JUNE 12. Edward Seferian, a violinist who taught music, played in the White House and was conductor of the Tacoma Symphony Orchestra for 35 years, died Saturday of cancer. He was 72.
Born into an ethnic Armenian family in Cleveland, Seferian took up the violin at age 4 and was tutored as a boy by Cleveland Orchestra concertmaster Josef Gingold. Violin king Fritz Kreisler awarded him a violin in a competition, and Seferian was still giving lessons on it a few days before he died.
He won a scholarship to the Juilliard School in New York but because of the Korean War landed instead in the White House Symphony Orchestra, part of the Marine Band. After three years of playing for Presidents Dwight Eisenhower and Harry Truman – and of being disciplined frequently for dusty shoes or unkempt hair – he returned to Juilliard and by 1958 had earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The next year he heard about an opening at the University of Puget Sound.
Besides teaching eight to 10 students a semester, he became conductor of what was then the UPS-Tacoma Symphony, a combination of college students and townspeople.d Seferian remade it into an independent nonprofit organization with its own board of directors and business donors, persuaded friends such as violinist Pinchas Zukerman to come to Tacoma and often had the orchestra give free performances. He also worked for a time as associate concertmaster and featured soloist for the Seattle Symphony and established the UPS University Symphony Orchestra, which now has 75 members.-