Ed Kleinhammer, a member of Hayward Wesleyan Church in northern Wisconsin, is known throughout classical music circles as one of the greatest trombone players in the world. Recently, he was declared a "Living Legend" by the International Trombone Association.
His career with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra spanned 45 years (1940 to
1985) and took him to all the great cities in America, as well as many nations around the world.
Born in 1919, Ed found Christ early in life through the ministry of the
Swedish Lutheran Church in Chicago. His faith in the Lord has guided him
all the way along. At 18, Ed wrote the following poem in honor of his
We know thou art present, O Lord
when we pray.
As we look to Thee for happiness from
day to day.
The mystery of life falls much short
For only too often
The world pours us sorrow which is
heavy to bear.
We ask for more love for the things
that are good,
For inspiration and peace in the things
that we should.
As we live in this life, wilt thou be
We ask thee to ever be at our side.
Keep us ever aware of the life that
Is to come;
That when our earthly tasks may be
Our souls may rest in eternal peace
And that others we will have inspired
thy heavens to see.
Growing up, Ed loved classical music. He would listen to the various orchestras on the radio night after night. There was a fire growing in his belly! When Ed was in his late teens, he happened to be walking the halls before a high school band competition. He stopped at the doorway of one room, and heard one of the bands rehearsing. The music so excellent and amazing, it inspired Ed to switch High Schools (travelling over a hour each
way) in order to play with them. Ed credits the teacher, John H. Barabash, a strict but excellent musician, for the success he has achieved in the music industry.
"Mr. Barabash taught me that music is more than a parade of notes. Good music has a pulse to it! It needs to come alive!"
It was around this time that Ed searched out the best trombone player he could find (David Anderson, who played for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra) and asked if he'd be willing to teach him lessons. Anderson graciously agreed to mentor the young Kleinhammer, and only charged him half price!
(Years later, Ed had the opportunity to mentor a disadvantaged young man named Stephen Wilson, providing free lessons, and even purchasing a trombone for him. Today, Wilson plays for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra!)
In 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt announced the formation of "All American Youth Orchestra". 15,000 people auditioned, and Ed was selected as a trombonist after the sixth round of try-outs. This was a tremendous honor, and Ed remembers it as one of the most thrilling moments of his life.
Some representatives from the Chicago Symphony Orchestra happened to be in the audience during the final audition, and shortly afterwards, invited Ed to join them. "Just think!" Ed remarked, "I was just a kid, and they asked me to play in one of the finest orchestras on earth!"
During Ed's long career with the orchestra, he played in all the great music halls, recorded many albums, lectured at Universities around the world, taught private lessons, and wrote two books, and received countless awards.
"My finest hour was one evening when we were playing in Boston. Everything just came together perfectly! We were ON FIRE!! The music was so wonderful
that night, it brought tears to our eyes!" The veteran conductor
exclaimed, "I've waited 60 years for this moment!"
"Music is the universal language of the soul." Ed says, "Everybody in the orchestra was a great musician, and every time we played, we put everything we had into the performance. It was always wonderful - a little taste of heaven."
Ed's first wife, Dorothy passed away in 1973. Three years later, he married Norma, who passed away in 1996. The next year, Ed relocated to Hayward, Wisconsin, where he found the Wesleyan Church. Ken LaCoy, the carpenter who built his house, invited him to attend, and he instantly felt right at home.
Shortly after joining the Senior Saints Bible Study Group, Ed fell in love with Dessie, who also attended. In a few months, they were married, and in 2009, they celebrated their 10th anniversary.
Long retired from trombone playing, Ed still lectures and gives lessons from time to time. He also makes coffee for the Senior Saints group, and has a beautiful ministry of encouragement.
Ed brought his trombone out for one final encore performance at Hayward Wesleyan Church, "to say thank you to the Lord for the wonderful life He has given me." When Ed finished playing "The Holy City", the congregation was filled with a holy awe. There was not a dry eye in the place.
A couple of years ago, Ed was working on an article for the International Trombone Journal on Mahler's Symphony Number 2: Resurrection. He made an appointment with Pastor Mark Wilson.
"Whenever I hear this beautiful masterpiece it feels like Easter, and a little foretaste of heaven.", he said, "That's where I need your advice."
"I'm wondering, do you think it would be appropriate to call Easter "a keyhole peek into heaven?"
"That's one of the best definitions of Easter I've ever heard!" his pastor replied, "I can't think of a better way to put it!"