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A Short History of the Percussion Section of

the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra – 1922 to 1995

By William L. Cahn

Part 4 – 1980 to (1995)

The 1980s

By the year 1980, the Rochester Philharmonic orchestra was presenting the following programs: a classical subscription series (broadcast regularly on local radio and occasionally on local television), a pops concert series, an elementary educational concert series , a series of youth concerts in local high schools, a combined concert with the RPO Youth Orchestra, a series of Tiny Tots concerts, and a series of Family Concerts.

In addition to Music Director David Zinman and Associate Conductor Isaiah Jackson, it was announced in 1983 that Erich Kunzel – who had appeared regularly with the orchestra since 1975 – would become the first to hold the position of Principal Pops Conductor. In 1985 David Zinman departed from Rochester to take on a new post with the Baltimore Symphony, and Jerzy Semkow was appointed as Principal Conductor through the 1988-89 season.

In 1986 Isaiah Jackson left the RPO to conduct in England. The orchestra’s Exxon/Affiliated Artists Conductor, Enrique Arturo Diemecke, served as acting conductor of the core orchestra until the appointment of Peter Bay as Associate Conductor in 1987.

Perhaps the most significant event of the 1980s for the orchestra was the opening of the Finger Lakes Performing Arts Center in Canandaigua, New York on July 16, 1983. This facility would serve as the orchestra’s summer home.

Percussion highlights of the 1980s included these performances:

• August 15, 1982 – “In Ancient Temple Gardens” by William Cahn.

• January 6 and 7, 1984 – “PERCUSSION EXTRAORDINARE!”, a pops program conducted by Bill Cahn featuring NEXUS.

• August 25, 1985 – “A Bunch Of Roses” by Chapi and “Fluffy Ruffles” by G.H.Green, xylophone solos.

• February 8, 1987 – “DRUMS, DRUMS, DRUMS”, a children’s program featuring the orchestra’s percussion section.

• March 12, 1989 – “DRUMMER’S DELIGHT”, a family concert about the history of the RPO’s percussion section featuring John H. Beck, Ruth Cahn, John McNeill, and narrated by Bill Cahn.

• July 16, 1989 – “The Ragtime Drummer” by Lent and “Xylophonia” by J. Green, snare drum and xylophone solos.

One of the biggest changes to occur in the percussion section in the 1980s was the introduction of digital sampling technology to augment the section’s sound resources in order to meet the orchestra’s ever-changing musical requirements. The use of digital samplers, sometimes combined with MIDI drum-triggers to form a complete electronic system, increased dramatically. It should be noted, however, that an ethical policy has been followed in which the new digital instruments were never used to replace performers in the percussion section; rather, they were only used only as sound sources to replace other instruments such as tubular chimes or tape recorders.

Original samples (digital recordings able to be performed on command) were created and used in performances of the following compositions:

Classical Subscription Concerts

Berlioz, Symphonie Fantastique (bell sounds)

Cowell, Concerto for Percussion & Orch. (13 tuned tom toms, 5 tuned tablas)

Davies, Orkney Wedding (tuned crotale sounds)

Ives, New England Holidays (church bells, Jews harps in F, Ab, and A)

Khachaturian, Piano Concerto (flexatone / musical saw sounds)

Mussorgski / Ravel, Pictures at an Exhibition (bell sounds)

Respighi, The Pines of Rome (nightingale sounds)

Satie, Parade (organ diapason sounds, ‘Flaques sonores’ sounds)

Schnittke, Viola Concerto (flexatone / musical saw sounds)


Symphonic Pops Concerts

Anderson, The Waltzing Cat (cat meows ,dog barks, cat hissing sounds)

Anderson, The Typewriter (typewriter keyboard, carriage return and bell)

The Beatles / N.Wayland, Yellow Submarine (engine sounds, bubble sounds)

Grofe, Grand Canyon Suite (wind sounds, thunder sounds)

Rodgers / Bennett, Victory At Sea (surf sounds)

Sousa, The Crystal Lute (glass harmonica sounds)

Tchaikovsky, 1812 Overture (cannon sounds, church bell sounds)

Student percussionists who performed in the RPO percussion section in the 1980s included Christopher Lamb, Patricia Dash, and John R. Beck, among many others.

Guest conductors included Charles Dutoit, Kazuyoshi Akiyama, Yoel Levi, Alexander Schneider, Christopher Seaman, Jahja Ling, Maxim Shostakovich, Hugh Wolff, Ivan Fischer, Kryzstof Penderecki, Oliver Knussen, Frederick Fennell, Mitch Miller, and Richard Hayman.

Guest artists on pops concerts included Mel Torme, Buddy Rich, Roberta Flack, the McLain Family Band, the Smothers Brothers, Judy Collins, and Maureen McGovern.

The 1990s

Percussion continued to play a prominent role in the orchestra’s 1990-91 season as the group NEXUS again appeared on the classical subscription series to perform a new work by Toru Takemitsu, “From me flows what you call Time”, conducted by David Effron on February 7 and 9, 1991.

As the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra approached its 70th anniversary season, the percussion section – John H. Beck, William Cahn , Ruth Cahn, and John McNeill – began its 20th year of performances together with Brian Stotz also in his 15th year in the section.

(L-R: John Beck, John McNeill, Brian Stotz, Ruth Cahn, Bill Cahn)


For much of the orchestra’s history the percussion section has been something of a family affair, beginning with the Waterhouse cousins and the Street brothers and continuing with the Becks and the Cahns, but the full impact of the orchestra’s influence on percussion in America (not to mention, of course, the immense influence of William G. Street and John H. Beck as percussion teachers at the Eastman School of Music) can be most clearly seen in the long list of names of percussionists who have performed in the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, and who have gone on to fill leading positions in many other symphony orchestras in America and around the world.

