Published on May 17th, 2016 |


Jane Little, record setting Atlanta Symphony bassist, dies on stage at 87

Only weeks after setting a Guinness World Record for the longest tenure with any orchestra, Jane Little, 87, collapsed on stage during an Atlanta Symphony Orchestra performance Sunday night and was later pronounced dead, according to news agency reports.

Jane Little, 87, set record for longest tenure with a single orchestra before her death May 15 while performing with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Jane Little, 87, set record for longest tenure with a single orchestra before her death May 15 while performing with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra.

Little, 87, collapsed during an encore performance of “There’s No Business Like Show Business.” Though emergency responders and a medically-trained chorus member briefly revived her, she was transported to Grady Memorial Hospital where she later passed away.

The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra confirmed Little’s death on Monday morning.

Little was Assistant Principal Bass Emeritus in the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. She celebrated her 87th birthday on Feb. 2, 2016. On Feb. 4, 2016, she performed with the Orchestra, marking 71 years to the day of her first concert held on Feb. 4, 1945, securing the Guinness World Record for longest professional tenure with a single orchestra.

The Orchestra’s application for Jane Little’s record is under review pending final approval.

Little started her musical career in 1945 as a founding member of the original Atlanta Youth Symphony Orchestra, the forerunner of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. She joined after two years of studying bass in high school and has since played under all four of the Orchestra’s music directors, Henry Sopkin, Robert Shaw, Yoel Levi and Robert Spano, as well as guest conductors including Igor Stravinsky, Aaron Copland, Pierre Monteux, Leopold Stokowski, Sir John Barbirolli and James Levine, among others.

An Atlanta native, Little attended the University of Georgia and studied for four years with the principal bass player of the Chicago Symphony. She was principal bass with the Theater of the Stars Orchestra for 15 years, and played extensively with regional ballet and opera companies, as well as in touring performances of the American Ballet Theatre, Covent Garden Ballet, and Boris Goldovsky Opera Theatre. Twenty years ago this July, Little performed in the 1996 Atlanta Olympic opening and closing ceremonies with “Olympic Fanfare and Theme” composer/conductor John Williams.

For most of her career, Little performed using a rare Carlo Giuseppi Testore bass built in the year 1705. In 1953 she met and married fellow Atlanta Symphony Orchestra musician and principal flute, Warren Little. They were inseparable until Warren’s death in 2002. Jane and Warren had no children; Ms. Little is survived by her nephews and several great nieces and nephews.

As noted in February 2016 national and local media reports on her world record performance, Little was a fighter who overcame recent illnesses, including multiple myeloma, a form of cancer. She returned to the Orchestra in February after suffering a fall last year.

During media interviews about her world record-setting performance in February, Little was fond of stating her plans for retirement after finishing the current Atlanta Symphony Orchestra season. She aspired to take up bass guitar and form a jazz group she named “The Grannies.”


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