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Cathleen O’Carroll Dalschaert, violinist with the Philadelphia Orchestra for 24 years, dies at 90

Ms. Dalschaert was a working mother in the 1960s, a time when that was not yet mainstream. Her lifestyle choice showed that she believed in women's rights, her family said.

Cathleen O'Carroll Dalschaert
Cathleen O'Carroll DalschaertRead morePhoto by Houston Thayer of London

Cathleen O’Carroll Dalschaert, 90, a retired violinist and longtime resident of Cherry Hill, died Tuesday, Aug. 25, of a brain hemorrhage at her home.

Ms. Dalschaert was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra for 24 years, playing with the first violin section from the time she joined the organization.

She was called Cathleen, and anyone who tried to address her informally was corrected, said her daughter Andree Dalschaert.

Born in Auckland, New Zealand, and raised in Sydney, Australia, Ms. Dalschaert came from a musical family. Seven of the 10 children became professional musicians.

She began studying the violin at age 5 and received a scholarship to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, from which she graduated with highest honors.

Starting at age 13, she appeared in concerts and recitals. Many were aired by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.

She also appeared as a soloist with the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, performing the Beethoven Concerto for Violin and Orchestra.

After graduation, Ms. Dalschaert won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music in London, where she was awarded seven of the eight available prizes for violin performance over three years. She won a second scholarship to the Royal Conservatory of Brussels, where she studied with violinists Andre Gertler and Arthur Grumiaux, and cellist Pablo Casals.

She met her future husband, violinist and violin bow maker Stephane Dalschaert of Brussels, on a concert tour of Spain. They married in 1958.

That same year, the couple moved to Louisiana to join the New Orleans Symphony. They stayed for two years, then played for the Cleveland Orchestra for seven seasons under conductor George Szell before joining the Philadelphia Orchestra in 1967.

Larry Grika, a retired Philadelphia Orchestra violinist, said Ms. Dalschaert and he were stand partners, meaning they sat next to each other on stage and shared a musical score.

“She was a full-blooded musician,” he said. “She played with her heart and emotion all the time. She had that same quality as a person.”

He said Ms. Dalschaert and her husband came to the orchestra seeking a more lush sound than they had been part of in previous orchestras.

“When you’re practicing with an instrument, you’re trying to get the most beautiful sound possible,” Grika said. “Everybody contributed, including Cathleen.”

In addition to playing, she also participated in negotiations between the musicians’ union and orchestra management. “She had a very sharp brain and was vocal when she had to be,” Grika said. “She was spirited during negotiations and worked hard for the betterment of the orchestra.”

While keeping an orchestra playing schedule, Ms. Dalschaert continued to perform as a soloist in Australia, London, Europe, and elsewhere in the United States. She retired from the orchestra in 1991.

In the 1960s, well before it was mainstream, Ms. Dalschaert was a working mother with two children. Being a musician meant pursuing a lifestyle that was nontraditional. By choosing that pathway, her family said, she showed herself to be a proponent of women’s rights.

“If you played in an orchestra, you are working when everybody else is home with their families. You are playing concerts, not going to parties,” her daughter Andree said.

Ms. Dalschaert was “quick-witted, very smart, clever,” her daughter said. Both her mother and father had emigrated from Ireland and Ms. Dalschaert was proud of her Irish heritage.

Her husband, who also came from a large family of musicians, died of a heart attack in 2007.

Besides her daughter Andree, Ms. Dalschaert is survived by another daughter, Natalie Dalschaert; two grandchildren; a great-grandson; and two brothers in Sydney.

There will be no funeral. Burial is private.

Memorial donations may be made to the Australian Wildlife Rescue Organization at