In Memoriam: Don Davis, principal trombone (1955–2017)

Feb 2, 2017 12:23:53 PM / by Benjamin Zander

Benjamin Zander

Don DavisDon Davis was a “hot” 21-year-old trombone student at NEC when he joined the Boston Civic Symphony in 1978, after which he became a charter member of the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra and played principal trombone for all of its 38 years.

After his first bout with cancer in 2008, Don adopted “carpe diem” as his motto and lived a full musical and family life, until finally three weeks ago he lost the long struggle with the disease that he continued to fight long after his doctors had ceased to treat him.  “Take me off this concert,” he told Tony D’Amico, our personnel manager, in November, “but I’ll definitely be back for Bruckner 9. Wouldn’t miss it for the world!”

Wistia video thumbnail - Sibelius 7 Don Davis Tribute

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Sibelius' Symphony No. 7, with Don Davis, trombone


Don Davis, Don Rankin (tuba) and Mark Rohr (Bass trombone) were the longest serving low brass section in any orchestra in the country.  During that time there were many towering performances - Mahler Symphonies, especially the Third, Don Quixote (on tenor tuba), several Bruckner symphonies, but, perhaps most thrilling of all, the searing 22 minutes of the Sibelius 7th - one of the most challenging trombone parts in the repertoire.  A music critic in South Africa wrote that Don’s was the finest rendition of it that he had ever heard.

Don DavisWe, his musical family, extend our warm friendship to his family. His colleagues in the orchestra, and many admirers in the music world, will miss Don for his deep devotion to the art of music, his burnished sound, and his preternatural formality and gentleness. 

We dedicate this performance of Bruckner’s 9th to Don, who “wouldn’t have missed it for the world.”



Ben Zander

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Benjamin Zander

Written by Benjamin Zander

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