Tony-Nominated Musical Director Charles Jaffe Passes Away at 94


Tony Award nominee Charles Jaffe passed away on August 16 at age 94 at his home in Warminster, Pennsylvania.

Born and raised in Philadelphia, Mr. Jaffe started his career as a violinist, graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music in 1933. He became the youngest member of the Philadelphia Orchestra at the age of 17 and then joined the prestigious Curtis String Quartet, touring extensively throughout the United States and internationally. A highlight of his tenure with the Curtis String Quartet was a performance in the jubilee celebration for King George of England in 1935. In 1944 he moved to New York City and began a new phase of his career as a free-lance violinist and arranger of music, and became a member of the NBC Symphony under Arturo Toscanini. He later started his own professional orchestra, known as the Symphony Society of Long Island, and worked as a violinist and assistant conductor for the New York City Center Ballet.

In the mid-1950's he began a memorable musical career on Broadway, serving as conductor, assistant conductor and musical director for classic Broadway shows including the original productions of West Side Story, Fiddler on the Roof and My Fair Lady. During his five-year tenure as musical director of Fiddler on the Roof he worked with six different Tevyes, starting with Zero Mostel. Given permission to take photos from the pit, a collection of his photography of the show was published in The New York Times.

Mr. Jaffe was nominated for the 1964 Tony Award for Best Conductor and Music Director for his work on the revival of West Side Story.

He continued working as an arranger and violinist, playing on several NBC and CBS shows until his retirement in 1988.

Mr. Jaffe is survived by his daughter, Elissa Smiley; son-in-law Leonard Smiley; granddaughters Shara Smiley, Ellen Smiley and Robyn Weitzer; and grandson David Weitzer. He was preceded in death by his wife, Thelma Jaffe, and daughter, Susan Weitzer.


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