Edward Erwin

Obituary of Edward Erwin

Edward Erwin, the assistant principal trombonist of the New York Philharmonic for 35 years, died on Tuesday in Pompton Plains, New Jersey. He was 92.

Ed’s musical training began in earnest as a teenager, when his mother secretly submitted home recordings of his trombone playing to the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. Ed was accepted and began studying with the legendary Emory Remington.

His studies were interrupted by two years of Army service in World War II, after which he returned to Eastman to continue his studies with Remington. Two years later rumors spread that the musicians’ union, Local 802, would be closing its rolls to new members and so Ed left Eastman to establish residency in New York City.

Within a few years, his career was well underway. He joined the orchestra of the New York City Ballet and of the New York City Opera. He was also a successful freelance musician and played the Broadway openings of Leonard Bernstein’s musicals, Candide and West Side Story.

In 1958, Ed joined the ranks of the New York Philharmonic, where he performed until his retirement in 1993. Those years were the highlight of a musical career that took him to the farthest corners of the globe with one of the world’s greatest orchestras. In addition to playing the trombone, Ed became a specialist on the euphonium and bass trumpet. He was the Philharmonic’s in-house soloist for these two instruments and frequently played famous passages from works such as Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Richard Strauss’s Don Quixote, both for live audiences and on now-treasured Philharmonic recordings.

Like his famous teacher at Eastman, Ed taught a generation of young trombonists who now play professionally. He emphasized above all a lyrical, vocal musicality which he demonstrated for his students partly by playing and partly by singing. His own playing embodied the value he placed on creating a sound inspired by the human voice; he was renowned worldwide for the beauty of his tone.

Ed’s other great passion in life was his family. His children and grandchildren remember him for his unconditional love, his subtle wit, and his gentle nature.

Ed Erwin is survived by his wife of 64 years, Lois Erwin, his three children Steve, Karen, and Mitch Erwin, his two grandchildren, Leah and Tommy Valtin-Erwin, his brother, Bill Erwin, and many nieces and nephews, all of whom loved and cherished him for his kindness, generosity of spirit, and sense of humor.

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