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Decades After Being Mentored by Eugene Ormandy, A Composer Comes Full Circle With The Philadelphians

Samuel Jones, an award-winning composer whose works are performed by major orchestras and choral groups around the United States, recently visited Philadelphia for the premiere of his flute concerto by The Philadelphia Orchestra. It brought back strong memories of how Eugene Ormandy mentored him long ago. 

Jones in 1962, backstage at the Saginaw Municipal Auditorium, shortly after his two-hour visit with Eugene Ormandy.

The summer of 1962 was an exciting one for 27-year-old conductor/composer Samuel Jones.

Two years out of Eastman School of Music, he’d just been appointed Music Director of the Saginaw Symphony in Michigan.  The leader of the local community concert association introduced him to her longtime friend, Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Eugene Ormandy.

Jones drove up to meet Ormandy at Interlochen Music Camp, where the Orchestra was in residence. They spent nearly two hours together talking about composers, repertoire, and “the responsibilities of being a conductor,” says Jones. 

“I still remember some of his advice: ‘Don’t talk too much. Talk to the orchestra through your music.’”

Ormandy invited the young conductor to Philadelphia to listen to rehearsals, concerts, and have lunch backstage at The Academy of Music.

He fell in love with the sound of the orchestra, and was amazed at the way Ormandy treated him.

“I’ve never forgotten this act of kindness and generosity to a young conductor, shown by a man at the pinnacle of the profession.”

During his recent visit to Philadelphia, Jones glowed with the memories. 

“It’s incredible...to think I could look forward to closing, in a sense, a great circle...of having been close to this orchestra some 55 years ago to the fulfillment of a...I didn’t even dare dream...hearing them play a work I had composed for them.”

Susan writes and produces stories about music and the arts. She’s host and producer of WRTI’s TIME IN online interview series, and contributes weekly intermission interviews for The Philadelphia Orchestra in Concert series. She’s also been a regular host of WRTI’s Live from the Performance Studio sessions.