J. Ryan Selberg, Principal Cello of the Utah Symphony, died at his home on Sunday, July 14, shortly after being diagnosed with brain cancer.
He was 66.
Keith Lockhart, the organization’s music director from 1998 to 2009, is in Park City this week to conduct several concerts in the Utah Symphony’s Deer Valley Music Festival. He said he will dedicate Wednesday’s performance at St. Mary’s Church in Selberg’s honor.
"The speed of [Selberg’s] demise shocked everyone," Lockhart said of Selberg, adding that the cellist’s versatility and curiosity always impressed him. Several times a year during the maestro’s tenure, Lockhart said, Selberg would send him scratchy, out-of-print recordings of repertoire that he recommended the orchestra perform. Lockhart said as many as four to five times, he followed Selberg’s suggestions and added them to the orchestra’s schedule.
In a statement, Utah Symphony | Utah Opera President and CEO Melia Tourangeau said, "Losing Ryan is tragic for all of us." She continued: "This loss is one for the entire community, not just our organization."
Selberg joined Utah Symphony as Principal Cello in 1975, according to a statement from Pat Richards, chair of the US|UO board.
"We are incredibly saddened," Richards added. "Ryan was a great musician, accomplished soloist and talented leader. He was an integral part of our orchestra ... and leaves a legacy which will continue to inspire us."
In a 2008 interview with The Salt Lake Tribune, Selberg spoke of his audition for the late, legendary Utah Symphony music director Maurice Abravanel. "Abravanel was looking not only for good musicians but good people," Selberg said, "Hopefully, I was ‘good people.’ "He also spent 14 years as a faculty member at the University of Utah.
The Los Angeles-raised Selberg’s first cello teacher claimed Selberg had absolutely no talent whatever, Selberg recounted to The Tribune, but his mother didn’t believe this assessment and found another teacher, who had played with the Utah Symphony before moving to the Los Angeles area.
Selberg was scheduled to perform Hungarian composer Erno Dohnányi’s "Konzerstuck in D major for cello and orchestra" on Aug. 7 as part of the Music Festival. An updated program for the concert will be announced at a later date.
It has been a summer of tragedies for Utah Symphony personnel. The 22-year-old son of bassist Jamie Allyn died in a boating accident at Bear Lake in late June, and the two-year-old son of horn player Ron Beitel also died in late June in a plane crash. "It hurts even from afar," said Lockhart, conductor of the Boston Pops, of the calamities.
Selberg is survived by Joy, his wife of 43 years.
A service commemorating his life will be held at First Presbyterian Church, 12 C Street, Salt Lake City, on Sunday, July 21, 2013, at 4 p.m.
In lieu of flowers, the family asked that donations be directed to the Utah Symphony (www.utahsymphony.org/support).
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