Jane Little, who debuted as a bassist in Atlanta on Feb. 4, 1945, at age 16 and who never stopped playing, died during a performance of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra on Sunday. She was said to be the longest tenured orchestra musician in the world. She was 87.
“We can say that Jane was fortunate to do what she loved until the very end of her storied life and career,” the symphony said in a Facebook post. “The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was truly blessed to have Jane as part of our family for the past 71 years and we all miss her passion, vitality, spirit and incredible talent.”
The symphony was performing a pops concert called “Broadway’s Golden Age,” according to its schedule. A spokeswoman said the players were about 30 seconds from the last measures of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” from Irving Berlin’s “Annie Get Your Gun,” the encore to the concert when Little collapsed and was carried backstage by her fellow bassists. She never regained consciousness.
Little was not a physically imposing figure. She weighed 98 pounds and had battled through, in addition to the myeloma, a broken shoulder, elbow and pelvis in recent years. Last August, she fell and cracked her vertebra, leaving her unable to play. But in February, after months of rehabilitation, Little took to the stage and passed the record set by Frances Darger, the Utah Symphony violinist who had retired in 2012 after 70 years of playing. Little took pride in her feat.
“I’d thumb through the Guinness book and say, ‘Wouldn’t it be neat?’” Little told The Post in February. “A lot of people do crazy things like sitting on a flagpole for three days. I just kept on. It was just me and the lady in Utah."
Though frail and injury-prone, the prospect of setting the record seemed to have helped keep her going, albeit not for every ASO concert. “I was competing with this woman out in Utah, who played 70 years, 69 of them with the Utah Symphony,” she told Atlanta Magazine. “When I heard she was retiring, I said, ‘I’m going for it.'”
There was great sadness among orchestra members Sunday night. There was also a sense that there was a poetic beauty to the timing of Little’s death, playing her bass during a performance of a classic from the “Great American Songbook.”
Via: The Washington Post