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NEC Mourns Death of Matthew Ruggiero

Bassoonist served on faculty for 41 years. Longtime member of BSO and Boston Pops.

NEC Mourns the Death of Long-time Faculty Member Matthew Ruggiero

Served Boston Symphony Assistant Principal Bassoon, Boston Pops Principal Bassoon

Dedicated Teacher, He Founded Boston Woodwind Society to Provide Financial Support to Promising Young Musicians

New England Conservatory is mourning the death of bassoonist Matthew Ruggiero, a member of the faculty for more than 40 years as well as former Assistant Principal Bassoon of the Boston Symphony Orchestra and Principal Bassoon of the Boston Pops. A resident of Brookline, Ruggiero, 80, died February 1.

A gifted musician, dedicated teacher, and lifelong scholar who earned a PhD in Music and Literature at the age of 60, Ruggiero touched countless lives through his musicianship, wisdom and gentle wit. Born in Philadelphia in 1932, he received professional training in bassoon at the Curtis Institute of Music, where many of his future BSO woodwind colleagues also studied. He began his career performing chamber music in collaboration with Rudolf Serkin and Marcel Moyse at the Marlboro Music Festival in Vermont, where he met his wife, the violinist Nancy Cirillo.

After spending three years as second bassoonist of the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, DC, Ruggiero moved to Boston in 1961 to become assistant principal bassoon of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. In 1974, he added to that position when Seiji Ozawa and Arthur Fiedler appointed him principal bassoon of the Boston Pops.

In 1962, he began teaching at New England Conservatory and, a year later, at Boston University's College of Fine Arts. He continued to teach at NEC until 2003.

In 1978, Ruggiero began a second career in academia by attending the Harvard Extension School, where he earned undergraduate and graduate degrees in both English and Italian literature. After retiring from the Boston Symphony in 1989, he pursued doctoral studies at Boston University, and received his PhD in Music and Literature with a dissertation focusing on Verdi's operatic adaptation of Shakespeare's Macbeth.

In recent years, Ruggiero continued in his multiple roles as musician, teacher, student and benefactor. In addition to teaching bassoon, he sat on juries for international bassoon competitions; taught Italian language courses and interdisciplinary courses at Clark University, Boston University, Harvard Institute for Learning in Retirement and the Brandeis Adult Learning Center; and spent 20 summers traveling to Asia to coach bassoonists of the Asian Youth Orchestra.

In 2003, Ruggiero founded the Boston Woodwind Society, a non-profit organization that provides financial support to promising woodwind musicians.

He died peacefully after a lengthy illness, surrounded by his family. He is survived is his wife, Nancy Cirillo of Brookline, three daughters, Eleanor Gilbert of Lexington, Claudia Goldman of Newton, and Lisa Ruggiero of Natick, and by nine grandchildren.

A memorial service will be held at Friends Meeting at Cambridge, 5 Longfellow Park, Cambridge, Massachusetts, at 2:00 p.m. on March 23rd.

Ruggiero’s former colleague NEC saxophonist Kenneth Radnofsky is dedicating his February 18 Jordan Hall recital to his friend’s memory. Click here to read Radnofsky’s tribute.

Donations in Ruggiero's memory can be made to endow a scholarship at the Boston Woodwind Society, P.O. Box 470413, Brookline, MA 02447


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