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Robert Vernon to be honored with Cleveland Orchestra’s Distinguished Service Award Award

Twenty-First Annual Award to be presented at Cleveland Orchestra concert on Saturday evening, October 8, 2016

Release:  September 23, 2016

CLEVELAND ─ On Saturday, October 8, 2016, Robert Vernon, former principal violist of The Cleveland Orchestra and now holding the title Principal Viola Emeritus, will receive The Cleveland Orchestra’s twenty-first annual Distinguished Service Award.  The Musical Arts Association, the governing non-profit organization of The Cleveland Orchestra, established the annual Distinguished Service Award in 1996 to recognize ongoing and extraordinary service to the Orchestra.  Mr. Vernon will receive the award at the start of the Orchestra’s Saturday evening concert at Severance Hall on October 8, beginning at 8:00 p.m.

Robert Vernon was invited to join The Cleveland Orchestra as principal viola in1976.  He retired this past August, following forty years of dedicated service.  During his tenure, Mr. Vernon became the longest-serving string principal in the Orchestra’s history.  He played in more than 4,500 concerts with the Orchestra and recorded more than 250 works — including much of the entire standard repertoire — with five different record labels, and performed on over 110 concert tours with The Cleveland Orchestra.

“The Distinguished Service Award was created to recognize the very best of everything and everyone that makes The Cleveland Orchestra what it is,” says Dennis W. LaBarre, the Orchestra’s Board President.  “From the artists onstage to the volunteers, donors, and staff offstage, the Orchestra’s greatness is a community effort.  That said, it is particularly meaningful when this award goes to a musician in the ensemble, and there is no one more deserving than Bob Vernon.  His forty years of service as principal violist are a living testament to dedication, excellence, service, and leadership.  We have gained much for having enjoyed his presence, his personality, his perception and persistence here among us.”

“Bob Vernon exemplifies so many aspects of what makes The Cleveland Orchestra very special,” says Franz Welser-Möst, Music Director of The Cleveland Orchestra.  “These shared characteristics include his unrelenting and focused work ethic, the purity of his musical craft, his leadership in creating a seamless viola section and in elevating the quality of the ensemble across the entire orchestra.  It was a pleasure and privilege to work with Bob the past twenty-five years, from my first visits to Cleveland as a guest conductor through our collaborations together the past decade and a half.  It is equally wonderful to know that through his teaching, his legacy continues on, here in Cleveland and around the world.”

“I am deeply honored and humbled by this special recognition and award,” says Robert Vernon. I can think of no other orchestra in the world with whom I would have wanted to devote my orchestral career, and certainly none where it would have been so completely rewarding.  Making music with my colleagues in The Cleveland Orchestra over these many years, especially for the people of Northeast Ohio, has been an immense privilege. I am truly grateful.  Thank you.”

About Robert Vernon and The Cleveland Orchestra
For four decades, Bob’s work — as a musician and teacher, as a section leader, soloist, and member of the ensemble — has embodied the dedication to musical excellence and collaborative music-making for which The Cleveland Orchestra is renowned throughout the world.  His unequalled musicianship, paired with an assured self-modesty in service to his art, leads by example.  His diplomatic yet firm leadership features a natural charm combined with consummate musical craft.  He has always been generous with his time, professionally and personally.  He ably served under three music directors and performed with countless guest conductors and artists, and was embraced as a colleague by nearly 300 musician-members of The Cleveland Orchestra across his forty-year tenure.  Bob appeared as soloist in seventeen different works in over 120 concerts at home in Severance Hall, including three works commissioned for him by The Cleveland Orchestra.  Those solo appearances included tours across the United States and to Europe, and performances at Carnegie Hall, Boston’s Symphony Hall, and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

As a teacher, Bob has co-chaired the viola department at the Cleveland Institute of Music, and continues doing so even after retiring from the Orchestra.  He has also added teaching at New York’s Juilliard School in recent years, and has led masterclasses nationally and internationally, as well as coaching in residencies and at summer music festivals throughout his career.  He has nurtured generations of viola students, helping to foster solid talent into performers of disciplined craft, unexcelled capability, and clear musical understanding.  Bob’s students hold positions as celebrated chamber musicians and teachers, and have won positions in more than 50 major orchestras in North America, Asia, and Europe — including nine positions in the viola section of The Cleveland Orchestra, counting among these the violist chosen to succeed him as section principal.

Beyond his work as a musician onstage, Bob has championed the Orchestra’s education programs and community offerings, including coaching the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra.  He has helped steer the institution forward, serving as a member of the search committee that selected Franz Welser-Möst as the Orchestra’s seventh music director.  His work, dedication, and ultimate legacy have been recognized within his own profession and beyond.  Earlier this year, the American Viola Society presented Bob with its Career Achievement Award “for his work as principal, soloist, chamber musician, and recording artist, and for the breadth and significance of his achievements as a teacher.”

History of the Distinguished Service Award
The Musical Arts Association established the annual Distinguished Service Award in 1996 to recognize ongoing and extraordinary service to The Cleveland Orchestra.  Recipients are chosen from written nominations reviewed by a committee currently chaired by Musical Arts Association Trustee Marguerite B. Humphrey.  Previous Distinguished Service Award recipients are:  Dorothy Humel Hovorka (1996-97), David Zauder (1997-98), Ward Smith (1998-99), Christoph von Dohnányi (1999-2000), Gary Hanson (2000-01), John Mack (2001-02), Richard J. Bogomolny (2002-03), Thomas W. Morris (2003-04), Alex Machaskee (2004-05), Klaus G. Roy (2005-06), John D. Ong (2006-07), Gerald Hughes (2007-08), Louis Lane (2008-09), Clara Taplin Rankin (2009-10), Robert Conrad (2010-11), Richard Weiner (2011-12), Milton and Tamar Maltz (2012-13), Pierre Boulez (2013-14), James D. Ireland III (2014-15), and Rosemary Klena (2015-16.)

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