November 22, 1963

It wasn’t until I checked the date on my Macbook while writing an email that I realized that today was the 51st anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I found that a little disturbing, as the realization of the anniversary came to me without my looking it up for years and years. 40 years ago it would have been impossible to imagine an America in which every anniversary of that event was not at the forefront of all minds.

It’s sometimes hard for me to remember that many of my current colleagues weren’t even born when Kennedy was killed in Dallas by a former US Marine who had defected to the Soviet Union and then returned home to Texas. Those of us who were alive and past infancy in 1963 remember that day vividly. I was sitting in 8th grade Spanish class when the PA system came on with what we found out later was a direct feed off radio. It took a few minutes for us to figure out just what was going on. It might have been the single most disorienting and terrifying day of my entire life; at least I can hope so.

One of the most memorable items on YouTube regarding the Kennedy assassination is a recording of a live radio feed from a concert by the Boston Symphony, covering both Erich Leinsdorf’s announcement to the audience and the orchestra’s performance of the slow movement of the Eroica. It’s worth listening to, not least because of the audience’s audible shock and dismay. 51 years ago, of course, no one was checking their smartphones, so the news came as real news to the 2,000 or so Bostonians in attendance – some of whom undoubtedly knew Kennedy personally.


About the author

Robert Levine
Robert Levine

Robert Levine has been the Principal Violist of the Milwaukee Symphony since September 1987. Before coming to Milwaukee Mr. Levine had been a member of the Orford String Quartet, Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Toronto, with whom he toured extensively throughout Canada, the United States, and South America. Prior to joining the Orford Quartet, Mr. Levine had served as Principal Violist of The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra for six years. He has also performed with the San Francisco Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, and the Oklahoma City Symphony, as well as serving as guest principal with the orchestras of Indianapolis and Hong Kong.

He has performed as soloist with the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, The Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, the Oklahoma City Symphony, the London Symphony of Canada, the Midsummer Mozart Festival (San Francisco), and numerous community orchestras in Northern California and Minnesota. He has also been featured on American Public Radio's nationally broadcast show "St. Paul Sunday Morning" on several occasions.

Mr. Levine has been an active chamber musician, having performed at the Festival Rolandseck in Germany, the Grand Teton Music Festival, the Palm Beach Festival, the "Strings in the Mountains" Festival in Colorado, and numerous concerts in the Twin Cities and Milwaukee. He has also been active in the field of new music, having commissioned and premiered works for viola and orchestra from Minnesota composers Janika Vandervelde and Libby Larsen.

Mr. Levine was chairman of the International Conference of Symphony and Opera Musicians from 1996 to 2002 and currently serves as President of the Milwaukee Musicians Association, Local 8 of the American Federation of Musicians, and as a member of the Board of Directors of the League of American Orchestras. He has written extensively about issues concerning orchestra musicians for publications of ICSOM, the AFM, the Symphony Orchestra Institute, and the League of American Orchestras.

Mr. Levine attended Stanford University and the Institute for Advanced Musical Studies in Switzerland. His primary teachers were Aaron Sten and Pamela Goldsmith. He also studied with Paul Doctor, Walter Trampler, Bruno Giuranna, and David Abel.

He lives with his wife Emily and his son Sam in Glendale.

Leave a Reply