Alan Abel

April 25, 2020

Born Dec. 6, 1928, in Hobart, Ind., Alan Daniel Abel attended the Eastman School of Music, graduating in 1951. He served in the Air Force from 1951 to 1953 and then joined the Oklahoma City Symphony.

One of the guest conductors who passed through that orchestra was Leopold Stokowski, who, in a newspaper interview, singled out Mr. Abel’s playing. The young percussionist sent the newspaper clipping to the Philadelphia Orchestra and asked to be considered for any openings, Mr. Abel told the Percussive Arts Society, in whose Hall of Fame he was inducted in 1998.

An opening came, he auditioned, and began as third percussionist in 1959. He advanced to the assistant principal spot in 1973 and became associate principal in 1988

Over the years, he was a standout on any number of instruments, whether it was the bass drum in Johann Strauss Jr.’s “Thunder and Lightning Polka,” the snare in Rachmaninoff’s The Bells, or tambourine in Wagner’s “Overture” to Das Liebesverbot.

Mr. Abel and fellow percussionist Fred Hinger often worked together to ponder how instruments could produce sound that would carry in the Academy of Music, said Liuzzi. A stand Mr. Abel created for suspending the bass drum has become standard equipment in the field.

The triangles he designed have “resonance and an ability to really cut through the orchestra,” Liuzzi said. “It’s very popular. For a while it was the only top-notch triangle.”

He taught at a number of schools, including, from 1973 to 2019, Temple University. More than a third of notable American orchestras have a percussionist who studied with Mr. Abel or with one of his students, said Liuzzi.

He had been slated to lead a class via Zoom on April 21 but was hospitalized the day before, said Mr. Abel’s daughter, Marianne.

“He was the type of teacher who could make anybody better,” said Peter Wilson, a freelance percussionist based in Phoenix who studied with Mr. Abel at Temple and privately. “He had a systematic way of doing things, so it was impossible not to improve if you did what he said.”

He also geared his training to help students succeed in the cut-throat audition circuit.

Said Wilson: “He’s hard to match for placing students in serious, reputable orchestras.”

Mr. Abel is survived by his wife of 68 years, Janet Voorhies Abel; children Marianne Chenoweth, Alan, and Paul; seven grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren; and a brother.

Services are expected later, but he will be remembered on April 30th in a special event. To witness on-line, go to the website Go to ‘Live and Recorded Services: A Service of Witness to The Resurrection – Alan Abel’