Bassist Orin O’Brien has been a member of the New York Philharmonic since 1966, when Leonard Bernstein was the Music Director. Born in Hollywood of actor parents, she received her early musical training in Los Angeles. She studied with Milton Kestenbaum (principal bass of the Pittsburgh Symphony under Fritz Reiner and member of the NBC Symphony under Toscanini), Herman Reinshagen (for many years associate principal of the New York Philharmonic during the time of Mahler and Toscanini, and double bass teacher at the Institute of Musical Art, later to be Juilliard), and continued her studies in New York with Frederick Zimmermann, graduating as a scholarship student from the Juilliard School.
Before joining the New York Philharmonic she was a member of the New York City Ballet Orchestra (1956 to 1966) and during that time also performed with Stokowski’s American Symphony Orchestra (including solo bass in first U.S. performances of Ginastera’s Variations Concertantes), the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Musica Aeterna, and many other musical organizations.
She has played with the world’s leading conductors and in numerous chamber music festivals, including the Marlboro Music Festival recordings with Pablo Casals. She also participated in the first recording and performance of the Gunther Schuller Quartet for Four Double Basses, recordings with the Daniel Saidenberg Little Symphony, and many recordings of symphonic works and film scores. Her chamber music performances have included the quintets of Schubert and Dvořák with the Guarneri Quartet. Ms. O’Brien has given master classes at the Peabody Institute, the Tanglewood Festival, New England Conservatory, and Yale University.
On the faculty of Manhattan School of Music since 1969, she also teaches at Mannes College of Music and is on the faculty of the Juilliard School, where she was co-chair of the double bass department from 1992 to 2002. She has written articles for Strad magazine, and her Double Bass Notebook, a guidebook for young professionals, was published in 2012.
Manhattan School of Music awarded Orin O’Brien the President’s Medal for Distinguished Faculty Service in 2010. She received the Special Recognition for Teaching Award from the International Society of Bassists in 2011.