John E. Waitt
(1908 - 1963)

John E. Waitt (1947)

 John Ellsworth Waitt was born January 14, 1908 in Chicago, Illinois to Albion R. and Ella Effie (Hughes) Waitt.  Mr. Waitt studied with Bruno Jaenicke of the New York Philharmonic.
[What high school did he attend in Chicago. Who were his other horn teachers? When was he in New York?].1

Mr. Waitt was a member of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 1927 through 1929 seasons.2  After leaving the Chicago Symphony he continued performing with the theater orchestras in Chicago for a few years before moving to Portland Oregon. Mr. Waitt would become the principal horn of choice for all of the professional orchestras in Portland for the next three decades. Judging from his mention in newspapers throughout his career, he was recognized and held in high esteem by audiences.
By 1934 Mr. Waitt had become principal horn of the Portland Symphony Orchestra.3 On November 2, 1934 he and his woodwind colleagues were featured in trios and quartets by Charles Huguenin, Gabriel Pierne, and W.A. Mozart at a tea party of the Monday Musical Club of Portland held in honor of the orchestra's conductor, Willem van Hoogstraten.

On the February 17, 1936 concert of the Portland Symphony, he was featured with his woodwind colleagues on Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante (photo at right). It was repeated a week later in Eugene, Or. Notice that he was already playing the five-valve single B-flat horn probably by C.F. Schmidt as seen in the later photo at the top of this page.  [Confirm it was C.F. Schmidt?] That summer an orchestra composed of Symphony players known as the Stadium Philharmonic was formed to give concerts at Multnomah Stadium.4  On June 28 Mr. Waitt led a program of seldom-heard music for brass quartet at a tea sponsored by the Skidmore Fountain Art Association for the benefit of the Portland Symphony Society. In September, he and several Portland Symphony colleagues joined the Le Grande Oregon band for the annual Pendleton Round-up and Happy Canyon shows.

The week of December 5, 1937 was unusually busy for Mr. Waitte. It began with the second Sunday matinee concert of the Portland Symphony season which included the first piano concerto by Tchaikovsky and the waltzes from Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss. Then on Thursday, December 9,  he performed the Sonata for horn and piano, op. 17 by Ludwig van Beethoven and the Trio for horn, violin and piano, by Johannes Brahms in a recital at the home of Mrs. M. Donald Spencer. The following evening, Mr. Waitte and four of his woodwind colleagues joined pianist Ariel Rubstein to perform the Sextette, opus 6 by Ludwig Thuille at the faculty recital of the Ellison-White Conservatory. 

Christmas 1937 was gloriously celebrated with the eighth annual performance of Handel's "Messiah", featuring a massed chorus of five hundred trained singers. This, however, was followed by a not-so-happy new year when the directors of the Portland Symphony Society announced on January 13, 1938 that the organization would withdraw sponsorship of the Portland Symphony Orchestra, "probably for two years, to wipe out a deficit accumulated during the past six season." 5 As a sort of farewell party a popular matinee concert was presented on February 2, 1938, with a surprise program selected by popular demand featuring solos by orchestra members. For his part Mr. Waitt was showcased in the Nocturne from Mendelssohn's "A Midsummer Night's Dream." Fittingly, the season was brought to a close on February 28 with "A German Requiem" by Johannes Brahms.

February 17, 1936

December 9, 1937

On Sunday evening, October 16, 1938, Mr. Waitt and his colleagues, Joseph Ludwig, Charles Dietz, and Lynn Stewart played two horn quartets at Staub Memorial Congregational Church in a special service of appreciation for Pastor Henry G. Dietz. There was also a WPA Portland Federal Symphony Orchestra for one season of concerts held at the Neighbors of Woodcraft auditorium, beginning in January 1939. Misha Pelz, who had conducted the Portland Federal Symphony Band, was the regular conductor and Leslie Hodge guest conducted for two concerts. Leslie Hodge conducted the WPA Portland Federal Symphony Orchestra for one season, from May 1938 through May 1939.

On May 2, 1939, the Oregon Federation of Music Clubs presented Handel's secular oratorio "Semele" with Albert E. Jones conducting a large chorus and a twenty-six piece orchestra drawn from the former Oregon Symphony. Mr. Waitt and Mr. Dietz were the horn players. 

On Thursday, August 10, 1939, a horn quartet was featured in an arrangement of "The Rosary" by Ethelbert Nevin at the concert by the Portland Federal Symphonic Band, conducted by Misha Pelz. The players on this occasion were Mr. Waitt, Mr. Dietz, Del Reeder, and Don Simmons.
On January 16, 1940, the Portland Philharmonic Orchestra gave it's premiere performance at the Portland Municipal Auditorium under the direction of Leslie Hodge. It was sponsored by the Musicians Mutual Association and the city of Portland, with the cooperation of the Oregon Music Teachers' Association, the Oregon Federated Music Clubs and the Oregon Music Project of the WPA for the benefit of unemployed musicians.  The first concert featured the horns in the Overture to "Der Freischutz' by C.M. von Weber. The horn section for the first season comprised Mr. Waitt,  Mr. Reeder, Mr. Dietz, Roger James, and Dr. J. Willis.  On May 21, Mr. Waitt and Mr. Dietz performed the final movement of "Dialogue for Two Horns and Orchestra", K.205 by W.A. Mozart.6 

From July 15 through August 19 weekly summer concerts were once again given by an orchestra composed of former Portland Symphony members, sponsored by a group of prominent citizens and the Summer Symphony Fund, Inc.  Also, horns and trumpets were featured at the WPA Symphonic Band Concert on August 8, in an arrangement by Charles Dietz of "Love at First Glance" by band director Misha Pelz. The horn players were Mr. Waitt, Mr. Dietz, and Mr. Reeder.

