The Chicago Symphony Orchestra is the third oldest symphony
orchestra in the United States and is managed by the Orchestral
Association of Chicago. The CSO was organized in 1891, by it’s first
conductor, Theodore Thomas. In 1905, Frederick Stock succeeded
Thomas as conductor, and remained with the orchestra until 1942.
Succeeding conductors were, Desire Defauw (1943-47). Arthur
Rodzinski (1947-48), Raphael Kubelik (1950-53), and Fritz Reiner
Mr. Clevenger joined the Chicago Symphony in the spring of 1966 under the baton of Jean Martinon (1963-68) and continued under Sir Georg Solti (1969-1991). Daniel Barenboim (1991-2006) and current conductor Riccardo Muti (2010-).
He started his orchestral career early,
hired by the Chattanooga Symphony as fourth horn. “I spent my last
two years in high school playing in the Chattanooga Symphony.” He
enrolled at the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh where
he studied with Forrest Standley, former first horn of the
Pittsburgh Symphony. Clevenger played in many school ensembles and
the Wheeling [West Virginia] Symphony. He also played as an extra in
the Pittsburgh Symphony. In the summers after his junior and senior
years, he went to New York to study with Joseph Singer, then
principal horn in the New York Philharmonic. “With Singer, I added
touches with a different point of view, but with the same basic
style of playing,” After graduating from Carnegie Tech, he moved to
In New York, he was playing extra horn with the New York Philharmonic and was a member of the Symphony of the Air and the American Symphony Orchestra. He toured Europe with the Pittsburgh Symphony and played with the Kansas City Philharmonic.
Clevenger then auditioned for first horn with the Metropolitan Opera and won plaudits—“One of the horn players who heard me said it was the best audition he ever heard played”—but the job went, instead, to the first horn from the Chicago Symphony. Clevenger promptly sought an audition for the first horn opening with the Chicago Symphony and was one of the two finalists, “But they didn’t take anybody at that time.”
He then got a phone call from conductor Alfred Wallenstein, under whom he had played from time to time. Wallenstein said, “I’ve spoken to the conductor in Chicago about you. You should go out and audition for them.” I said, “I just did audition for them, back in April, and I didn’t make it.” He said, “You go out again. You play for them again. They want a first horn player.”
So one Sunday night, after playing a concert with Leopold Stokowski in Manhattan, he flew to Chicago and at 9:30 the next morning played an audition. Chicago did not hesitate this time. He got the job
In February 1966, he joined the CSO as their principal horn. He has since been a frequent soloist with the CSO and orchestras around the world. Additionally, he has done much work in the recording studios playing commercials and jingles.