In Memoriam: Charles Ellis

Charles Ellis, ConductorCharles Ellis, Music Director and Conductor of the Prince George’s Philharmonic, passed away on Friday, January 1st, after a brief illness. Chuck, as he preferred to be called, had been Music Director of the Philharmonic since 2001. He began his relationship with the Philharmonic as a guest conductor during the 1983 – 1984 season and then became the Resident Conductor in 1993. Under his leadership, the Philharmonic grew to become one of the best community musical groups in the Washington, DC area. He helped to enlarge the orchestra’s membership, repertoire, patrons, and donor base. He was also instrumental in expanding the Educational Outreach Program. Among other things, he initiated the Side-by-Side program, whereby selected high-school instrumentalists perform with the Philharmonic. We will perform our 9th Annual Side-by-Side this February.

A native of Boston, Charles Ellis received his bachelor’s degree in music at Indiana University, and afterwards traveled extensively with the Army Field Band based at Fort Meade. He later received a master’s degree from the New England Conservatory, and while working as a freelance conductor for various orchestras in Boston, founded the New England Philharmonic Orchestra in Boston, a community orchestra similar to the Prince George’s Philharmonic. Chuck came to Baltimore in the early 1980s where he received his DMA in Conducting from the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. After several years as Associate Conductor of the Jacksonville (Florida) Symphony Orchestra, he returned to Maryland and began freelancing. He became the tour conductor of the Mantovani Orchestra, and was Music Director of Washington’s Levine Chamber Orchestra. He was appointed Resident Conductor of the Prince George’s Philharmonic in 1993, and when the Philharmonic’s Music Director, Ray Fowler, stepped down in 2001, Ellis was chosen to succeed him because of his performance and familiarity not only with the orchestra, but with the demographics and culture of the community.

Chuck leaves his beloved wife Anna, his sister Patricia, and several nieces and nephews, in addition to scores of musical friends and colleagues.

 

Photo credit: LH Lubow