Notice in the above photo, Mr. Dietz also plays a five-valve horn of the Sansone design.
On January 7, 1941 the Portland Philharmonic gave the first Portland performance of the horn-prominent third symphony ("Rhenish") of Robert Schumann. Two weeks later the horn section was featured accompanying bass-baritone Sigurd Nilssen in "Le Cor" by Ange Flegier and the Third Symphony ("Eroica") by Beethoven.7

A concert held at the Norse Hall on March 8 for the benefit of British war relief in Oregon included horn quartets performed by Mr. Waitt, Mr. Dietz, Laird Brodie, and Roger James.

During the summer of 1942, Mr. Waitt was an instructor at the new Mt. Hood Music Camp.

On Sunday afternoon, November 18, 1945, Mr Waitt performed the "Nocturne" by Franz Strauss and accompanied the choir of the First Congregational Church in "Art Thou Weary, Heavy Laden?" ("Nocturne" from "Midsummer Night's Dream" by Mendelssohn) on a Thanksgiving program  at the Portland Art Museum.8
In January 1947, nine years and a World War after the demise of the Portland Symphony, William A. Mills, executive secretary of the National Association of Music Merchants urged support for reviving the orchestra at the opening session of the music industry regional trade conference held at the Multnomah Hotel. The following month the Portland Symphony Society laid the foundations for a 1947 - 1948 season, based on public demand. Former conductor, Willem van Hoogstratten, was located in Tutzing, Germany, however he was forbidden to play or conduct in public due to his wartime activities.  In April it was announced that Werner Janssen would be the new conductor. The new season would have ten Monday night concerts, nine Sunday afternoon matinees, and four children's concerts in Portland with run-out concerts to various cities around the state. The Sunday matinees would also be broadcast on the local radio station. The first public performance would be held on Monday evening, November 3, with a private concert a week earlier for members of the Society and guests. Of course, Mr. Waitt was appointed principal horn, along with many of his colleagues from the original Portland Symphony. During Mr. Waitt's tenure the orchestra had the following conductors: Werner Janssen (1947-1949), James Sample (1949-1953, guest conductors (1953-1955),  Theodore Bloomfield (1955-1959),  Piero Bellugi (1959-1961),  and Jacques Singer (1962 - 1972).

March, 1948
(left to right) Lyn Stewart, Charles Dietz, Del Reeder, and Mr. Waitt

On March 25, 1948 the Portland Symphony Woodwind Quintet presented a program to the Oregon College of Education at Monmouth, Oregon. The program included the Quintet, op. 71 by Beethoven; the Piano Quintet, by Mozart; "Passacaille" by Adrien Barthe; "Pastorale", op 14 by Gabriel Pierné; and "Allegro Leggiero" by Charles Lefebvre; and "La Cheminée du Roi René" by Mihaud. Members of the quintet were Arthur Hoberman, flute; Albert Klinger, clarinet; Arnold Koblentz, oboe; Gloria Solloway, Bassoon; Mr. Waitt, horn; and Ariel Rubstein, piano.

Mr. Waitt and Charles Dietz were the featured soloists with the Portland Symphony in the first Brandenburg Concerto by J.S. Bach on November 27, 1950.

January 18, 1952
A new chamber symphony known as the "Little Orchestra" comprising about thirty Portland professional musicians conducted by Eugene Fuerst was founded in 1953. Three concerts were scheduled initially in April and May. Programs included the horn-prominent "A Siegfried Idyll" by Richard Wagner, "Farewell Symphony" by F.J. Haydn, and "Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celesta" by Bela Bartok in which Mr. Waitt assisted the percussion.9  Unfortunately, the orchestra, although very accomplished and having positive reviews, only existed for the three concerts of this first season.

August 27, 1950

September 10, 1951

March 22, 1959
An article in the Portland Oregonian for May 13, 1956 highlighted the financial plight of the Symphony's musicians. That year, average income was about $1000 per year.  According to a report by the City Club of Portland, the Portland Symphony's base pay for the 1959 Season was $924, which is equivalent to $7800 in 2017 according to the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Another article in the August 8, 1962 issue of the Oregonian placed the average wage of orchestra members at $1200 - $1300.   Of course, as a long-tenured principal horn, Mr. Waitt probably would have been paid somewhat more. Mr. Waitt supplemented his Portland Symphony income by working as a food clerk in the local Safeway market (right).  His regular hours were from noon to 9:00 p.m. except on days where he had Symphony obligations. Over the years he turned down opportunities for advancement because it would have conflicted with the orchestra schedule.

