Jack Hook, trombonist and union leader, dies

He had been a member of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and was also an accomplished jazz and Dixieland musician

November 05, 2010|By Frederick N. Rasmussen, The Baltimore Sun

Jack Hook, a trombonist who was also the longtime secretary-treasurer of Local 40-543 of the American Federation of Musicians of Metropolitan Baltimore, died Tuesday of a ruptured aneurysm at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.

The Towson resident was 76.

Mr. Hook, who was born in Baltimore and raised on St. Paul Street, graduated in 1952 from City College.

Mr. Hook didn't start studying and playing the trombone until he was a teenager.

"He was largely self-taught and held no degrees in music," said his daughter, Susan L. "Lorrie" Loveland, who lives in Parkville.

Mr. Hook's musical career began in 1953 when he enlisted in the National Guard and played in its band for two years until leaving in 1955.

From 1964 to 1977, Mr. Hook was a member of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. During those years, he taught music at McDonogh School and Morgan State University, where he remained a faculty member into the 1980s.

Mr. Hook also played with the Ray Gerard Orchestra at the old Greenspring Inn on Falls Road.

Fellow musicians ascribed Mr. Hook's ability to make a livelihood as a professional musician to his versatility.

"He could play classical, big band, jazz, and he loved Broadway show music," Mrs. Loveland said.

"I first met Jack in 1953 or 1954, at Sherrie's Show Bar, a Route 40 jazz and strip club, where he had come to listen my jazz group," recalled Paul Widitz, a trombonist and close friend of more than 50 years who now lives in Selbyville, Del.

"He was a far better trombone player than I am, technically speaking. He was a great trombone player, and there is no doubt in my mind about that," he said.

"He later followed me at Greenspring Inn, where he played for years and years. Every night we had to play 'Keep It Gay,' a cornball two-beat song, over and over again," said Mr. Widitz, who is still playing professionally.

John Melick Jr., who was principal trombonist at the BSO from 1951 to 1967 and later taught music at Towson University, said, "I thought a lot of Jack. He did all the things he should have done, such as private lessons. However, most people who play in symphony orchestras have studied at conservatories. But he worked hard and in doing so, continually worked."

Mr. Melick, also a Greenspring Inn alumnus, recalled that whenever he needed a substitute for the BSO, he'd call Mr. Hook.

"He always came in and did a great job. He was a utility player and could play whatever chair needed to be filled. He was always there when I needed him," Mr. Melick said. "Jack was the kind of guy who did well wherever he went. He had a wide range of musical interests and was very capable."

In addition to his work as a professional musician, for the past 28 years Mr. Hook had been secretary-treasurer of Local 40-543 of the American Federation of Musicians of Metropolitan Baltimore, where he negotiated many contracts over the years.

"Jack was one of the great elder statesmen of the American Federation of Musicians of Metropolitan Baltimore. He was a legend and had hundreds of friends," said Mike Decker, current union president.

"He was a true gentleman when it came to negotiating contracts. He always said a good contract has to benefit both the employer and the employee," Mr. Decker said.

"He was always able to find the perfect words to express how he felt. He was a straight shooter and everyone appreciated that very much," he said.

Mr. Decker also praised his friend's "sardonic wit."

"For that, he was also well known," he said, with a laugh.

"Jack was always able to bring both sides together with common sense. He also realized that neither employer nor employee had to be gouged, and as a result facilitated a lot of agreements," said Ed Goldstein, a tuba player with the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra who is a member of the union's board and a music teacher at Loch Raven High School.

"He was a huge supporter of all of the musicians of the Annapolis Symphony Orchestra. He was instrumental in helping secure a collective bargaining agreement in cooperation with both the Baltimore and D.C. locals, at a pivotal time in our orchestra's growth," Mr. Goldstein said.

"His support, friendship and counsel will be missed," he said.

Mr. Hook was also an avid record collector and an expert on the history of Baltimore theaters and music, and possessed an in-depth knowledge of music, performers and bands.

"A week before he passed away, I called him and asked about a Sinatra song. I wondered who the arranger was. I thought it might have been Nelson Riddle. I played it for him over the phone, and he instantly said it was Bill May," Mr. Goldstein said. "He was a walking encyclopedia when it came to jazz."

Mr. Hook was also a connoisseur and collector of recordings of classic old-time radio shows.

He was a longtime Red Cross blood donor, where he had given more than five gallons over the years. He also was a longtime Baltimore Colts fan until the team was moved to Indianapolis.

Services were Friday.

In addition to his daughter, Mr. Hook is survived by his wife of 57 years, the former Barbara Jeanne Seidel; three sons, William T. Hook of Dundalk, Steven A. Hook of Parkville and Joseph G. Hook of Towson; four grandchildren; and two great-grandchildren.

fred.rasmussen@baltsun.com

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