Jonathan Pegis in 2010
Todd Rosenberg Photography
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra family mourns the loss of Jonathan Pegis, who served as a member of the cello section from 1986 until 2018. He died yesterday of natural causes, at home in Waterloo, Iowa. Pegis was 61.
“I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Jon Pegis, a very kind person and a wonderful player," commented Riccardo Muti. "I will remember him and his wonderful contribution to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.”
Born in Rochester, New York in 1960, Jonathan Pegis gave new meaning to the phrase "born into a musical family." He was one of seven children, all whom played string instruments. Pegis began his studies at the Eastman School of Music's Preparatory Department, where his first teacher was Alan Harris; he also studied with Lee Fiser, Paul Katz and Lynn Harrell. Pegis completed undergraduate studies at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. While there, he joined the LaSalle Quartet and viola Donald McInnes on chamber music tours of the United States and Germany. Their 1982 recording of Schoenberg's string sextet Transfigured Night for Deutsche Grammophon later received Japan's Tokyo Record Academy prize.
Pegis returned to Rochester in 1984 to become a member of the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra and to attend Eastman, where he earned a master's degree and a performer's certificate. In 1986, he was invited by Sir Georg Solti to join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's cello section, a post he held until his retirement in 2018. During his tenure, he frequently performed in chamber music, including concerts on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Music Series and the Northwestern University Winter Chamber Music Festival. He also appeared as soloist at Chicago Cello Society concerts, with the Texas Chamber Orchestra, Highland Park Strings and the Signature Symphony in Tulsa. In 1993, Pegis joined the faculty at Northwestern University, where taught cello orchestral studies until 2012. He also was a regular contributor to the cellobello.org blog.
When he announced his retirement, Pegis expressed, "What a pleasure and memorable journey it has been to be a part of this tremendous organization for over thirty years. A dream come true! These few words are inadequate to express the privilege it has been to share with such an outstanding organization, exceptional colleagues — musicians and staff. I am most grateful for the lifetime of experiences and memories that we made throughout the world!"
Pegis is survived by his wife Dawn, along with sons Michael and Jason from his previous marriage to Lisa Rensberger. Services are pending, and in lieu of flowers, the family has requested memorial gifts to the Tunnel to Towers Foundation and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
This article also appears here.