Carnegie Mellon University

James Gorton

October 01, 2018

Volunteer of the Month: James Gorton

By Jay Farrell

Osher at CMU Study Leader James Gorton started playing the oboe in fifth grade. He was trying to decide which instrument he wanted to play in his Spring City, PA, elementary school band a week after his parents had gone to a Philadelphia Orchestra concert. His mother was particularly impressed with the oboe section, and she suggested, “Jim, why don’t you try the oboe?”

“I loved the duck part in Peter and the Wolf,” he told me, “so I thought I’d give the oboe a try.” Thus a career was born.

Jim is teaching two classes this semester for Osher at CMU, The Genius of Leonard Bernstein, a celebration of the Maestro’s centennial year, looking at his career as conductor, pianist, composer, and educator, and Gone with the Winds, a useful introduction (I took it last year) to the different sounds and functions of orchestral wind instruments (clarinet, bassoon, flute, and oboe). Jim began playing with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra in 1971, when he joined the Orchestra for its inaugural concert at Heinz Hall.

He retired as Co-Principal Oboist in 2012. He continues to play with the PSO on occasion, including Music Director Manfred Honeck’s 60th birthday concert and the Bernstein Celebration this season, on both English horn and oboe. He continues to teach performance classes at both CMU’s and Duquesne University’s schools of music. His wife, Gretchen Van Hoesen, is Principal Harpist for the PSO, and his daughter Heidi fulfills the same role with the Toronto Symphony.

You can still register for the last two classes in James Gorton’s Osher for CMU course The Genius of Leonard Bernstein (Class ID# 2517), offered in the Kresge Auditorium at CMU’s College of Fine Arts, Wednesdays at 1:15, October 10 and 17.