John Mack, famous Cleveland oboist, is dead

Today’s Cleveland Plain Dealer has an obituary for John Mack, who died on Sunday at the age of 78, after surgery and further complications for brain cancer. He was the principal oboist of the Cleveland Orchestra from 1965 until his retirement in 2001. He was revered by performers and former students and audiences. Probably no other oboe teacher has as many students in prominent positions in orchestras, including the Boston Symphony, Cleveland Orchestra, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, among others.

I only met John Mack once or twice, following performances he attended that I gave with my English horn performing colleague Cary Ebli, now English horn in the Toronto Symphony, who was a Mack student, and continued to play for Mr. Mack regularly when Cary came to Cleveland to visit. I was always even more nervous than usual if I knew that John Mack was going to be in the audience, because I never wanted to let Cary down in front of his discriminating teacher. Cary’s many stories about Mr. Mack gave me an “outsider’s insider” view of John Mack as a demanding teacher who was willing to lavish attention on his students to make them the best that they could be.

I also knew him as a chamber music partner to the late John D. Herr, organist/director of music at Plymouth Church of Shaker Heights. They gave countless recitals together, when ended with Herr’s death several years ago.

Like all the best teachers, it is ultimately their students and the students’ students who continue their teacher’s legacy. John Mack will be remembered not only for the brilliance of his own performing, but also for his teaching legacy.

One thought on “John Mack, famous Cleveland oboist, is dead

  1. For the past couple of years I have found myself cruising the web for comments about John Mack. I attended the John Mack Oboe Camp each year beginning in 1997, and I only regret that I did not discover it sooner. John Mack’s legacy lives on, I am happy to say. There was no camp in 2006, since maestro was terminally ill at the time. In 2007 and continuing this summer, the camp mirrors the format as when John Mack was there. Everyone agreed that there was no one oboist who could fill his shoes – indeed, it takes at least two to tackle the role of instructor. Not surprisingly, these have been students of John Mack. In 2007, Frank Rosenwein and Jeff Rathbun taught at the Legacy Camp, and for this summer of 2008, the shoes will be filled by Nathan Hughes and Scott Bell. The staff has expanded to include its Director, Danna Sundet and Thom Moore, both Mack students as well. Danna manages the running of the camp, while Thom, Producer and Senior Recording Editor with Telarc, shares his knowledge in recording with campers whose future may hinge on having as good a recording as possible to submit for auditions. JMOC is not the same, but what a tribute to our teacher! I wonder if others miss him so much – I long to hear him just once more – and I barely knew the man. An entire generation of oboists can be thankful for his willingness to share his love for the instrument, and an entire generation of musicians are richer for his tutelage.

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