Dr. James Gholson, Jr., Principal Clarinetist, Retires from the Memphis Symphony Orchestra

May 18, 2012

Sandy D'Amato, host of the Memphis Symphony Radio Hour, talks with outgoing principal clarinetist Jim Gholson.

When Dr. James Gholson, Jr. announced plans to retire from the Memphis Symphony Orchestra at the end of the 2011-12 season, the entire MSO family paused for reflection. An inspired and talented musician, Jim's presence in the orchestra has spanned five decades.

Memphis' principal clarinetist since the mid-70s, he has been a consistent friend, mentor and teacher to many players from many directions, on a path traveled from modest community centers to institutions of higher learning. Jim is a proud son who has distinguished himself academically and professionally, and he is a proud father who has imparted a love for music and artistic excellence to his own talented son.

Jim's career with the MSO began under founding music director Vincent deFrank, and he has watched deFrank's budding organization bloom into a professional orchestra recognized for stretching the boundaries of the industry.

“My experience in Memphis has been terrific,” says Jim. “I really loved working with Alan Balter. He was cool and classy. Alan liked working with the community, and the idea of symphony collaborations started with him – he was great that way.”

Jim also deeply appreciated David Loebel's interest in new music, and he highly regards the talent of current music director Mei-Ann Chen.What else of Jim? In addition to playing professionally with the MSO and other ensembles, Jim teaches at the University of Memphis, maintains the UNITUS (a computer system dedicated to education through electronic communication) website, composes music and is working on his second novel. So next season, when we look to the woodwinds on the Cannon Center stage, we will have to speculate on what exactly Jim is doing in his retirement.

Is he traveling to experience all the wonders his busy working life kept at bay? Is he setting up a speed reading clinic for inner city kids? Is he researching on battlefields? Regardless of our musings, this we will know – Jim Gholson has music in his heart, literature on his mind and humanity in his soul. He is doing just fine.

This special thank-you to Jim was written by Rhonda Causie, Director of Grants & Innovation for the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, available at http://goo.gl/AzTD5.