Remembering Dwight Shambley (1949-2020)
The Dallas Symphony Orchestra mourns the loss of long-time bassist Dwight Shambley. He passed away on January 27, 2020, and is survived by his wife of 40 years, Dallas Symphony violinist Sho-Mei Pelletier, and their two children, Aaron Joshua and Alexis Jessica.
Dwight Shambley graduated from the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and joined the Dallas Symphony Orchestra in 1972. Shambley taught bass at Texas Tech University and has also been on the faculties of the University of Tulsa, the University of Arkansas and Southern Methodist University. He has held the positions of Principal Bass with the Tulsa Symphony, Assistant Principal with the Santa Fe Opera and artist with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.
Shambley dedicated his career to raising up the next generation of musicians and changing the face of professional orchestras. After learning that African-Americans made up two percent of professional orchestral musicians, he knew that he had to be the catalyst for change. Shambley was determined to give underrepresented musicians in Dallas serious classical music training and genuine access to an orchestral career.
In 1992, Shambley co-founded the Dallas Symphony's Young Strings program. Young Strings develops the talents of exceptional and underrepresented string players in the City of Dallas by providing its students with the skills, lessons, opportunities and resources essential for success both in college and careers in music.
In 2001, the Young String programs was recognized on the national stage. The program won a Coming Up Taller Award, an award presented by the President's Committee on the Arts and the Humanities in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities that recognizes superior arts programs in communities. Shambley and DSO Director of Education Lee Ann Binford traveled to Washington, DC, to receive this prestigious honor. First Lady Laura Bush said of the awards, “The Coming Up Taller Awards celebrate the promise that lies within every child in America. These awards also salute the community’s leaders, artists and teachers who invest their time and talents to ensure that the promise of America’s children is realized.”
For 28 years, the program has worked to increase the diversity of American orchestras. In June 2019, the Dallas Symphony Orchestra presented Shambley with the title Young Strings Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus.
Shambley said, “Young Strings was founded to bring music to the lives of those who have never thought it could be an option for them. Through its history, it has continued to nurture our youngest musicians in Dallas, launch the careers of many players and inspire the imaginations of music lovers. I am honored to have established this tradition, and I know that as it continues to grow, we will see even more students and young adults have music as the center of their lives.”
Though he was proud of the musicians, his proudest moments were when the influence went beyond the practice room. What impacts the child impacts the parents, siblings, family and friends, and Shambley built generations of music makers and music lovers across the United States.
“We will miss Dwight terribly at the DSO and in Dallas” said Kim Noltemy, Ross Perot President & CEO. “He was a change agent, looking beyond himself to the future of orchestral music. He leveled the playing field for hundreds of students, and his legacy is beyond compare.”
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