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NEC Mourns Death of Adolph "Bud" Herseth

Legendary trumpeter was Principal with Chicago Symphony Orchestra for 53 years.

NEC Mourns the Death of Adolph “Bud” Herseth ’54 M.M. ’85 hon. D.M.

Served as Principal Trumpet of Chicago Symphony Orchestra for 53 Years

Received Outstanding Alumni Award in 1979

New England Conservatory is mourning the death of one of its most distinguished alumni Adolph “Bud” Herseth ’54 M.M, ’85 hon. D.M., who served as Principal Trumpet of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for 53 years. Presented with an Outstanding Alumni Award in 1979, Herseth had returned to campus on numerous occasions to work with NEC brass students, most recently at the Brass Bash celebrations in 2005 and 2009. He died on April 13, 2013, at his home in Oak Park, IL at the age of 91. The NEC Wind Ensemble and Charles Peltz, Director of Wind Ensemble Activities, dedicated their concert tonight (April 16) to Herseth and another NEC alumnus, the late Patrick Maxfield, head of Technical Services in the NEC libraries.

Frank Villela, Archivist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has provided this summary of Herseth’s life with the orchestra to which he devoted his career:

Born in 1921 in Minnesota, Herseth earned a degree at Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. He originally planned to become a teacher but gravitated to performance as a career while in the armed forces. During World War II, Herseth served as a bandsman at the pre-flight school in Iowa and at the U.S. Navy School of Music. He ended his military service with the Commander of the Philippine Sea Frontier in the South Pacific.
In early 1948 while studying for his master’s degree from New England Conservatory (where his teachers included Marcel Lafosse and Georges Mager), Herseth was appointed by Music Director Artur Rodzinski to the post of principal trumpet of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. He never performed with Rodzinski (whose music directorship ended in April 1948) but would go on to serve under five CSO music directors: Rafael Kubelík, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon, Sir Georg Solti, and Daniel Barenboim. Herseth made countless solo appearances and recorded extensively with the Orchestra, including seven recordings of Ravel’s orchestration of Mussorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition (under Kubelík, Reiner, Seiji Ozawa, Carlo Maria Giulini, Solti [twice], and Neeme Järvi).
Constantly devoted to the development of the next generation of symphony orchestra musicians, Herseth regularly gave seminars, coaching sessions, and master classes in Chicago and throughout Europe and worked with the European Community Youth Orchestra, the West-Eastern Divan Workshop for Young Musicians, and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago.
Herseth held honorary doctor of music degrees from DePaul University, Luther College, New England Conservatory, Rosary College, and Valparaiso University. He received the Living Art of Music Symphonic Musician Award in 1994, was named Instrumentalist of the Year by Musical America in 1995, and was an honorary member of the Royal Danish Guild of Trumpeters. In June 2001, Herseth received the American Symphony Orchestra League’s Gold Baton Award, marking the first time in the League’s history that the award was bestowed on an orchestral player, and he was also awarded an honorary membership from London’s Royal Academy of Music at its commencement exercises. He was accorded a singular honor in 1988, when the principal trumpet chair of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, which he continued to occupy until 2001, was named after him.
On June 7, 1998, Herseth’s friends—including Doc Severinsen, Daniel Barenboim, Arnold Jacobs, Frank Crisafulli, Arturo Sandoval, and numerous brass players from around the world—appeared in a tribute performance at Orchestra Hall to celebrate his fiftieth anniversary with the CSO. On January 27, 2000, the CSO’s Women’s Association recognized Herseth for his “one season plus five decades” as the CSO’s principal trumpet.
After the Ravinia season in the summer of 2001, Herseth relinquished the principal trumpet chair and became principal trumpet emeritus. On February 21, 2004, he retired from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra after fifty-six years and received the Theodore Thomas Medallion for Distinguished Service. Following retirement, Herseth was a longtime member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association.
Herseth is survived by Avis, his wife of sixty-nine years, their two children Christine Hoefer and Stephen (Mary Jo), six grandchildren and five great-grandchildren. His son Charles (Judith) preceded him in death in 1996. Services will be private and details regarding a memorial will be announced at a later date. Letters of condolence may be sent to Avis Herseth (203 North Kenilworth #2J, Oak Park, IL 60302) or Stephen Herseth (829 Clinton Place, River Forest, IL 60305).
Herseth was interviewed by John von Rhein in the Chicago Tribune in April 2001, shortly after the announcement that he would cede the principal trumpet chair. He said, “For years I’ve been telling people I am lucky to get here, fortunate to still be here and to have had all these marvelous experiences.” And when asked how he would like posterity to remember him, Herseth replied, “as a fairly decent guy who gave it his best every time he had the chance.”

For further information, check the NEC Website.


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory in Boston, MA offers rigorous training in an intimate, nurturing community to 720 undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral music students from around the world.  Its faculty of 225 boasts internationally esteemed artist-teachers and scholars.  Its alumni go on to fill orchestra chairs, concert hall stages, jazz clubs, recording studios, and arts management positions worldwide.  Nearly half of the Boston Symphony Orchestra is composed of NEC trained musicians and faculty.

The oldest independent school of music in the United States, NEC was founded in 1867 by Eben Tourjee. Its curriculum is remarkable for its wide range of styles and traditions.  On the college level, it features training in classical, jazz, contemporary improvisation, world and early music. Through its Preparatory School, School of Continuing Education, and Community Programs and Partnerships Program, it provides training and performance opportunities for children, pre-college students, adults, and seniors.  Through its outreach projects, it allows young musicians to engage with non-traditional audiences in schools, hospitals, and nursing homes—thereby bringing pleasure to new listeners and enlarging the universe for classical music, jazz, and contemporary improvisation.

NEC presents more than 900 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, century-old, beautifully restored concert hall.  These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz, contemporary improvisation, and opera scenes.  Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic Theatre or Paramount Theatre in Boston.

NEC is co-founder and educational partner of From the Top, a weekly radio program that celebrates outstanding young classical musicians from the entire country. With its broadcast home in Jordan Hall, the show is now carried by National Public Radio and is heard on 250 stations throughout the United States.

Contact: Ellen Pfeifer
Senior Communications Specialist
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115