Steven Witser, principal trombonist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, died of an apparent heart attack Monday night in Pasadena, the orchestra announced. He was 48.
“The shock of Steve’s sudden and unexpected death has robbed us of one of our most beloved and respected musicians,” Deborah Borda, president and chief executive of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, said in a statement. “He was not only a wonderful player, but a great friend and colleague and very active in the organization. He will be deeply missed.”
Witser joined the Philharmonic as principal trombonist in September 2007. Before that he was assistant principal trombonist and acting principal trombonist of the Cleveland Orchestra.
A native of Oakland, Witser was born Aug. 22, 1960.
In an interview with the Cleveland Plain Dealer newspaper some years ago, Witser said his mother wanted him to play an instrument but not trumpet, which his brother had already taken up. Witser said he thought of playing drums until the fourth grade, when he found himself with a trombone.
“Everyone picked up an instrument,” he told the Plain Dealer. “Ignorance is bliss.”
In 1981, Witser earned his bachelor of music degree and performer’s certificate at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, N.Y. That same year, he was a prizewinner in the Munich International Solo Competition. In 1988, he won second prize at the Geneva International Competition for Musical Performers.
Witser joined the Cleveland Orchestra in 1989. He also played with the Center City Brass Quintet and other ensembles.
He is survived by his wife, Marta Jasberg; his parents, Robert and Sharon Witser of Oakland, and a brother, Kenneth Witser.
The L.A. Philharmonic’s May 30 concert at Walt Disney Concert Hall will be dedicated to his memory, and the orchestra will perform a short opening piece in his honor.
Funeral arrangements are pending.