Doriot Anthony Dwyer, Flutist and Orchestral Pathbreaker, Dies at 98


Doriot Anthony Dwyer, a renowned flutist who broke down gender barriers with her appointment as principal flute of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1952, a post she held for nearly four decades, died on Saturday in Lawrence, Kan., where she lived near her daughter. She was 98.

Her death was announced by the Boston Symphony.

Ms. Dwyer was only the second woman to win a principal chair with a major American orchestra, after Helen Kotas, the principal horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra from 1941 until 1948.

Ms. Dwyer was 30 when the vacancy in Boston was announced. After thorough training, she had accumulated extensive experience ranging from freelancing in an orchestra that went on tour with Frank Sinatra to playing with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington as second flute.

At the time, she was second flute with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, and during the summers played principal with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, directed by Bruno Walter, who had chosen her.

Orchestras were dominated by men in those days, from the podium on through the string, wind and brass sections, and most orchestras had only a handful of women in their ranks.

Charles Munch, the conductor of the Boston Symphony in 1952, was dissatisfied with the flutists who had tried out and asked the departing principal, Georges Laurent, if he had a student to suggest. Laurent mentioned Lois Schaefer, who was playing with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Ms. Dwyer had also come to Munch’s attention, recommended by Walter as well as by Isaac Stern. So Munch proposed a “ladies’ day,” and invited both women to audition.

Ms. Dwyer practiced for two solid months, learning famous flute solos from orchestral scores by memory. To protect her job, she told the Los Angeles Philharmonic that she needed a week off for elective surgery. She then traveled to New York, and then to the Boston Symphony’s summer home at Tanglewood for the audition.

Ms. Dwyer felt determined yet surprisingly free. As she told Kristen Elizabeth Kean, who wrote a 2007 dissertation about Ms. Dwyer’s career, “I had nothing to worry about, because I wasn’t going to get the job anyway.”

Ms. Dwyer’s first appearances with the orchestra — she was known as Doriot Anthony then — were heralded by local newspapers with sensationalized headlines. “Woman Crashes Boston Symphony: Eyebrows Lifted as Miss Anthony Sat at Famous Flutist’s Desk,” The Boston Globe reported.

Looking back in a Globe interview, Ms. Dwyer said that during her early years she encountered more prejudice in the press than she did in the orchestra. “I was never harassed,” she said, “though of course the men played jokes on me.” One involved turning a live lobster free in her dressing room.

Doriot Anthony was born on March 6, 1922, in Streator, Ill., the third of four children of William C. and Edith M. Anthony. Her mother was a gifted flutist who played with local ensembles. Her father, related to the suffragist Susan B. Anthony, was a mechanical engineer. He was also a music-lover who encouraged his children’s musical interests, though his attitude was patriarchal, Ms. Dwyer recalled. She was “always a woman, something different,” she said.

In her mother she found both a role model and her first teacher, from whom Ms. Dwyer learned the essentials of rich sound and flexible technique.

Listening to the radio broadcasts of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, she was inspired by the principal flutist Ernest Liegl. She began studying with him at age 12, taking a four-hour train ride to Chicago every other week. The lessons continued for five years.

She was accepted by the Eastman School of Music in 1939 and auditioned four times to be principal of its orchestra, facing rejection each time. After graduating in 1943, in the midst of World War II, when various positions at orchestras had been left temporarily vacant by men who had been called into military service, Ms. Dwyer moved to Washington to play with the National Symphony. She took lessons with William Kincaid, principal flute of the Philadelphia Orchestra.

She moved to New York in 1945, becoming a busy freelancer and playing in several ensembles that embraced new music. She joined the Los Angeles Philharmonic a year later.



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