Two veteran Chicago Symphony Orchestra musicians, violin Paul Phillips Jr. and clarinet-bass clarinet J. Lawrie Bloom, will retire June 30 at the end of the 2019-2020 season. Each joined the orchestra in 1980.
They will receive the Theodore Thomas Medallion for Distinguished Service in an upcoming season. Named for Theodore Thomas (1835–1905), the CSO’s founder and first music director, the medallion is presented to retiring musicians in recognition of outstanding service.
A member of the first violin section, Phillips was appointed by music director Sir Georg Solti. Before joining the CSO, he was a member of the Indianapolis and Detroit symphony orchestras, and the Indianapolis String Quartet. While with the CSO, Phillips also has been a member of the Music of the Baroque, as well as several chamber music groups, including a trio with former Principal Flute Donald Peck and pianist Melody Lord, and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra String Quartet with former CSO Concertmaster Samuel Magad.
Phillips studied violin with William Taylor, father of CSO Assistant Concertmaster David Taylor, in Canton, Ohio. He then attended the Cleveland Institute of Music, and studied violin and chamber music with William Kroll of the Kroll Quartet and Endre Granat, assistant concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra.
Appointed by Solti, Bloom holds the distinction of being the first bass clarinetist to solo with a major American orchestra. He has appeared with the CSO as soloist three times: in January 1995, performing Ian Krouse’s Concerto for Bass Clarinet and Large Orchestra with conductor James DePreist; in October 2011, performing the U.S. premiere of Thea Musgrave’s Autumn Sonata with conductor Susanna Mälkki, and most recently in February for the world premiere of Nicolas Bacri’s Ophelia’s Tears (a CSO commission through the generous support of Helen Zell).
Before joining the CSO, Bloom was a member of the Phoenix Symphony and Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, as well as the Vancouver and Cincinnati symphony orchestras. A native of Ohio, Bloom studied with Roger McKinney and later with Anthony Gigliotti. For 28 years, he has been a senior lecturer at Northwestern University.
Throughout his career, he has been an active instructor and chamber musician on the Northwestern University Winter Chamber Music Festival, the CSO’s Chamber Music Series and the CSO’s MusicNOW contemporary music series. He is also a member of the Chicago-based chamber group Civitas, whose recording “Jin Yin” was recognized by the Chicago Tribune as one of the 10 best of 2020.
A founder and artistic co-director of the Chesapeake Music Festival, Bloom also has participated in the Ambler, Grand Teton, Ravinia, Skanaeteles, Spoleto and Mostly Mozart festivals.
TOP: CSO musicians Paul Phillips Jr. ((left) and J. Lawrie Bloom will retire after the 2019-2020 season. | ©Todd Rosenberg Photography