100 years ago today: Edward Marck Kleinhammer (1919-2013)

100 years ago today: Edward Marck Kleinhammer (1919-2013)

100 years ago today—on August 31, 1919—Edward Marck Kleinhammer was born (that is not a typo, his middle name was spelled Marck). He had a  long and especially distinguished career as bass trombonist of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1940-1985. His influence on bass trombone performance and pedagogy is incalculable, even today, years after his death in 2013.

This was a man who changed my life. He was my trombone teacher during my years as an undergraduate at Wheaton College, Illinois (1974-1976). In the years that followed, the teacher/student relationship changed into a deep, abiding friendship, and I count myself very blessed that God brought our lives together. The story of his accomplishments and his influence on me and so many others is something I told in two articles I wrote about him for the International Trombone Association Journal. On both occasions, his photo graced the cover of the Journal. I wrote the first on the occasion of his retirement from the Chicago Symphony, in 1985. You can read it by clicking HERE.


I wrote the second in 2014, shortly after his death. You can read it by clicking HERE.


The photo on both of these International Trombone Association Journal covers dates from 1976, and first appeared in a book published by the Chicago Symphony in that year, Reflections: A collection of personality sketches of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.


Both of my articles are personal tributes to a great man and contain much information about his life, work, and influence. Today, on what would have been his 100th birthday, I don’t need to say many more words about Mr. Kleinhammer. He was a superb bass trombonist, a caring, challenging, effective, and tremendously inspiring teacher, and one who loved God and lived his life with the Bible as his guide. But a picture, it has been said, tells a thousand words. Here are some photos of him that tell more of his story. Many have never been published before. Several were given to me by Ed Kleinhammer himself; others were given to me by his widow, Dessie, after his death, and still others come from my own collection. Edward Kleinhammer: a life well lived, and a life remembered by all who knew and were influenced by him. Captions are above each photo.

[Below] Ed Kleinhammer played trombone in Leopold Stokowski’s All-American Youth Orchestra in 1940, during the summer before he joined the Chicago Symphony. This photo shows the orchestra on stage at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City before their tour of South America:


[Below] This is a closeup of the low brass section of the orchestra, cropped from the above photo. From the left (front) are Dorothy Zeigler, Charles Gusikoff (who was principal trombonist of the Philadelphia Orchestra at the time—Stokowski engaged several members of the PO to play alongside the younger players in the orchestra), Edward Kleinhammer, Howard Cole, and Philip Silverman, tuba:


[Below] Edward Kleinhammer and an unidentified All-American Youth Orchestra member  outside the Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall, 1940:


[Below] After I joined the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1985, Edward Kleinhammer sent me his copy of the Method for trombone by Carl Hampe, who had been principal trombonist with the BSO in the early 20th century. It was one of his earliest trombone study books but it was one he turned to even after he joined the Chicago Symphony. When I opened it, I found many of his markings inside including those on these two pages. This one has an aphorism that he penned in 1947, and is a good reminder of how discipline and “slow and steady wins the race” were themes of his life:


[Below] This page, below, made me smile. Evidently, Leopold Stokowski had asked Mr. Kleinhammer to demonstrate his range on the trombone. His note to himself speaks for itself:


[Below] Here is the Chicago Symphony, October 8, 1940. This is a scan of half of a photo of the orchestra; I only have this scan of this portion of the photo which was given to me by Edward Kleinhammer.

CSO_1940[Below] Here is the low brass section of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, fall 1940, cropped from the larger photo shown above of the CSO with Frederick Stock, conductor, at the beginning of Edward Kleinhammer’s tenure in the orchestra. Left to right: George Washington Hamburg, tuba; Edward Kleinhammer, bass trombone; David Anderson, second trombone; Frank Crisafulli, principal trombone; Edward Geffert, assistant principal trombone.


[Below] From 1942—1945, Edward Kleinhammer was in a U.S. Army band, stationed at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri. In this photo, he is in the top row, second from the right, next to a Sousaphone player:


[Below] Ed Kleinhammer in uniform, c. 1944:


[Below] The caption on the back of this photo is in Edward Kleinhammer’s handwriting and reads, “Stage Band, Independence, Kansas. Early 1940s.” He drew a small “X” on the photo to show where he was sitting in the back row of the Army band:


[Below] The caption on the back of this photo, reads (in his wife, Dorothy’s handwriting), “Ed is practicing near our cabin.” In his handwriting, it reads, “Calling ‘Moose'” (Moose was Ed Kleinhammer’s nickname in the CSO). The photo looks to date from the late 1950s.


