A Tribute To Orlando Cole

Orlando Cole and me during a masterclass at Curtis in the mid-80s. My sincere thanks to Curtis Institute of Music for providing this photo.

Today, my great mentor, teacher, and colleague, Orlando Cole died peacefully after saying to his nurse, “Well, I’m ready.” “God will come for you in His time,” said his nurse to whom Landy softly replied, “Well, tell Him to hurry.”

Lucid to the end with family by his side they listened to Schubert’s Cello Quintet. He was, even in the end, an inspiration to us all; as human beings, as musicians, and as vibrant spirits.

In my own life, I never met anyone so understanding, generous, and vitally connected to his love of music, family, friends, and his students. I am deeply indebted to his quality as an artist as well as his awe of the great works that we are privileged to play and hear. He was one of a kind and over the course of his wonderfully long and full life; he witnessed so much change since starting out as a young cellist in the late 1920’s.

Orlando Cole

He had opinions of the changes that have taken place, but he had a flexibility of musical perspective that was very rare for any generation, but especially so for the particular generation that grew up with Casals , Feuermann, Piatigorsky, and later, Rose, Du Pre, and Yo Yo Ma. His mission with his students was more aimed to ignite the passion and reverence that he felt so keenly about the great composers. When the discussion would gravitate around the short lifespan of a Mozart or Schubert, Landy would simply point out that Schubert, one of seven children only two of which survived infancy, was lucky to have survived at all. This put us all into a realm of true astonishment of the gift that a man like Schubert had given us.

A man who never once tired of the great works and their challenge to us, esthetically, emotionally, and technically, and who would always find a positive and inspiring way to reach out to his students.

I do, and will, miss him greatly.

11 Responses to A Tribute To Orlando Cole

  1. Eben Harrell February 1, 2010 at 8:44 am #

    What a moving tribute. I’m sure he was proud of how you shared the same love for music with so many.

  2. Lynnharrell March 22, 2010 at 6:58 am #

    Thanks , Eben, my dear son! Dad

  3. Terri April 1, 2010 at 7:51 am #

    I enjoyed your tribute Lynn. I remember seeing you play the Saint Saens in San Diego once and I caught up with you at your signing table after the concert. I explained to you that I was an adult beginner and had purchased the tape you and Orlando made on bowing to help me. You said, “Did you find it confusing?” I said, “Well a little.” And then you said, “Yes, Orlando said it was too confusing.”

    Thanks for the tribute.

  4. Dejan June 17, 2010 at 7:58 am #

    I thank you, let us know how he died peacefully and we will remember him who inspired his musicianship and many technical ideas, i will miss him as such passionate teacher who was almost 90.

    i really thank you mr. Harrell and mr. Cole.

    • lynn harrell June 29, 2010 at 9:15 am #

      Dear Dejan:
      No, Landy was 102 when he died. He just slipped away after saying to his family and nurse “I’m ready!”. He was SO loved and a great musician and teacher: very rare.Lynn Harrell

  5. Jane Harrell September 24, 2010 at 12:14 pm #

    Dearest brother ~

    You were so fortunate to have known, admired, and learned from such a man as Landy. A great performer is always a treasure. And the great performer who is also the great teacher, is a rare find, indeed. I wish I had known him, too. Reading this tribute, I feel as if I almost did. You are certainly following his lead – and your gifts are tremendous. I am so proud to call you my brother as I know that I as well as this world is a far better place because of you. Your loving sister, Jane.

  6. Christopher Pegis October 14, 2010 at 7:43 am #

    When a man reaches the age of 102 and is as dedicated a teacher as Orlando Cole was, they touch so very many lives it would be impossible to count! I was indeed fortunate to have studied with him and I remember very clearly not just the lessons but fatherly way he worked with me. How many times I remember him reaching across the room and tapping me on the head with his bow. “What are you doing”? he would ask with humor and patience. I came to love those “Taps” because though I knew I was about to be re directed, I knew I was safe at the same time. He was very hard on me as a student but I never walked into his studio afraid. Quite the contrary, in fact I couldn’t wait to see what he would say. He was always the same, and I mean that in the best way. Every day I saw him, he was upbeat, happy, excited about teaching or coaching, always glad to see or talk to any of his students. A truly amazing man.

  7. caroline April 7, 2011 at 3:34 pm #

    Mr. Harrell, Luckily, I’ve heard you perform many times over the years (last time in Santa Fe) & learned much from your performances. your sound is so ravishing & unique that it changed my ideas of what a cello could sound like.
    I’ve had the wonderful good fortune to study with Orlando’s son, David, who must have inherited or absorbed his father’s pedagogical talents and humanity.
    If you answer questions: Do you change the type of strings you use depending on the climate where you’re performing?

  8. Janice Beimford May 9, 2011 at 11:00 am #

    My mom and Orlando were cousins. My grandfather and his mother were twins. Once my mom passed away in 2008, we lost contact. I was so saddened to hear of his passing but at 101 he was blessed with a long and wonderful life. I just came across a CD that he gave my mom the last time we saw him. I have also found a photo of him with my mom and his sister Elizabeth. I will cherish these items even more. I know he is playing for my mom and his family in God’s orchestra and know that his music will ALWAYS live on!

  9. Jason Calloway April 16, 2011 at 7:51 pm #

    Mr. Harrell —

    It has taken me quite some time to grow accustomed to not being able to ring Mr. Cole anytime, when I’ve turned a decent phrase, played or taught Barber or any of his favorite little pieces, remembered something he said, or listened to one of the dozens of Curtis Quartet and recital tapes I have (we once spent a couple weeks in the summer copying old tapes!) — but your remembrances, and Chris’ too, make me smile with pleasure and pride at having been fortunate to be in the orbit of this truly great, old-fashioned gentleman. Mr. Cole was a portrait of decency and class, one of the great inspirations in my life, and I think of him literally every day, as I own and play on his 1992 Michele Ashley copy of the Sleeping Beauty. And Mike, that you have brought out an edition of that lovely Mozart work makes me weep too — I was 17 when he gave me a recital tape with his performance of it, and he was thrilled when I asked to play it – I still do.

    Thank you again, Mr. Harrell, for your gracious tribute and to continuing to inspire me each time we meet in the very same way as Mr. Cole!

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