Dec. 4, 1922 - Dec. 27, 2011
Originally published : The Enquirer
Written by Janelle Gelfand
Re-printed with permission
WYOMING – Jack H. Wellbaum never tired of performing the piccolo solo in “The Stars and Stripes Forever.”
“That was fun for all of us to hear,” said his daughter Lisa Geber of Shaker Heights, Ohio, retired principal harpist of the Cleveland Orchestra. She learned to play the flute from her father. “He tried to teach it to me, but I never played it as well as Dad played it.”
Two decades after he served in the U.S. Navy in the Pacific during World War II, one of Mr. Wellbaum’s happiest memories was returning to Okinawa, Japan, and performing “The Stars and Stripes Forever” for 8,000 servicemen during the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra’s 1966 around-the-world tour.
Mr. Wellbaum was a member of the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra for 40 years, serving as the solo piccolo player from 1950 to 1988, and as the orchestra’s personnel manager from 1974 to 1990. He was passionate about his family, his students, his colleagues and his music.
“He served his country with honor and bravery, conducted his relationships and business with honesty and integrity, and he made music – beautiful music,” said a former student, flutist Nina Perlove, executive director of the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in Cincinnati.
Growing up in a musical home, “music was the family business,” so to speak,” said Mr. Wellbaum’s son Ray Wellbaum of Boston, orchestra manager of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. “He was a man of many wonderful attributes, including loyalty, fairness and he was very loving. ... He was a hard act to follow as a role model for me.”
Mr. Wellbaum was “an amazing father,” said his daughter, Laura Kalaitzoglou of Finneytown, senior support specialist at the School for Creative & Performing Arts. “He was caring, unconditionally loving, a strong leader, protector and provider. He took life with a great sense of humor, all the time hoping we would become wise. Dad will be deeply missed by our whole family, his friends, music colleagues and students."
Mr. Wellbaum died on Dec. 27 at The Christ Hospital following a long illness. He was 89.
Mr. Wellbaum was born on Dec. 4, 1922 in Greenville, Ohio, where his mother was the town piano teacher and his father was the deputy sheriff of Darke County. He studied flute with Robert Cavally, and was still in high school when he began playing second flute with the Dayton Philharmonic.
“He was one of a kind,” said Linda Wellbaum, his wife of 65 years. “His personality was outgoing and charismatic, and he had a wonderful sense of humor.”
He met his wife, a harpist, at Cincinnati’s College of Music. At the same time, Mr. Wellbaum was in the Naval Reserve. The war interrupted his education, and their courtship, for 44 months. Mr. Wellbaum served as a lieutenant in the Navy on the USS Neshoba in an amphibious assault group. On Easter morning 1944, he took part in the fourth wave of the assault on Okinawa.
After his distinguished service, he and his wife married in 1946.
Mr. Wellbaum graduated from the College of Music two years later. He became principal flutist of the Dayton Philharmonic for two seasons while teaching instrumental music in public schools throughout Cincinnati. Cincinnati Symphony music director Thor Johnson hired Mr. Wellbaum in 1950.
As a performer, his playing was widely admired.
“What I most remember about Jack’s piccolo playing was his elegance of style, the clarity and sweetness of his tone, and the finesse of his execution,” said Kyril Magg, retired CSO flutist and a friend of 39 years. “Rossini, which he recorded with (former CSO music director) Thomas Schippers, Shostakovich with Walter Susskind and Ravel, recorded with Jesus Lopez-Cobos, were filled with examples of these qualities.”
One of Mr. Wellbaum’s most memorable experiences was the orchestra’s 10-week world tour under then-music director Max Rudolf, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Mrs. Wellbaum joined the tour as harpist. For her husband, it was “a life-changing experience” because of the many cultures they experienced, she said.
Mr. Wellbaum straddled the two worlds of musician and management, as CSO personnel manager and before that, as vice president of Cincinnati Musicians’ Association Local No. 1 (1962 to 1974).
“He’s one of the important reasons the orchestra is what it is today,” said Steven Monder, who served as CEO of the Cincinnati Symphony from 1976 through June 2008. “He never had a problem separating his head from his heart, because they were the same. He was a first-class musician, someone whom the musicians trusted, and I not only could trust, but relied upon for guidance.”
Mr. Wellbaum taught generations of students who have won competitions and who hold major posts in orchestras throughout the United States, Europe and South America.
In 1960, Mr. Wellbaum joined the faculty of the University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music as adjunct professor of flute and piccolo. His Monday night piccolo master class at CCM became the stuff of legend. He also served on the faculty of Miami University in Oxford.
He was known for mentoring students and always kept an eye out for helping them find a job.
“He was a very nurturing person to me as a young undergraduate, as I began performing with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra,” said Peter Landgren, CCM dean and a French horn player. “I was always amazed at how he balanced his onstage performing and organizational responsibilities with professionalism and elan.”
Mr. Wellbaum co-wrote two books that are essential reading to piccolo players: “Facing the Maestro: A Guide to Orchestral Auditions” (American Symphony Orchestra League; 1983) and “Orchestral Excerpts for Piccolo with Piano Accompaniment” with Martha Rearick (Theodore Presser; 1999).
Besides the Cincinnati Symphony, Mr. Wellbaum performed in the community as a member of the Heritage Chamber Quartet for nine years, with harpsichordist Eiji Hashimoto, oboist Adrian Gnam and bassist Barry Green.
The National Flute Association presented Mr. Wellbaum with its highest honor, the NFA Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2000. In 1985, CCM honored Mr. Wellbaum with the Distinguished Alumni Award.
In addition to his wife and three children, survivors include six grandchildren.
Services have been held.