 3d of Califon, N.J.; and a daughter, Saralinda Orr of Paoli; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren. His wife, Eve, died in 1999.

A memorial service is scheduled for 1 p.m. March 7 at St. Peter’s Church in the Great Valley, Malvern. In lieu of flowers, gifts may be made to Curtis Institute of Music, 1716 Locust St., Philadelphia 19103.

Keep practicing everybody, best regards, Sherman


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