Appointed by Sir Georg Solti to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in 1974, David Sanders was the last remaining member of the cello section led by the CSO’s legendary Principal Cello Frank Miller. Beginning in 1975, he was featured regularly on the CSO chamber music series, including 25 years with the Montagnana Trio, and was a soloist with his fellow CSO cellists in the 1989 subscription concert performances of Villa-Lobos’ Bachianas Brasilerias No. 1. Sanders was the founder and president for 19 years of the Chicago Cello Society as well as the editor of its newsletter, The Cello Scroll. In 2008, he helped organize and performed in a concert presented by the Cello Society of 20 solo works of David Popper, a concert that featured five cellists from the CSO. In 2010, he organized and performed in a concert of Beethoven’s five sonatas for cello and piano as part of the CSO chamber music series.
He began playing cello at the age of 12 and started taking lessons at the age of 14 in high school in Miami, Florida. Sanders made his solo debut less than two years later with the Miami Symphonic Society Orchestra. He was a scholarship student at the University of Miami and Florida State University summer orchestra festivals, Eastern Music Festival and London Symphony Institute.
Sanders began his studies at the Northwestern University School of Music in the fall of 1967, and also became a member of the Civic Orchestra, attending weekly cello sectionals with CSO Principal Cello Frank Miller. In the summer of 1968, he had intensive lessons with Miller, spending 8 to 10 hours a day practicing the cello. In the summer of 1969, he joined the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, where he was a member for five seasons. Upon graduation from Northwestern University in 1971, he became a member of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra. In 1972 he joined the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra, where he played for two seasons. In December 1973, following his second season at Lyric, he became principal cello of the Orlando Symphony Orchestra, and he was appointed to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra the following year.
Upon his retirement in February 2024, Sanders reflected on his time in the CSO. “As a student and young professional, I never dreamed that I would become a member of the Chicago Symphony, and I have tried to be as welcoming to new members who have joined after me as many of the older members were to me when I joined. It has been a privilege to be a member of this great Orchestra and share nearly 50 years of musical memories with exceptional colleagues.”