The Brooklyn native had the longest career of any clarinetist in a major orchestra, serving for 62 years
Stanley Drucker, who was a clarinetist in the New York Philharmonic for six decades, recently passed away, aged 93. Of all the major American orchestras, Drucker had one of the longest careers of any wind player — giving over 10,000 performances and appearing on a number of recordings.
Born in Brooklyn to Austro-Hungarian parents, Drucker was initially inspired to take up the clarinet by Benny Goodman. At the age of 10, he went to learn from Leon Russianoff, who taught at The Juilliard School and at the Manhattan School of Music. After just six years of study, Drucker won a place in the Indianapolis Symphony, before he had even finished high school.
In 1948, at the age of 19, Drucker took up a place in the New York Philharmonic as Assistant Principal, rising to the Principal post in 1960. He was to stay there until his retirement at the conclusion of the 2008/2009 season, at which time he received a Guinness World Record for the longest career as an orchestral clarinetist.
Alongside his impressive performing career, Drucker made a number of accomplished recordings. He was nominated for a Grammy on two separate occasions: for a recording of Copland’s Concerto for Clarinet, Strings, Harp and Piano (under Leonard Bernstein), and of John Corigliano’s Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra (under Zubin Mehta) — a work commissioned especially for Drucker.
Drucker is survived by his wife, Naomi Lewis, as well as their two children and two grandchildren. Our condolences to his family, friends, and colleagues.
“I will miss Stanley as a friend, a mentor who took risks, a colleague who helped me gain the confidence to be his replacement for four years when he retired and then go off to Principal in the Houston Symphony, and as a family man,” wrote Mark Nuccio, one of Drucker’s colleagues in the New York Philharmonic. “He was a very proud man that bled Blue and Purple (Buffet Clarinets and Vandoren Reeds) and was as loyal as they come.”
“He’s a legend,” said conductor Gustavo Dudamel of Drucker in 2007. “The history of the orchestra is in him.”