Death of Jay Wadenpfuhl

NEC Mourns Death of longtime horn faculty and BSO member Jay Wadenpfuhl

NEC Mourns the Death of Horn Faculty Jay Wadenpfuhl

Played with Boston Symphony for 29 Years, Taught at NEC for 23 Years

New England Conservatory is mourning the death of Jay Wadenpfuhl, who played in the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s horn section for 29 years and was a member of the NEC faculty for 23 years. Wadenpfuhl died June 19 of Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome. He was 60.

Wadenpfuhl was born into a musical family in Kirbyville, Texas, where his mother played and taught piano and directed choirs, and his father, a trumpet player, conducted prize-winning high school and college bands. His parents, both active octogenarians, had died in just the last six months, his mother in December and his father on June 13. The young Jay was a professional horn player from age 15, when he performed with the Beaumont (TX) Symphony Orchestra and the Beaumont Civic Opera. He studied at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he earned his bachelor and master degrees in music, with a major in horn and a minor in composition. He also completed one year's work toward his Doctor of Musical Arts degree at North Texas State University. Prior to joining the BSO, he was a member of the U.S. Army Band, the Florida Philharmonic, the Fort Worth Symphony, and the National Symphony Orchestra. At the BSO, he occupied the John P. II and Nancy S. Eustis chair. Wadenpfuhl joined the NEC faculty in 1987 and among the students he taught here was his second cousin and hornist Lee Wadenpfuhl ’06 M.M.

A versatile musician comfortable in many genres, Wadenpfuhl composed works for horn and was also a composer/lyricist of popular and jazz songs. He recorded two albums with the NFB Horn Quartet (Riccardo Almeida, William Hoyt, David Kappy, and Wadenpfuhl), which was composed of former students of the legendary horn player John Barrows. The first album was dedicated to the memory of Barrows, and included Wadenpfuhl’s composition, Tectonica, for eight horns and percussion. The other featured a collaboration with horn player Barry Tuckwell, and included Gunther Schuller’s Five Pieces for Five Horns and Wadenpfuhl’s quartet Textures.

In addition, the horn player toured Japan with the Michel LeGrand Jazz Orchestra, and toured and recorded with Chuck Mangione, appearing on the albums Live at the Hollywood Bowl and Tarantella. In 1989, Wadenpfuhl performed the world premiere of William Thomas McKinley’s Huntington Horn Concerto with John Williams and the Boston Pops.

Frank Epstein, a longtime BSO colleague and chair of Brass and Percussion at NEC, said this about Wadenpfuhl: “Jay, was a one of a kind personality, emotionally charged yet highly committed to all things musical. An unusual talent, he was a composer of brass music and loved to conduct pieces in the brass repertoire. His playing was elegant, stylistically fluent and secure, his tone beautifully centered at all times, while his playing was always musical with an extraordinary sense of good taste. He was also a committed teacher.”

Wadenpfuhl leaves his wife, Michelle Perry, hornist in the Empire Brass and performer with numerous Boston ensembles.

For further information, check the NEC Website.


Recognized nationally and internationally as a leader among music schools, New England Conservatory 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 Collaboration Programs, 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 and jazz.

NEC presents more than 600 free concerts each year, many of them in Jordan Hall, its world- renowned, 106-year old, beautifully restored concert hall. These programs range from solo recitals to chamber music to orchestral programs to jazz and opera scenes. Every year, NEC’s opera studies department also presents two fully staged opera productions at the Cutler Majestic 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
Public Relations Manager
New England Conservatory
290 Huntington Ave.
Boston, MA 02115