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Alan Shulman

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Alanshulman

Alan Shulman (1915-2002) was a cellist and composer who worked on the 1981 Sesame Street album Big Bird Discovers the Orchestra. He was featured playing for the character Variety Vivaldi, Mr. Maestro's cellist.

While enrolled at Juilliard, Shulman spent his early professional career as a pit cellist for Anything Goes on Broadway and as part of the Kreiner String Quartet, which also performed on CBS radio. Shortly before his graduation, Shulman joined the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini from 1937, remaining with the group until he joined the US Martitime Service in 1942. He rejoined the orchestra from 1948 until Toscanini's retirement in 1954 and remained part of the short-lived successor group, Symphony of the Air (1954-1957). Other groups he played with ranged from the Stuyvesent String Quartet (formed in 1938 with his brother Sylvan Shulman), which debuted one of Shostakovich's pieces and recorded Mozart and other classical works, to the jazz group The New Friends of Rhythm (which recorded from 1939 until 1947).

Shulman's composition "Theme and Variations" for viola was premiered by fellow NBC symphony musician Emanuel Vardi at a 1941 recital, accompanied by piano. Expanded by Shulman for a full orchestra, the completed work premiered on NBC's New American Music the same year, again with Vardi as viola soloist, and repeated twice thereafter. It has since entered standard repertory.

Shulman also wrote compositions for bandleader Artie Shaw, scored several documentary shorts for RKO in the 1940s (including Behind the Radio Dial), the 1950 film The Tatooed Stranger, the NBC radio drama American Portraits (1951), which profiled Abraham Lincoln and other American historical figures. Apart from orchestra work and composing, Shulman worked steadily as a session musician, playing on records, television, or live events with Louis Armstrong, Perry Como (on albums and on Kraft Music Hall), Shirley Bassey (her 1973 Carnegie Hall concert), Frank Sinatra (on tour), Bette Midler (on "Thighs and Whispers"), George Benson, Aretha Franklin, Carly Simon, and Chaka Khan.

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