[Below] This photo is from the Ravinia Festival, taken around 1960. From left to right: Rudolph “Rudy” Nashan, trumpet; Adolph “Bud” Herseth, principal trumpet; Robert Lambert, principal trombone, Frank Crisafulli, second trombone; Edward Kleinhammer, bass trombone; Arnold Jacobs, tuba.


[Below] This is a Chicago Symphony Orchestra brass quartet, around 1970. David Babcock, horn; Charles Geyer, trumpet; Edward Kleinhammer, bass trombone (playing his single valve Bach 50-B bass trombone); James Gilbertson, tenor trombone.


[Below] The caption on the back of this photo, in Edward Kleinhammer’s handwriting, reads, “Trombone Section CSO Circa 1970.” Back to camera: Edward Kleinhammer, Frank Crisafulli; facing camera, James Gilbertson, Jay Friedman.


[Below] Chicago Symphony brass players, May 1972. Back row, from left to right: Adolph “Bud” Herseth, principal trumpet; James Gilbertson, assistant principal trombone; Jay Friedman, euphonium (principal trombone); Frank Crisafulli, second trombone; Edward Kleinhammer, bass trombone; Arnold Jacobs, tuba.


[Below] Members of the Chicago Symphony brass section, around 1975. Back row, left to right: Philip Smith, fourth trumpet; William Scarlett, third trumpet; Charles Geyer, second trumpet; Adolph “Bud” Herseth, principal trumpet; James Gilbertson, assistant principal trombone; Frank Crisafulli, second trombone; Edward Kleinhammer, bass trombone; Arnold Jacobs, tuba.


[Below] This photo was taken by my wife after my last lesson with Edward Kleinhammer, just before my graduation from Wheaton College, May 1976. The location is his studio in the Fine Arts Building on Michigan Avenue, Chicago. He is holding his bass trombone made by Schilke with a bell by Earl Williams.


[Below] The caption on the back of this photo, in Edward Kleinhammer’s handwriting, reads, “Ravinia 1976.”


[Below] Edward Kleinhammer and Arnold Jacobs, c. 1984:


[Below] Edward Kleinhammer’s final concert with the Chicago Symphony in Orchestra Hall was in May 1985. These three photos (below) were taken during that concert and hung in his home office for many years after.


[Below] Edward Kleinhammer’s final bow at his chair in Orchestra Hall, May 1985. Also seen are Frank Crisafulli, second trombone, and Arnold Jacobs, tuba:


[Below] Edward Kleinhammer’s final concert in Orchestra Hall, May 1985. Here he is at the podium, being presented with the Chicago Symphony’s Theodore Thomas Medallion by guest conductor Michael Tilson Thomas:



[Below] Edward Kleinhammer’s Theodore Thomas Medallion, presented to him by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on the occasion of his retirement from the Orchestra:

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

The Theodore Thomas Medallion for Distinguished Service

Presented to Edward Kleinhammer


[Below] At the 2004 International Trombone Festival in Ithaca, New York, Edward Kleinhammer and George “Mr. Bass Trombone” Roberts met for the first time. It was a very special moment to see these two giants of the bass trombone from very different parts of the musical universe (classical and commercial) meet on stage together after Mr. Kleinhammer’s master class. George, ever effusive, came up to Ed and gave him a big hug and a kiss on the cheek. At the moment this interaction occurred, I was sitting in the audience with Ed’s wife, Dessie.


[Below] Edward Kleinhammer at home in Hayward, Wisconsin, around 2000 (photo by David Wilson). The mouthpiece in this Bach 50B3 is my YAMAHA Douglas Yeo Signature Series Mouthpiece that I had given to him several years earlier.

Edward Kleinhammer_c2005

[Below] I kept in close contact with Mr. Kleinhammer over the years; I have several hundred hand written letters from him, even more emails, and we spoke by phone frequently. He always called me on August 31—his birthday— to wish my wife and me a happy anniversary. My wife and I were married on August 31, 1976, and every year, without fail, before I could pick up the phone to wish him a happy birthday, my phone rang and it was him, to wish us well. The last time I saw him was at his home in Hayward in 2009. This is how I will always remember him:


I last spoke to Ed a few days before he died. Nothing in his voice gave a clue that a week later, he would pass from this world to the next while taking a nap in his favorite chair. I am a better person and trombonist because of the influence of Edward Kleinhammer, and I know many others can say the same thing. Today, on what would have been his 100th birthday, we honor this man who did so much for so many.