Colorado Symphony to unveil portrait of longtime double bassist Charles Burrell, now 101

Posted on: December 2, 2021

“The Colorado Symphony will unveil a portrait of longtime bass player Charles Burrell in Boettcher Hall on … December 4,” writes Claire Duncombe in Monday’s (11/29) Westword (Denver, CO). “The portrait will join paintings of former music directors Marin Alsop, Jeffrey Kahane and Andrew Little…. In 1949, he became the first Black musician to receive a permanent contract with the Denver Symphony Orchestra, which became the Colorado Symphony in 1990. The now-101-year-old retired from the Colorado Symphony in 1999…. Burrell had dreams of attending college to become a music teacher, but when World War II broke out, he enlisted in the Navy and performed with an all-Black band…. [Later, at] Wayne State University … he was told he would never find work as a Black music teacher. In the late ’40s, Burrell left for Denver, where he has family ties. Through happenstance, he met John Van Buskirk, the Denver Symphony’s principal bassist, on a streetcar. Buskirk urged Burrell to audition for the orchestra, and he was hired in 1949.… After playing with the Denver Symphony for ten years, Burrell … was the first Black person hired to play for the San Francisco Symphony. In 1965, Burrell returned to the Denver Symphony.”