Ambler resident recognized for career in music education

The 8th Annual Philadelphia Youth Orchestra Music Institute Ovation Award took place this spring with over 50 nominations of music teachers by current and former music students.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a surprise presentation outside the home of this year’s recipient, Charles Salinger of Ambler. Presenting the award were the sponsor partners — Lee Paynter, COO of J.W. Pepper, Chris Rinaldi, President of Jacobs Music Company, and Bill Johnson, General Manager of WRTI 90.1, presented the award to Salinger.

Created by PYO Music Institute in 2014, the award recognizes inspiration and outstanding leadership in music education. The nominees are reviewed by a panel of judges including Debra Lew Harder, mid-day classical host and Saturday morning host of Classical Coffeehouse on WRTI 90.1, Christine Witkowski, non-profit consultant, and Dennis Creedon, former Assistant Superintendent of the School District of Philadelphia.

Salinger, a clarinet player, PYO alumnus, and private teacher, was one of 10 finalists. They were all recognized on June 10th during the PYO Music Institute’s 2021 Virtual Gala entitled “More Than Music”.

In the Ovation Award video presentation, produced by J.W. Pepper and hosted by WRTI’s on-air host Kevin Gordon, it was announced publicly that Salinger is this year’s Ovation Award Recipient. He was also a finalist in 2016 and 2019. Salinger received seven nominations by former and current students including Ian Abrahams, Max Reese, Kristin Nelson, Andrew Battaglia, Kimberly Birk, Ken Silvers, and Michael Evans.

Salinger was totally surprised when presented with the award. He said, “This is such a surprise and so surreal. The fact that music has made such an imprint in my students’ lives that they want to talk about it and take the time to write about me is a wonderful feeling. When I teach, I don’t care if the students become professional musicians. But, I hope they love music for the rest of their lives and they support the arts. After all, that’s what really matters.” He shared a story about one of his former students, Terry Gross, host of “Fresh Air” on NPR. “I asked Terry recently if she still plays the clarinet, and what she told me overwhelmed me. While she admitted to not playing anymore, she said that what she learned from me helped her understand what to ask in her interviews with musicians. Right there — THAT’s what teaching is all about!”

Salinger is dedicated to music education as well as performance and writing. He maintains a large teaching studio, and many of his students have played in District, Regional, State, and All Eastern Band and Orchestra, Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, Philadelphia Sinfonia Orchestra, and as professional musicians.

Salinger has played principal clarinet in the Delaware Symphony since the 1980’s. He plays principal clarinet with the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra and the Opera Delaware Orchestra as well. For over 40 years, he has substituted on saxophone as well as clarinet with the Philadelphia Orchestra and has performed under Eugene Ormandy, Ricardo Muti, Leonard Bernstein, Eric Leinsdorf, Zubin Mehta, Raphael Frühbeck de Burgos, Michael Tilson Thomas, David Zinman, Charles Dutoit, James DePreist, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Mariss Jansons, Yuri Tamirkanov, Bobby McFerrin, John Williams, Simon Rattle, Christoph Eschenbach, Gianandrea Noseda, Stéphane Denève, Bramwell Tovey, and Yannick Nézet-Séguin. He has also played with the Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, the Reading Symphony, the Philly Pops as well as the Houston Opera Company, the Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company, Allentown Symphony, Lancaster Symphony, and The Princeton Chamber Orchestra.

Mr. Salinger’s publications include Max Bruch’s Kol Nidrei for clarinet and piano published by Roncorp and a transposition of the first clarinet part of Suite No. 4 Opus 61 (‘Mozartiana’) by Tchaikovsky for Clarinet in A.

Photos by Rocco Richardson. From Left to Right: Bill Johnson, WRTI 90.1: Ovation Award Recipient Charles Salinger; Chris Rinaldi, Jacobs Music Company; Lee Paynter, J.W. Pepper