Midwest Young Artists (MYA) is proud to announce that they have added a major gift of an historically significant double bass to their student Instrument Lending Library as a result of a donation by [ISB member] Jerry Fuller from Evanston. Fuller is Executive Director of the James S. Kemper Foundation and is a grantmaking consultant to the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. He is also a world-class early music specialist and retired Assistant Principal Bassist of the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra. Fuller donated a well-known and historically significant double bass instrument for use by advanced students at MYA.
The instrument was formerly owned by Anton Torello, who, in 1914, was the Principal Bassist of the Philadelphia Orchestra under famed conductor Leopold Stokowski. Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra were one of the featured orchestras and conductors in the movie “Fantasia”. Torello remained as Principal Bass in Philadelphia until 1948. After retirement he moved to Los Angeles where he continued to play with the resident orchestra of Paramount Pictures.
When the Curtis Institute of Music was established in 1924, Torello was appointed it’s first double bass professor in 1926. Part of his legacy was in introducing the over-handed style of bowing (French bow) to America. A number of Torello’s students at Curtis went on to become important figures in double bass performing and teaching in America including Roger Scott (who succeeded Torello as Principal Bass in Philadelphia and professor at the Curtis Institute), Oscar Zimmerman (Principal Bass at the Rochester (NY) Philharmonic and teacher at Eastman School of Music), Warren Benfield (Chicago Symphony Orchestra and teacher at Northwestern University), Henry Portnoi (Principal Bass of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and professor at the New England Conservatory and Boston University), and Jacques Posell (Principal Bass of the Cleveland Orchestra).
Torello sold the bass to his student Oscar Zimmerman, professor double bass at the Eastman School of Music, sometime in the late 1920s and Zimmerman sold the bass to Warren Benfield in 1940. It’s very likely that Benfield knew the instrument as Benfield was a student of Anton Torello at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia.
Benfield joined the bass section of the Minneapolis Symphony, becoming its youngest member in 1934. He also played as principal bass in the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra before joining the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1942. He played for a short while as co-principal, sharing the position with fellow Torello pupil Roger Scott, before being appointed principal bass of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra by Raphael Kubelik in 1949 where he continued to play in the Chicago Symphony until his retirement in 1987. Warren Benfield was Jerry Fuller’s teacher.
The bass joins a number of other excellent instruments, some with historical significance, in the MYA Instrument Lending Library. It will be maintained with solo strings that are tuned differently from orchestra strings and used for solo performances with orchestras and with piano. Students can petition to use it for special performances thereby continuing its history and tradition of providing an exceptional instrument for deserving and promising young professionals.
For more information about Midwest Young Artists, please visit www.mya.org or call 847/926-9898.