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John Sant'Ambrogio tells of the life and sometimes hilarious times behind the scenes as a former member of the Boston Symphony, the Principal Cellist with the Casals Festival Orchestra, and Principal Cellist with the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra--spanning over 50 years and 10,000 concerts.

There are over 50 cello stories ranging from the dramatic, poignant, hilarious, to very serious.

"Truly charming" . . . "You'll laugh, you'll get more than one lump in your throat, and you'll enjoy every word of this beguiling collection of stories, all wrapped up in the person of one John Sant'Ambrogio, cellist and story-teller extraordinaire." -- MVDaily

ISBN # 978-1-891331-15-2
365 pages 6" x 9" Trade softcover

CHAPTER 1: A Musical Crime
CHAPTER 2: Blessed Are The Merciful
CHAPTER 3: It's Nice Work If You Can Get It
CHAPTER 4: Friendly Gladiators
CHAPTER 5: A Woman's Touch
CHAPTER 6: Unfriendly Gladiators
CHAPTER 7: Moving On
CHAPTER 8: A Great Composer
CHAPTER 9: Meet Me In St. Louis
CHAPTER 10: They Have A Control Problem
CHAPTER 11: Dee Da Deedle Da Da - read this chapter here
CHAPTER 12: Standup Comedian
CHAPTER 13: He Was Only Human - read this chapter here
CHAPTER 14: Always On The Outside
CHAPTER 15: Destiny
CHAPTER 16: Surprise!
CHAPTER 17: The Pit
CHAPTER 18: Sentence Commuted
CHAPTER 19: Heaven
CHAPTER 20: The Bears
CHAPTER 21: Matadors
CHAPTER 22: My Command Performance
CHAPTER 23: Close Call
CHAPTER 24: Inga
CHAPTER 25: Winning Me Over
CHAPTER 26: Daunting Task
CHAPTER 27: The Racer
CHAPTER 28: What's In A Name?
CHAPTER 29: Final Hat
CHAPTER 30: Leonard, Not Lenny
CHAPTER 31: My, What Ears He Has
CHAPTER 32: Fast, Faster, Fastest
CHAPTER 33: Nice Guy
CHAPTER 34: Signs, Signals, and Mixed Messages
CHAPTER 35: Could You Be A Little Clearer, Please?
CHAPTER 36: Lost
CHAPTER 37: A Difference Of Opinion
CHAPTER 38: Verdi, John, Verdi!
CHAPTER 39: Eye Of The Storm
CHAPTER 40: Ghosts
CHAPTER 41: Orchestra-Watching
CHAPTER 42: On Teaching Your Own Children: Don't! Well, Maybe.
CHAPTER 43: Perks
CHAPTER 44: Cigar Box With Four Strings
CHAPTER 45: The Car Conspiracy
CHAPTER 46: And Tyler, Too
CHAPTER 47: Is This Your Real Job?
CHAPTER 48: High Anxiety
CHAPTER 49: In The Line Of Duty
CHAPTER 50: Some Good Advice
CHAPTER 51: The Great Depression
CHAPTER 52: Marilyn
CHAPTER 53: More Good Advice
CHAPTER 54: Concertmasters I Have Known
CHAPTER 55: Those Newcomers
CHAPTER 56: Yo Yo Mahvelous
CHAPTER 57: Who's the Best?
CHAPTER 58: Another Newcomer
CHAPTER 59: A Man Called Henry
CHAPTER 60: All In The Family
CHAPTER 61: The Rehearsal
CHAPTER 62: Our First Challenge
CHAPTER 63: Our Second Challenge
CHAPTER 64: The Search Begins
CHAPTER 65: I Gotta Stay One More Year
CHAPTER 66: Where Are They Going? Up!
CHAPTER 67: Retire? Really?
CHAPTER 68: Coda


John Sant'Ambrogio's cello stories:
The Day I Almost Destroyed the Boston Symphony and Other Stories

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About the Author

John Sant'Ambrogio has enjoyed an illustrious career as a cellist in top orchestras, chamber music ensembles and as a pedagogue for over five decades. Appointed Principal Cello of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra (SLSO) in 1968 after being a member of the Boston Symphony Orchestra for nine years, Mr. Sant'Ambrogio has served as Principal Cello of such orchestras as the Casals Festival (Puerto Rico), Grand Teton Music Festival (WY), Lancaster Festival (OH) and the Seventh Army Symphony (Europe).

