Curtis Mourns the Loss of Donald Montanaro, Legendary Clarinetist and Teacher
Curtis mourns the loss of emeritus faculty member Donald Montanaro, whose legacy spans three decades at Curtis and continues with clarinetists throughout the world. He passed away on November 30 at the age of 82.
A 1954 Curtis graduate and faculty member from 1980 to 2014, his teaching and musicality embodied the great Philadelphia tradition of wind playing. As a clarinet student, he inherited a musical legacy from Daniel Bonade and Marcel Tabuteau; as a teacher, he drew upon them to create a unique emphasis on sound quality and singing style. He attracted, guided, and graduated young clarinetists who now occupy important positions in Beijing, Dallas, Fort Worth, Los Angeles, Malmö, Mexico City, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seoul, and Toronto; as well as the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Upon his retirement from Curtis in 2014, he was awarded an honorary doctorate at that year’s Commencement ceremony.
Don was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra from 1957 to 2005, playing alongside his wife and fellow Curtis graduate, harpist Margarita Montanaro. A passionate collaborative musician, he also founded the Philadelphia Chamber Ensemble in 1977, performed at the Marlboro and Casals festivals, and toured Europe and the Far East as a soloist and in chamber music ensembles. His knowledge of the quintet repertoire and love of the medium inspired Curtis woodwind students for more than three decades.
But his impact is best summed up in the words of his own students. In the Spring 2014 issue of Overtones, Sam Caviezel (’96), associate principal clarinet of the Philadelphia Orchestra, wrote: “His exquisite ear for tone and mastery of phrasing, combined with a keen understanding of how to transmit this knowledge to his students, made for a learning experience that has been second to none in my life. Whenever I play something really beautifully in the orchestra, I feel like I am standing on Don’s shoulders.”
We will remember Don with great respect and love, and extend our most sincere condolences to Margarita, his family, friends, colleagues, and students.
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Managing Director of External Affairs and Patron Engagement