Name Years of Service


Waterhouse George 1922 to 1931

Street William G. 1932 to 1956

Robertson Hugh 1956 to 1962

Beck John H. 1962 to 2002

Principal Percussionists

Street William G. 1922 to 1931

Street Stanley 1932 to 1959

Beck John H. 1959 to 1962

Fickett Norman 1962 to 1965

Moore Jack 1965 to 1966

Engelman John R. 1966 to 1968

Cahn William L. 1968 to 1995

Acting Principal Percussionists

Peters Gordon B. 1958 to 1959

Cahn Ruth 1984 to 1984

Contracted Section Percussionists

Street Stanley 1922 to 1931

Waterhouse Harry 1922 to 1928

Cahn Ruth (McLean) 1970 to 2000

McNeill John 1971 to present

Stotz Brian 1989 to present

Non-Contracted Section Percussionists

Hasenauer Ray 1929 to 1931

Coddington Richard 1929 to 1936 & 1948 to 1949

Stevens Otis 1929 to 1930

Zinsmeister Oliver 1930 to 1935

Gordon Francis 1930 to 1931

Waterhouse George 1932 to 1938

Robertson Hugh 1935 to 1946

Fennell Frederick 1936 to 1944

Astle Albert 1937 to 1940

Hinger Daniel 1940 to 1942

Gass George 1942 to 1943

Waslohn Alvin 1944 to 1945

Maynard Howard 1945 to 1946

Swan Robert 1946 to 1949

Long William 1946 to 1948

Biskin Harvey 1949 to 1950

Abel Alan 1949 to 1951

Barnett Richard 1950 to 1951

Frazeur Theodore 1950 to 1952 & 1954 to 1955

Wendrich Kenneth A. 1951 to 1953

Matarrese Antony 1951 to 1953

Robertson Hugh 1953 to 1956

Leonard Stanley 1953 to 1954

Beck John H. 1953 to 1955

Dotson James R. 1955 to 1957

Peters Gordon B. 1956 to 1958

Peters Mitchell T. 1956 to 1958

Tanner Peter 1957 to 1959

Galm John 1958 to 1961

Brown Charles 1958 to 1959

Barnett Ronald 1959 to 1960

Thome Joel H. 1959 to 1961

Fickett Norman 1960 to 1962

Cocuzzi Frank 1961 to 1962

Gilbert Don 1961 to 1962

Dicioccio Justin 1962 to 1963

Preiss James 1962 to 1963

Wyre John 1963 to 1964

Levin Ben 1963 to 1964

Ames Frank A. 1963 to 1964

Merz Albert 1963 to 1964

Powley Edward H. 1964 to 1967

Platt William H. 1964 to 1966

Oster Paul A. 1964 to 1966

Friedo David 1965 to 1966

Cahn William L. 1965 to 1968

Small Edward 1966 to 1967

Cahn Ruth (McLean) 1967 to 1970

Wilson Larry 1967 to 1968

Becker Robert 1968 to 1970

Ferchen Timothy 1968 to 1969

McNeill John 1968 to 1971

Larrick Geary 1968 to 1969

Bick Donald A. 1969 to 1970

Sittenfeld Eugene 1970 to 1971

Harbison Kenneth 1970 to 1971

Mancini David 1973 to (1995)

Muzquiz Ernest 1972 to 1974

Witten Dean 1973 to 1974

Brashaer Malcolm 1973 to 1974

Stout Gordon 1974 to 1974

DePonte Niel 1975 to 1976

Moore Ted 1976 to 1977

Wettstein Eric (Forrester) 1977 to 1978

Stotz Brian 1977 to 1989

Saporito James 1978 to 1979

Hemphill Steve 1978 to 1979

Strnad Ron 1978 to 1979

Floyd John 1979 to 1980

Lamb Christopher 1980 to 1981

Fitch Steve 1980 to 1982

Williams William 1980 to 1981

Joines Howard 1981 to 1982

Shiner Kristin 1982 to 1982

Dash Patricia 1982 to 1983

Beck John R. 1982 to 1983

Davis Tracy 1983 to 1984

Norton Christopher 1983 to 1984

Aleo Keith 1983 to 1984

Burritt Michael 1983 to 1984

Genis Tim 1985 to 1987

Searfoss Steven 1985 to 1986

Warner Luanne 1987 to 1988

Paulson Glenn 1987 to 1989

Maloy Thomas 1987 to 1988

Jackson Scott 1988 to 1989

Strain James 1988 to 1989

Tiller James 1989 to present

Florio Daniel 1990 to (1995)

Graber Richard 1990 to (1995)


After I left the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra in 1995, Ruth Cahn served as acting Principal Percussionist until 1997, when Jim Tiller took on the Principal Percussion position.

After Ruth Cahn left the orchestra in 2000, Brian Stotz became the full-time contracted section percussionist.

John H. Beck left the orchestra in 2002 and Charles (Chip) Ross became the timpanist.

As of this writing (June 2012) the percussionists of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra are:

Charles Ross Principal Timpanist

Jim Tiller Principal Percussionist/Asst. Timpanist

Brian Stotz Full Time Contracted Section Percussionist

John McNeill Part Time Contracted Section Percussionist

Robert Patterson Non-Contracted Section Percussionist

Jillian Pritchard Non-Contracted Section Percussionist

Kristen Shiner McGuire Non-Contracted Section Percussionist

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