Thomas Stacy (1938–2023)

Thomas Stacy was one of the world’s most accomplished masters of the English horn, performing with the New York Philharmonic for thirty-nine years, as well as appearing as a guest soloist with other orchestras in the United States and abroad. Upon Stacy’s retirement from the Philharmonic in 2010, famed conductor Lorin Maazel said Stacy was “without peer for decades. Many have tried to match him, none have succeeded.”

Thomas Jefferson Stacy was born in Little Rock (Pulaski County) on August 15, 1938, and grew up in Augusta (Woodruff County). His father, Thomas Stacy, was a farmer and involved in the cotton business. (Later in life, Stacy joked that he was probably the only member of the New York Philharmonic who had ever picked cotton.) His mother, Nora Lee Conditt Stacy, was a church organist and music teacher in the public schools. Stacy was introduced to music in grade school, when he studied piano and violin; he later played clarinet in the school band.

Stacy decided to switch to oboe (a double-reed woodwind that’s notoriously difficult to master) after hearing the instrument on a recording his mother had of an overture to an opera by Gioachino Rossini. Soon thereafter he decided to focus on the English horn, another double-reed instrument with a deeper tone than an oboe’s. The teenaged Stacy sold his motorcycle to pay for his first English horn.

Despite being almost entirely self-taught on oboe and English horn, Stacy was awarded a full scholarship at age seventeen to the famed Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, where he later received the George Eastman Scholarship for distinguished achievement. At Eastman, he met fellow student Marie Elizabeth Mann, and the two were married in 1960; they had two sons, Barton and Phillip.

His senior year at Eastman, Stacy auditioned for a position with the New Orleans Symphony and, upon graduating, became that orchestra’s English horn player. He later performed with the San Antonio Symphony and the Minneapolis Symphony (now the Minnesota Orchestra). In 1972, at age thirty-four, he auditioned for and became principal English horn player with the New York Philharmonic—arguably the most prestigious position of its type in the United States.

Before his retirement from the Philharmonic in 2010, Stacy performed as a soloist with the orchestra more than seventy times, including on several “Live From Lincoln Center” television broadcasts. He appeared as a guest soloist or recitalist in cities across the United States and in Germany, Ireland, England, Sweden, Scotland, Switzerland, Denmark, and Venezuela, among other countries. Noted composers who created works specifically for Stacy include Ned Rorem, Gunther Schuller, Vincent Persichetti, and John Wyre. In 2005, Stacy received a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Instrumental Soloist Performance with Orchestra for his recording of Eventide, a concerto composed for him by Kenneth Fuchs, with the London Symphony Orchestra and conducted by JoAnn Falletta.

After his retirement from the New York Philharmonic, Stacy taught at the Juilliard School and Mannes College of Music, as well as continuing to give concerts, workshops, and master classes around the world. He and his wife moved to eastern Long Island, New York, and it was in Southampton that he died of heart failure on April 30, 2023.

For additional information:
Genzlinger, Neil. “Thomas Stacy, Master of the English Horn, Dies at 84.” New York Times, May 12, 2023. (accessed September 27, 2023).

Nissen, Beth. “Thomas Stacy, English Hornist: ‘Never Gets Old.’”, March 23, 2001. (accessed September 27, 2023).

Mel White
Little Rock, Arkansas


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