Symphony violinist thrived on training students
Wilbert Frisch was a violinist who loved being on stage, but he loved teaching music to children more, his son said.
“He loved children. He loved to take children to the next level,” said Ronald Frisch of Upper St. Clair.
Wilbert Francis Frisch died of natural causes in Asbury Heights, a retirement community in Mt. Lebanon, on Saturday, Nov. 1, 2014. He was 95.
Nicknamed “Willie” by his colleagues and “Frankie” by his wife of 69 years, Mr. Frisch spent 47 years in the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and led a storied career in Pittsburgh, his family said.
“He came from a family of musicians. I think it was the love of music from the day he was born. Frankly, I’m not sure he knew anything but music,” Ronald Frisch said.
Born to August and Marie Frisch, Mr. Frisch was raised in Mt. Oliver. At 4, he started taking music lessons from his father.
At 16, Mr. Frisch joined the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra but left in 1941 to join the Army during World War II, his son said. He led a service band and orchestra that entertained troops.
When he returned to Pittsburgh, Mr. Frisch earned a degree in music education from Duquesne University.
In 1947, he was invited to return to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, becoming assistant concertmaster and then associate concertmaster. He was concertmaster of the Civic Light Opera, the Pennsylvania Ballet, Pittsburgh Opera and the Pittsburgh Symphony Chamber Orchestra.
“When I first joined the orchestra, Willie warmly welcomed me. And he, being a seasoned veteran, offered lots of valuable professional advice,” said Upper St. Clair resident Anne Martindale Williams, a principal cellist with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Mr. Frisch retired from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra at 72 in 1991, but he continued to teach private lessons.
He played a violin made in 1787, but he would gladly let elementary school students hold it, Ronald Frisch said.
“The thing that we cherish collectively is his commitment to teaching,” he said.
For more than 20 years, Mr. Frisch was superintendent of music in St. Bernard Grade School. He was the music director/conductor of the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh Nun’s Orchestra.
In addition to his son, Ronald, Mr. Frisch is survived by his wife, Louise Frisch; his children, Richard Frisch of Kiawah Island, S.C., Roger Frisch of Minneapolis and Rebecca Frisch-Tupper of Mt. Lebanon; his sister, Dorothy McCoy of Florida; eight grandchildren; and eight great-grandchildren.
He was preceded in death by his brothers, August and Robert Frisch.
Friends will be welcomed from 4 to 8 p.m. Tuesday in Laughlin Memorial Chapel, 222 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon. A Mass of Christian burial will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Wednesday in St. Bernard Church, Mt. Lebanon.
Tory N. Parrish is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-380-5662 or [email protected].