Obituary: former Seattle Symphony bassist Bruce Lawrence, 88

Posted on: September 15, 2015

In the Seattle Times on 9/11 (Friday), Tricia Romano reports, “Bruce Lawrence, the first African American to join the Seattle Symphony, who started his career playing alongside jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, John Coltrane and Mary Lou Williams, has died. He was 88. Mr. Lawrence died Aug. 31, in the home that he shared with his wife, Josie, in Bothell [Wash.].” A native of Harlem’s Sugar Hill neighborhood, Lawrence was introduced to symphonic music by his father, and switched from piano to bass at the suggestion of a teacher. He attended New York City’s High School of Music and Art and the Juilliard School. “Before coming to Seattle, he played in the Ottawa Symphony, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation studio orchestra, and the Syracuse (N.Y.) Symphony. His daughter Idell held up the phone for him in Syracuse while he auditioned for the Seattle Symphony. ‘The next thing I knew, we were headed to Washington,’ she said.” After retiring from the Seattle Symphony in 2005, Lawrence “started a string orchestra at Leschi Elementary School in Seattle” and worked with students at the city’s Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute and Garfield High School.

Posted September 15, 2015