Robert LaMarchina Music Scholarship
(est. 2005) Robert LaMarchina was born in New York City in 1928. His parents first met on a ship that was traveling from South America to the United States, with his father from Argentina and his mother from Brazil. Antonio LaMarchina, Robert's father, was himself a cellist who later joined the St. Louis Symphony. LaMarchina first studied the cello with his father, who encouraged him to practice several hours a day since he was seven years old. At age 8, his practicing paid off, and LaMarchina made his stage debut with the Little Symphony in St. Louis.
In 1939, LaMarchina won a scholarship to study at the Paris Conservatory with Maurice Maréchal. When his studies in Paris were cut short due to the start of World War II, he continued his studies with Emanuel Feuermann at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. After three years of studying with Feuermann and becoming one of his favorite students, he studied with Gregor Piatigorsky for several years at Curtis.
Against his father's wishes, LaMarchina, at age 15, drove to New York by himself and auditioned for the NBC Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini. He won the audition and became the youngest member of the orchestra. In 1946, at age 18, he became the principal cellist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic until 1949, when he was drafted into the Army, and was appointed to the 293rd Army Band as a french horn player. After the Army, he rejoined the LA Phil where he stayed until 1956.
LaMarchina began his conducting career when he met Sylvia Kunin, a TV producer, who wished to do a television series featuring young talented classical musicians. The series, called Debut, ran for two years, and LaMarchina was recruited to conduct for the program. His wish to conduct became stronger after the experience, and in 1961, LaMarchina received a Ford Grant to study conducting at the Peabody Conservatory. His conducting debut was in 1951 in Japan in the Fujiwara Opera's production of Madame Butterfly. He also guest conducted the New York Philharmonic, the National Symphony, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the St. Louis Symphony.
In 1967, LaMarchina became the conductor of the Honolulu Symphony, a position he held until 1978. It was during his time in Honolulu when he successfully performed the Dvořák Cello Concerto in place of Jacqueline du Pré after she had to make a cancellation. At this point, he had not played the cello in seven years, didn't own a cello, and had only three days to prepare. He later taught music at Indiana University, traveled with the Ambassadors of Opera, and conducted operas on the west coast.
In 1995, he was honored by the Eva Janzer Memorial Cello Center at the Jacobs School of Music with the prestigious Chevalier du Violoncelle.
Each year, the Jacobs School of Music is honored to award the Robert LaMarchina Music Scholarship to undergraduate and graduate cello students.