Obituary: St. Louis Symphony bassist and diversity advocate Joe Kleeman, 82

Posted on: May 22, 2012

In Sunday’s (5/20) St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Michael D. Sorkin writes, “When Joe Kleeman joined the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra as a bass player in 1958, the audience saw a stage filled almost exclusively with white males. Mr. Kleeman, who was one himself, helped change that. Two decades later, he and another musician got the Symphony to start blind auditions, with musicians trying out behind a screen. … The result is today’s orchestra, diverse in age, gender, color and ethnic origin. The St. Louis Symphony was one of the first to hold blind auditions, and today, nearly all orchestras follow that practice. Mr. Kleeman played with the Symphony for 43 years, retiring in 2001. He worked to reform the Symphony’s Musicians Union. In retirement, he and his wife started a group to help reform politics. Joseph Celsus Kleeman died Tuesday (May 15, 2012) at his home in Clayton. He was 82. He was diagnosed with bladder cancer in June, said his wife, Dr. Rea Beck-Kleeman. Mr. Kleeman also served as the Symphony’s assistant personnel manager. During the 1970s, he and another musician, Carl Schiebler, the personnel manager, collaborated with the Boston Symphony Orchestra to get both orchestras to start blind auditions.”

Posted May 22, 2012