21/2/16

An 87-year-old bass player with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has set an incredible record



An 87-year-old bass player with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has set an incredible record this month -- after 71 years of performing, Jane Little now holds the world record for the longest tenure with an orchestra. Since her debut at age 16 on February 4, 1945, the petite bassist, who stands under 5 feet (1.5 m) tall, has played one of the largest instruments in the orchestra. On her 71st anniversary earlier this month, Little was greeted with a five-minute-long standing ovation, after which she reflected, "Seventy-one years ago. It’s hard to remember when I wasn’t here.”

Little grew up in Atlanta during the Great Depression and, while her family was too poor to afford them, she loved instruments and music. The orchestra leader at her high school recognized her aptitude for music and told her that they needed a bassist. After a month of lessons, Little says that she was "hooked," adding that "it was awfully difficult to push those heavy strings down, and to carry the instrument around, but I just loved it." During her sophomore year, she joined the Atlanta Youth Symphony and stayed on when it became a professional symphony, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, three years later. 

Little has gone on to play for decades, many of them alongside her husband Warren Little, a flutist who passed away in 2002. As the years progressed, playing has become more challenging, especially given the size of her instrument. “I must be the smallest bass player in the country right now in a major symphony,” she said. “I’ve had to work a lot harder to do what I do.” She's also now in the midst of cancer treatment for multiple myeloma and plans to retire at the end of this season. 

Her fellow musicians have been astounded by her incredible tenure with the orchestra. "It’s just mind-boggling,” says Timothy Cobb, the principal bassist with the New York Philharmonic. “It takes a tremendous amount of physical power, frankly, and just brute force to play in a big orchestra. I have had friends who have made it into their 70s but to be pumping it out in the orchestra is really something.” For her part, Little is thrilled by the world record but ready to slow down... though not entirely: “I’ve always wanted to play a bass guitar -- an electric bass guitar -- and now I’m going to get one and play around with it," she said. "Who knows, I might just start a little group called 'The Grannies' or something like that.”

You can read an interview with Jane Little in the Atlanta Magazine at http://bit.ly/1PWDHb7 

To inspire children and teens with the stories of trailblazing women in music and the arts, you can find many books in our "Creative Arts" section athttp://www.amightygirl.com/books/general-interest/creative-arts

If you'd like to encourage your own Mighty Girl's interest in the arts, check out our blog post "Growing Creativity: 40 Arts and Crafts Toys for Mighty Girls," at http://www.amightygirl.com/blog?p=10465 -- or browse our entire music section athttp://amgrl.co/1OKK2pC 

And, to introduce children and teens to more trailblazing women in fields ranging from the sciences to sports visit A Mighty Girl’s "Role Models" biography section at http://www.amightygirl.com/books/history-biography/biography