May 13, 1956 

August 22, 1962

On January 31, 1961 members of the Portland Symphony presented a concert of contemporary and eighteenth century music for wind quintet and horns. In quintets by Anton Reicha and William Bergsma the horn parts were  played by Russell White. Mr. Waitt was present in the Sonata for Four Horns by Carlos Chavez and the "Hymn and Fuguing Tune" number 12 for three horns by Henry Cowell. 10
On September 9, 1931 Mr. Waitt married Mildred Lorraine Longfield in Oak Park Illinois. The couple had four children: Lorraine E. Waitt (ca. 1933 - ),  Louise Jeanette Waitt (1934 - 2011), Ronald E. Waitt (ca. 1936 - ), and Roger B. Waitt (1937 - ).  John Waitt died on January 18, 1963 in Portland, Oregon having just passed his fifty-fifth birthday. Mildred Waitt died in 1985.


Special thanks to the Hargrove Music Library of the University of California at Berkeley for providing the June 11, 1940 program book of the Portland Philharmonic.

1. [Reserved for education paragraph]

2. Mr. Waitt's colleagues and their years in the Chicago Symphony horn section were Friedrich Wilhelm Heinrich Frank (1901-1932, (Principal 1923-1927)), Pellegrino Lecce (Principal 1927-1936),  Karl (Carl) Albrecht (1898-1930), Harry Johnson (1914-1937),  Max Paul Pottag (1907-1946), and possibly Joseph E. Mourek (1929-1975) and Charles Tryner (1925-1927).

3. It hasn't been determined exactly when Mr. Waitt moved to Portland, Oregon. According to one later newspaper article he had been in Portland since 1929,  however he is found in the 1930 U.S. census as single and living with his parents in Chicago with his occupation as  "musician/theatre." His father, Albion Waitt, was a clerk for the railroad and perhaps was allowed family discounts on tickets which would allow Mr. Waitt to travel more frequently between Portland and Chicago. Mr. Waitt married Mildred Longfield in Oak Park Illinois on September 9, 1931. That same year the Oregon Symphony Society, which was the organization supporting the Oregon Symphony Orchestra, nearly went bankrupt as a result of the deepening Great Depression. It was only saved by a plea for donations to its members.  

4. These concerts proved to be very popular and attracted attention beyond Portland.  In 1938 guest conductors included Jose Iturbi, Macklin Marrow, Willem Van Den Burg, Eugene Goosens, Richard, Lert, and Artur Rodzikski. The summer concerts continued until 1942.

5. In fact those two years would extend to ten before the Portland Symphony Orchestra would be revived. With the withdrawal of the Portland Symphony Society, the Portland district of the Oregon Music Teachers' Association proposed a fund drive to raise $25,000 for the benefit of the Orchestra, apparently to no avail.

6. For the second season, a series of twelve concert dates beginning on September 24, 1940 was listed in the June 11, 1940 program book. An impressive list of soloists for the 1940-1941 season was announced on September 20, 1940 with the first concert now scheduled for October 8 to be conducted again by Leslie Hodge.  Eight days later however, Mr. Hodge announced his resignation stating that the sponsors had failed to obtain proper financing. Danish-born Charles Lautrup was selected as his successor and the opening concert was now set for November 19, backed by a $3000 guarantee from the Chamber of Commerce. The season concluded on May 13, 1941, with the first Portland performance of the "Requiem" by W. A. Mozert, never a good sign. Mr. Lautrup was re-appointed for the 1941-1942 season and the first concert was scheduled for November 21. The season was apparently cut short however, by the U.S. entry into World War II.

7. The 1940-1941 season concluded on May 13, 1941, with the first Portland performance of the "Requiem" by W. A. Mozart, never a good sign. Mr. Lautrup was re-appointed for the 1941-1942 season and the first concert was scheduled for November 21. The season was apparently cut short however, by the U.S. entry into World War II.

8. "Art thou weary, heavy laden" is undoubtedly the anthem for mixed voices with organ accompaniment on the text by J. M. Neale arranged by Herbert Austin Fricker on the Nocturne from Sommernachtstraum by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, published by Carl Fischer, New York,  1940.

9. Surprisingly, it was not Mr. Waitt but his colleague, Charles Dietz, who was the soloist in the "Serenade for Tenor, Horn, and Strings" by Benjamin Britten on the April 26, 1953 concert of the Little Orchestra. Oregonian music editor, Hilmar Grondahl wrote "Charles Dietz gave the instrument such a sure and fleet and beguiling a character as he played, that one felt honored at being in the balcony at serenading time."

10. Russell White succeeded Mr. Waitt as principal horn of the Portland Sympnony. Exactly which part Mr. Waitt  played in the ensemble horn pieces is not clear. The other horn players were Mr. White, Mr. Dietz, and Marion Le Barre.


City Club of Portland (Portland, Or.), "Portland Symphony Orchestra", City Club of Portland,  1960

Gough, Peter, Sounds of the New Deal: The Federal Music Project in the West, University of Illinois Press, 2015

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