Saturday, December 15, 2007

Walter Green, great bassoonist dies at 82

We lost a revered member of our bassoon family on December 3rd in Mendocino, California. Walter Green passed away quietly within view of the beautiful Pacific Ocean surrounded by his family and friends.

At age 82, Walter still had a sparkle in his eyes and a mission to educate the world about classical music. He had been ill with Parkinson's for several years, but was excellently cared for by his lovely wife, Polly.

A poignant service and burial were held in Mendocino on Wednesday, December 5th, with the ocean breeze carrying the scent of marine life as Walter's life was remembered and celebrated. Those in attendance, including myself, were awed by the amazing life Walter had lived and the many people whose lives he touched.

Walter retired from the San Francisco Symphony over 20 years ago, where he was principal bassoonist. He was a founding member of the Mendocino Music Festival and was popular in his coastal town for the success of the festival and for being a popular radio personality. On his radio program, he exposed the breadth of his knowledge of selected musical pieces and the history surrounding them. His hope was to illuminate classical music in a way that would inspire his listeners to attend concerts and support the musical arts.

Most people did not know that Walter was a holocaust survivor who lost members of his family in Europe during World War II. He was fortunate to have safely fled Germany as a child; and he later worked diligently to become an American citizen. Walter never took his new country for granted.

Those who remember Walter in the San Francisco Symphony know that he fought tooth and nail for a number of the benefits that the musicians now enjoy in their contract. Musically, he set the bar high for himself and his colleagues; and some considered him tough for this reason. But Walter was also a man of compassion, generosity and selflessness. This was evident in the funeral service on Wednesday, as person after person spoke about Walter -- his doctor, a conductor, students, neighbors, friends, musicians who had traveled 3 hours from San Francisco, his family, those who listened to his radio program, and so on.Fortunately, before Walter Green passed away, he was able to put his fascinating life story into a book entitled" Golden Tones ". We join Walter's family in celebrating his life and our loss.

Rufus & Vida Olivier and Family