Seven musicians have won spots in the Philadelphia Orchestra, most in recent weeks - and all have solid connections to the ensemble or the Curtis Institute of Music, the orchestra's biggest feeder.
José Maria Blumenschein is the Philadelphia Orchestra's new associate concertmaster. A native of Germany, Blumenschein is just now graduating - he is 22 - from Curtis, where he studies with Joseph Silverstein and is concertmaster of the school orchestra.
Violinist Marc Rovetti, a new member of the first violin section, has two degrees from Juilliard and has studied with Pamela Frank (a Curtis graduate and faculty member). A member of the New World Symphony, he has been a frequent substitute player with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The second-chair viola spot, associate principal, went to Kirsten Johnson, a Curtis grad.
The new third-chair violist, assistant principal, is Kerri Ryan, the Minnesota Orchestra's assistant principal violist since 2002. Ryan studied both violin and viola at Curtis.
Violist Marvin Moon, a Philadelphia native who is currently a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra, is a new section violist. He studied at Curtis and Temple Prep and has been a frequent substitute player with the Philadelphia Orchestra. He was a student of Joseph de Pasquale, the orchestra's former principal violist, and with Choong-Jin Chang, its current principal.
Dara Morales, Utah Symphony principal violinist and sister-in-law of Philadelphia Orchestra principal clarinetist Ricardo Morales, is the orchestra's new assistant principal second violinist. Hired several months ago, she starts this summer.
The orchestra has also taken the unusual move of hiring hornist Jeffrey Lang, a regular substitute, without a specific audition, for the job of "associate/section horn." For the last season Lang has taken turns in the principal chair (without the title) with Jennifer Montone, who, though she is principal hornist in Philadelphia, has kept her old job as principal in the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra.
Lang had also auditioned for Philadelphia's principal spot, but Montone won the audition.
Lang could be called on to play any part in the horn section from fourth to principal, said orchestra president James Undercofler.
"It allows us maximum flexibility on how to use Jeff. Basically it's hedging all bets," he said. "It was first approved by the artistic committee, then the horn section, then the members' committee and then the full orchestra. It's rather unusual for something like this to happen, but his [principal] audition was so strong, and then his playing on stage, that everyone felt comfortable moving forward."
Lang takes the slot held by Adam Unsworth (though it's not quite an apples-to-apples move since Unsworth was fourth horn). Unsworth has taken a teaching position at the University of Michigan.
The Philadelphia Orchestra last month was the subject of an Inquirer story that pointed out that despite launching a Cultural Diversity Initiative 16 years ago, the orchestra has not hired an African American musician in more than three decades.
In that article, Undercofler said that there were "no barriers that I have perceived yet, at the board, staff or orchestra levels, and there is nothing to keep us from moving ahead aggressively" on diversity.
Still, none of the recently hired players is African American.
The new musicians take spots opened up by retirements, resignations, the advancement of players to more senior chairs within the orchestra, and a death. Some of the new players have won their auditions but have not yet signed contracts. Their starting dates vary.