Obituary: Samuel Elkind / Musician who played with PSO

July 27, 1918 - June 22, 2014

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Samuel Elkind spent four years away from his violin when he served as an artillery man in World War II. When he was discharged from the Army in 1946 he had only a few weeks to prepare for an audition for the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. He passed muster and would spend the next 47 years in the first violin section. 

Mr. Elkind, who lived in East Liberty and then the Gateway Towers Downtown before moving from Pittsburgh to be close to family, died June 22 in Morristown, N.J., at 95.

Born in Boston, Mass., Mr. Elkind grew up in a family of musicians and was drawn to the violin from the age of 12. He graduated from Boston University with a degree in music before he was drafted into the Army in 1941.  

“He was a musician before he went to war, and a musician when he came back,” said David Gillis, who played with Mr. Elkind in the PSO for decades. 

“He never wanted to do anything else,” said his daughter, Barbara McKenna of Rockaway Township, N.J. 

His daughter said that he didn't talk about his wartime experiences much.  When he came back, he seemed to return seamlessly to his music, the long time off not disrupting his skills.

“Your hands and sense of hearing are key,” said Mr. Gillis. “I always thought it was simply amazing that the war didn't seem to affect his.”

In his long career, Mr. Elkind divided his time between the classical gig that was his mainstay and summers playing with the Boston Pops orchestra and with the Chatauqua Symphony in New York. He also liked jazz, and had a turn on “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.” 

“Sam was ... he was just one of those players,” Mr. Gillis recalled. “As a colleague, he was never grumpy-serious, but he was always serious about getting it right. He was real special. He was the ideal.”

He was also a great family man. Shirley Dreyfus was a pianist in Boston and the two met shortly after his return from military service. They married and lived together in East Liberty, both pursuing music, he in the PSO and she teaching piano. Mr. Gillis remembers being invited to Thanksgiving at the Elkinds’ home during his first year in the orchestra. They carpooled together to rehearsal for five years. 

Shirley Elkind died in 1985.

Later in life, Mr. Elkind remarried. Judith Dalin Lee Elkind was a “big traveler,” said Mr. Gillis, “so she and Sam did a lot of that.” The second Mrs. Elkind died in 2004. 

Even after retirement, Mr. Elkind never really left the PSO. He regularly attended the symphony and kept in touch with current and former members. He continued playing the violin until the last years of his life.

“He was so dedicated,” said Ms. McKenna. “Everybody loved him.”

In addition to Barbara Elkind McKenna, Mr. Elkind is survived by daughter Janet Elkind Finfrock of Portland, Maine, and two granddaughters. He is to be buried in  Sharon Memorial Park in Sharon, Mass. The family requests donations to the PSO Deveopment Department, 600 Penn Ave., Pittsburgh 15222.


Emma Brown: ebrown@post-gazette.com or @emmasgtbrown

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