Obituary: Winifred Mayes, cellist in Boston Symphony and Philadelphia Orchestra, 101

Posted on: January 20, 2021

“While rising through male-dominated orchestras decades ago, cellist Winifred Mayes wore flat-heeled shoes to blind auditions in which screens hid musicians’ identities from judges,” writes Bryan Marquard in Saturday’s (1/16) Boston Globe. “In 1957, she broke a major barrier as the first woman the Boston Symphony Orchestra hired for its string section.… Mrs. Mayes, who later joined the Philadelphia Orchestra, where she was a soloist under renowned conductor Eugene Ormandy, died Dec. 15 of congestive heart failure in her Sequim, Wash., home. In April 1970, she became part of Philadelphia Orchestra history when Ormandy appointed her assistant principal cellist. Her husband, Samuel Mayes, was the principal cellist…. She and her younger sister, [the late] Lois Schaefer, a former longtime piccolo player for the Boston Pops … had grown up in Yakima, Wash.… Winifred Schaefer … was born in Yakima on Aug. 23, 1919…. She became principal cellist with the Fort Wayne Philharmonic at the end of the 1940s…. Her sister, Lois, heard about a cello opening with the Boston Symphony, and encouraged Mrs. Mayes to apply…. ‘I did get in and it was such a wonderful thing for me. I was unbelievably happy about it,’ she said.” She is survived by a son and two stepsons.