In 1987, he founded and was the first Artistic Director of Strings in the Mountains in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. His discography includes chamber music and orchestral recordings on the TELARC, RCA, IMG and VOX labels. Mr. Sant'Ambrogio studied with Leonard Rose, Paul Olevsky and Diran Alexanian and has passed on these pedagogies while on the faculties of Washington University, the St. Louis Conservatory and Boston University. His students have won jobs in major symphony orchestras including the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Chicago Symphony and the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra. Retiring from the SLSO in 2005, he moved to Steamboat Springs, CO to pursue his love of skiing, hiking, cycling and photography. Still a very active chamber musician and teacher, he founded the Generations Piano Trio in 2005 with violinist Dmitri Pogorelov and pianist Judith Lynn Stillman.

Mr. Sant'Ambrogio continues to perform throughout the country with his trio and, to his delight, with his daughters Stephanie, violinist, and Sara, cellist.

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All succcessful books have a team that supported the author during the years of the book's development and publication and is now acknowledged:

Brenda Harbert, who typed the manuscript years ago; Betsy Chase, who typed the last five chapters, George Spitzer, the publisher who said this book must be published, Jill Murphy Long, who encouraged the author to perservere, Jane Spitzer,editor extraordinaire; Ken Lee, who was patient in taking the many photographs of which one became the cover of the book; Gary Albright, who designed the cover; and Dan Dreyfus, who took the photo of the author gazing from the back cover.

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John Sant'Ambrogio

Institutions Founded:

  • Co-Director and Co-Founder of Red Fox Music Camp and Music Festival, New Marlboro, Mass. 1949-79.
  • Founder and Director of the Strings in the Mountains Music Festival, in Steamboat Springs , CO. 1987-92
  • Founder and Director of the St. Ambrose Chamber Orchestra, 1992 to present.
  • Founder and Director of Arts for the Soul, Seminar/Retreat in Steamboat Springs, CO. 2002 to present.

Professional Experience
  • St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Principal Cellist from 1968- 2005
  • Boston Symphony Orchestra, 1959-1968
  • Casals Festival Orchestra, Principal Cellist, 1969 & 1970
  • Grand Teton Music Festival, Jackson Hole, Wyoming, Principal Cellist 1980-1985
  • Elliot Piano Trio, 1992-2005
  • Giovanni String Quartet, 1972-1976
  • St. Louis String Quartet, 1968-2005
  • Boston Piano Trio, 1965-1968
  • Seventh Army Symphony, Principal Cellist, 1956-1958
  • Teaching Experience
  • Private cello instructor since 1959 to the present
  • Former pupils have won positions in major symphony orchestras including Boston Symphony,
    Chicago Symphony and the St. Louis Symphony.
  • St. Louis Conservatory, 1985-1989
  • Mountain Team Concepts Music Camp, Director and Founder, 1992-1996
  • Grand Teton Music Seminar, 1980-1985
  • Washington University, 1970-1974
  • Boston University, 1963-1965


  • Leonard Rose, 1953-1955
  • Paul Olevsky, 1950-1952
  • Diran Alexanian, 1948-1950


  • B.A. in Music Education from Lebanon Valley College, Anneville, PA; 1954
  • M.A. in Music from Ohio University, Athens, OH; 1968


  • Clarinet Quintets of Mozart & Brahms on VOX label.
  • More than 20 recordings with the Saint Louis Symphony on TELARC, RCA, IMG and VOX.
  • Executive produced two recordings for Strings in the Mountains: The Eroica Trio and Gilles Apap & The Country Mountain Boys.


  • Was the originator of the film "Eroica" which was shown on PBS 400 times in December of 2003