By Eric Dundon
St. Louis Symphony Orchestra celebrates the careers of two retiring orchestra musicians at the conclusion of the 2022/2023 season: Assistant Principal Double Bassist Chris Carson (49 years of service) and Associate Principal Trumpet player Tom Drake (36 years of service) who have performed with the SLSO for a combined 85 years.
Chris Carson, Assistant Principal Double Bass, joined the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra in 1974 under Music Director Walter Susskind. Carson has performed under the baton of six Music Directors: Walter Susskind, Jerzy Semkow, Leonard Slatkin, Hans Vonk, David Robertson, and Stéphane Denève. During his tenure with the SLSO, Carson served on various committees, including the original version of what is now the Orchestra Council. He participated in multiple conductor searches and helped create the Succession Committee. He is the only current SLSO musician who attended the orchestra’s first international tour in 1976.
Prior to joining the SLSO, Carson performed six seasons in the Lyric Opera and Grant Park Orchestras, serving as Principal Double Bass during his final two seasons with both orchestras. He briefly attended Northwestern University before becoming a member of the SLSO.
Tom Drake, Associate Principal Trumpet, has served as Assistant Principal, Associate Principal, and Acting Principal Trumpet with the SLSO since he joined the orchestra in 1987. Drake has been an active committee participant since joining the SLSO, serving on the Musicians’ Council, Negotiating, Pension, Media, Broadcast, Long-Range Planning, Travel, Players’, Artistic, and Archive committees.
From 1996 to 2000, he helped produce and edit the orchestra’s National Public Radio broadcasts. In the mid-2000s, he produced an eight-CD retrospective of Hans Vonk's tenure which garnered an Edison Award (The Netherlands’ equivalent of a Grammy) for Best Historical Recording.
“We are so very grateful for all that Chris and Tom have done for our wonderful orchestra and the St. Louis community through their extraordinary tenures,” Stéphane Denève, SLSO Music Director, said. “I admire their meaningful and friendly musical dedication, their deeply poetic curiosity, always-prepared musicianship, and remarkable personal integrity.”
Eric Dundon is the SLSO’s Public Relations Director.