Ed Simons (conductor)

Edward Simons (February 1, 1917 – June 26, 2018) was an American musician, a classical violinist and conductor, who was the oldest active conductor in the United States. He started his career in the 1940s and continued conducting until his death on June 26, 2018.[1]

Ed Simons
Born(1917-02-01)February 1, 1917
DiedJune 26, 2018(2018-06-26) (aged 101)
Occupation(s)Conductor, musician
Years active1920s–2018


Simons said his love for music started before he was born, hearing Mozart symphonies on a Victrola.[2]

He grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and was playing violin by age 9. He heard classical symphonies from his father's records, jazz on the radio, and gospel from a neighborhood Baptist church. He played with local groups and the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.

He received some formal lessons, but mostly taught himself to play, using library books.[3]


Simons served in the Navy in World War II, joining a military band. In this capacity he played for President Harry S. Truman aboard the U.S.S. Augusta.[2]

After the war he moved to New York City and played with the American Ballet Theatre, conducted by Max Goberman. Simons began secretly studying the orchestral scores. Goberman found out – and gave him a chance at the podium, even though he had no conducting experience. It went well, and Goberman gave him his first conducting job: the Frank Loesser musical Where's Charley?.

He went on to conduct eight Broadway shows between 1948 and 1964, including My Fair Lady and Camelot. He was described by The New York Times as "the best conductor in jazz".[3]

In 1952 Simons founded the Suburban Symphony in Rockland County, New York, later known as the Rockland Symphony Orchestra.[4] He was the conductor for over 60 years, and continued to conduct the orchestra at least once a year. In September 2017, he conducted a concert at 100 years of age. [5][6]

From 1965 to the late 1980s, he taught music appreciation at Rockland Community College.

Personal lifeEdit

Simons married Janet Kelly Simons, a violist and pianist.

In 1950 Ed and Janet helped found Skyview Acres, a cooperative community in a rural area north of New York City; he lived there until his death.

In 1956, they founded the Community Music School, now the Rockland Conservatory of Music, where he taught violin.

Janet died in 1997.

His daughter Jo wrote a book about him that incorporates stories from his many years of conducting and teaching.[7]

He turned 100 in February 2017.[2] He died in June 2018 at the age of 101.[1]


  1. ^ a b Edward Simons, oldest active classical music conductor, dies at 101. Retrieved July 28, 2018.
  2. ^ a b c Kilgannon, Corey (February 10, 2017). "At 100, a Conductor, Like the Music, Keeps Going". The New York Times. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Phelan, Kevin (June 16, 2016). "Is Pomona's Ed Simons the country's oldest conductor?". The Journal News. Retrieved February 13, 2017.
  4. ^ "Rockland Symphony Orchestra: A Brief History". Retrieved February 14, 2017.
  5. ^ Cannizzaro, Andrew (June 28, 2018). At 100, Ed Simons Became the World's Oldest Active Orchestra Conductor (Television Production). History Channel. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  6. ^ Kramer, Peter (September 7, 2017). "Edward Simons, at 100, will conduct at 9/11 concert". The Journal News. Retrieved June 28, 2018.
  7. ^ Simons, Jo (January 30, 2017). My Father Wakes Up Laughing: The Story of Edward and Janet Simons and Their Musical Legacy. ISBN 978-1633934481.