Well, we all have to go eventually, and this isn’t a bad way to do it: 87-year-old bassist Jane Little, who’s believed to be the world’s longest-tenured symphony musician, died after collapsing during an encore performance of “There’s No Business Like Show Business” on Sunday, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has announced. Little joined the Atlanta Youth Symphony Orchestra in 1945, when she was 16, and then stayed with the group when it became the Atlanta Symphony shortly thereafter. She was undergoing chemotherapy treatment for multiple myeloma and had suffered a cracked vertebra last August but returned to the orchestra for her 71st season in February.
Little, who played the largest orchestral instrument despite standing 4-foot-11 and weighing approximately 100 pounds, was married to a man who for many years was the symphony’s principal flautist. (He died in 2002.) During her career she played for conductors including Igor Stravinsky and Aaron Copland; she performed at the opening ceremonies of the Atlanta summer Olympics in 1996.
“She seemed to be made of bass resin and barbed wire,” a 44-year-old peer of Little’s told the Washington Post. “I honestly thought I was going to retire before she did.”