Tom Baron recently retired from the Utah Symphony after 47 years in the violin section, but that doesn’t mean he’s slowed down! He still enjoys playing the violin and still plays with the symphony as a substitute on occasion and recently finished a run of The Nutcracker with Ballet West. When he’s not playing the violin you can see him riding his motorcycle.
Tom speaks with enthusiasm about his time in the orchestra. “All through my career of 47 years I was able to do things that I loved and enjoyed. At age 15 I loved the violin, literature, hiking, people watching, riding my motorcycle, and I do all these things still today. These are all passions. The most wonderful thing was sitting there in the orchestra for so many years. Sitting in the first violin section you can see the effect on the audience. People are crying, just shedding tears quietly. This is a privilege; very few people on the earth get to do this. I’ve just finished one year of retirement and I will miss the orchestra all my life, it’s just so important. The adventures, the touring, the early years of Abravanel. He made things happen.”
Maurice Abravenel was the music director of the Utah Symphony from 1947 to 1979. In that time, he brought the orchestra from a small-time player into the major leagues, bringing per-capita concert attendance in Utah one of the highest in the nation. He is especially well-known for recording all nine Mahler symphonies with the Utah Symphony. Tom is one of the few musicians in Salt Lake City who have worked under Abravanel.
“When Abravanel came here he understood finances, he understood people, and he understood music. His rehearsal techniques wouldn’t work today. He had total control. You had to do things his way. The orchestra was semi-pro at that point. I was one of his first imports: bearded, long haired dude from California. We’d play through things a lot. He’d say take a deep breath and we’d start all over again. He understood that with repetition lots of the problems would sort themselves out. It had a natural flow to it. It developed confidence in us. He saw the potential here and he saw the value in the community. In return he increased our salaries. He was fair and honest. If you were willing to work for the orchestra he would back you all the way. I came of age in the orchestra.”
But what is a story without a little romance? Again, Tom does not disappoint. “The orchestra was getting better, recording more, going on international tours. It was incredible to stand in the Herod Atticus Theater in Athens at the end of a concert and people were yelling and screaming with admiration. Plus I got to know Carolee, a cellist. We found that we were very compatible and as the orchestra grew our relationship grew and we were able to get married and raise two wonderful children. There were tours with the kids in the car. You learn how good people are to help you. It was a terrific adventure with Carolee to spend four decades playing music in this orchestra. I was very fortunate. I had a great run.”
– Erin Svoboda