lives as U.S. Marine Corps Non- Commissioned Officers and as three quarters of the “White House String Quartet”. Caught that did you? Yeah….our group always did seem to have somewhat of an issue regarding just how many players it takes to form a quartet!!!
You see…since Yasuoki Tanaka, the original second violinist of our Aldanya Quartet, was a Japanese citizen he had “zero” reasons to worry about the U.S. Draft System. So, just prior to our move to Washington we begrudgingly released him from the quartet. However, much to our relief…. and delight… we were, shortly thereafter, successful in enlisting into the ranks of the “White House Quartet”, yet another fabulous IU student of Professor Gingold and friend of the quartet, Ray Kobler. And then there were four!
Not long after beginning our official quartet duties the Marine Band was fortunate to recruit a superb violinist from the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia. His name, Eliot Chapo. Eliot was a great musician, terrific violinist and chamber musician with whom we played often following his arrival in Washington. Before long we all felt it only natural to include Eliot as an official member of the “White House Quartet”. And then there were five!!! Like I said…we always did have a problem with numbers!!
For the next four years the “White House Quartet” ( typically performing with two of its three violinists at a time ) was an important addition to the musical life of the White House. Serving both Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon we appeared at major formal functions as well as at small social gatherings held in the private residence area of the President and his family.
Thankfully, we were also allowed, on a limited basis, to maintain our civilian identity through public performances as the “Aldanya Quartet”. When performing in this capacity, however, the violin duties were always the responsibility of Andy and Ray. Interestingly, it was during this period Eliot and I were engaged (as civilians) by the Philadelphia Orchestra to perform the Mozart “Symphonie Concertante” with the orchestra at their home, the famed “Academy of Music”. We did laugh a bit, however, when ironically the newspaper reviews of our performance included such verbiage as “ Marines land at the Academy of Music armed with their instruments…” etc…etc.
Now how about we fast –forward about 45 years for the most current news!!
A little over a week ago, from October 10-13, the original ALDANYA/ WHITE HOUSE STRING QUARTET members gathered in Bloomington, Indiana at my home for our very FIRST group re-union since our disbanding 45 years ago in 1970. Three days of nothing but fun, frolic, food, drink, some music –making, old jokes and stories ensued surrounded by some of our original friends and supporters from both the Bloomington and Washington days. Truly a memorable and historic event!!
Actually, it might be interesting to mention a few of the career highlights of the former quartet members:
Andy Zaplatynsky– Minneapolis Symphony, Associate Concertmaster of Cinncinnati Symphony and Concertmaster of Syracuse Symphony in addition to numerous solo and chamber music appearances and teaching positions throughout the world.
Yasuoki Tanaka- Primarily 35 years as a member of the Baltimore Symphony and founder of Tanaka Bows a most popular spot for highly respected bow rehairing in and around the Washington D.C. and Baltimore area.
Ray Kobler- Years as Associate Concertmaster of the Cleveland Orchestra before taking over as Concertmaster of the San Francisco Symphony.
Eliot Chapo– Associate Concertmaster of Pittsburgh Symphony before becoming the Concertmaster of both the Dallas Symphony and the New York Philharmonic. Many solo and chamber music performances and recordings (including membership in “An die Musik” along with Danny Rothmuller and myself) as well as maintaining a lengthy teaching career as Professor of Violin at Florida State University.
Danny Rothmuller– An active Hollywood and chamber music recording artist, performer and teacher while maintaining his primary position as Associate Principal Cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic for approximately 40 years!
And then there is yours truly!!
Perhaps Andy captured the essence of this amazing re-union most succinctly when he wrote:
“Yes indeed, this was a marvelous and magical weekend. It was truly one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. This was evidence that the “ties that bind” are not limited by time or distance. It was unbelievable, almost 50 years and we didn’t miss a beat.
Through all these years, my memories of the Aldanya Quartet and our time in the Marine Band have remained vivid and fresh. Memories of many events since then have dimmed, but those days in Bloomington and Washington are like yesterday.”
NEXT WEEKS EPISODE: “HOW I STUMBLED ONTO THE PRIMROSE PATH” (Some of the history behind my very special relationship with William Primrose!)