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Alan Abel, Former Philadelphia Orchestra Percussionist and Renowned Teacher, Dies at 91

We mourn the loss of Philadelphia percussion legend, Alan Abel, who was a guru to generations of percussionists. He died on April 25, 2020 from complications of COVID-19. You can hear his warmth, creativity, and sense of humor in this 2012 WRTI feature, as well as the feelings of admiration and affection from his colleagues who now carry on.

Alan Abel radiated joy. 

The former Philadelphia Orchestra percussionist and teacher at Temple University’s Boyer College of Music and Dance, Abel was a force in the region’s classical music world for decades, as a player, teacher and inventive force. His ‘suspended drum bass drum’ stand, invented with a colleague, and his triangles, have been used world wide. 

A member of the Percussive Arts Society Hall of Fame, which includes John Cage, Lionel Hampton and Ringo Star, Abel retired from the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1997 but continued to play frequently with the ensemble, and teach upcoming generations of students. His annual percussion workshop at Temple University drew students from all over the world.

Alan Abel talks about what makes a great percussionist.

He worked with legends and became one himself. 

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.