Mary Sue Welsh Discusses Her New Book One in a Hundred: Edna Phillips and the Philadelphia Orchestra

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Welsh says that despite her hard-working mentality and desire to remain aloof in the beginning, she still had a lot of fun, and she loved her life around her. Eventually her demanding schedule did prove to be difficult, particularly once she had children and was traveling so much after the World War II. Phillips ended up retiring and went on to do other things in the music world, says Welsh.

Although the premier orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, were extremely popular during Phillips' era, Welsh says, the general public has sort of lost touch with them now.

"While she was there, Stokowski made it the hottest ticket in town," says Welsh. "They say his second wife married him to get into the Philadelphia Orchestra. It was a very big deal at the time. The music was great, and he was showman. He knew how to attract crowds. It became a very important part of Philadelphia's life."

After Phillips, Stokowski hired a few more women through the 1930s, but the other larger orchestras wouldn't have female principal players until 1952, says Welsh. It wasn't until the orchestras started holding blind auditions that women started to represent a larger, more equal number.

Phillips' talent and ability to gain entry into the prestigious Philadelphia Orchestra at such a restrictive time, plus her savvy intelligence, which allowed her to maneuver through the male-dominated world, is what makes her story so appealing.

Welsh, who met Phillips during her time as executive director for the Bach Festival of Philadelphia, says one of her favorite memories of Phillips is her laugh.

"She had a warm, wonderful laugh," says Welsh. "She was so perceptive and fun, and she was kind of a profound person, very thoughtful."

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Darryle Royal
Contact: Darryle Royal