David Ogden Stiers

David Ogden Stiers

The Newport Symphony mourns the passing, David Ogden Stiers, who died March 3. David was a guiding light for the NSO since its founding as well as serving as its resident conductor.

Music Director Adam Flatt: "All of us at the NSO are heartbroken. David Ogden Stiers was a generous, loving, and inspirational friend and pillar to our orchestra, and, indeed, to all of us individually. Our orchestra would not be here if it weren't for his great support and inspiration over three decades. His depth of musical feeling, love for our musicians, and charisma made his performances soar when he was on our podium. We will all work to keep David's spirit alive in all of our performances."

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In Memoriam – David Ogden Stiers

Memory Wall for

David Ogden Stiers

NSO Resident Conductor

We invite you to share your thoughts and any experiences you might have with David Stiers

The Newport Symphony Orchestra mourns the loss of its resident conductor, David Ogden Stiers who passed away March 3, 2018. Stiers has been an advocate and a rock for the Orchestra since its beginning, helping it from its early roots in the late 1980’s as a community orchestra to becoming the regionally recognized professional orchestra that it is today.

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20 comments to In Memoriam – David Ogden Stiers

  • John Lavrakas

    David was as sincere as he was good natured. We enjoyed running into him at the Saturday Farmer’s Market where we would catch him in long conversations with the vendors. A tall man sporting a ball cap on his head, he was always quick with a smile and a good word.

  • Joseph Swafford

    For many years I had a wine shop in Newport and David Stiers would come in, ask questions and buy wine. He credited me with building his knowledge of Oregon wine. One day he came in and said the International Pinot Noir Celebration, held annually in McMinnville, had asked him to give the opening address and asked me, “What should I say?” My reply was we would ask Adelsheim Vineyard’s David Adelsheim, one of the founders of the IPNC, for advice. David A. invited me to bring David S. for lunch and he would have former Governor Neal Goldschmidt, who had given the opening remarks several times before, join us and give some pointers. When we arrived, David A. apologized that Goldschmidt couldn’t come but would call during lunch. After taking the call, David Stiers came back to lunch and said Goldschmidt was helpful, although he wanted to talk more about David’s latest films. We laughed, but the Stiers’ opening was a hit later that month.

  • Trevor Song

    I shared my memory of David both privately and now publicly to people and the story doesn’t change. If anything, I have grown to appreciate what I have experienced from him over the course of time. Having to have been one of those people who really just wanted his autograph for a long time, I am glad I got that opportunity some years ago. It also made me understand that he was very passionate about the NSO and that he would do what he could to make it thrive.

    I am grateful that I had a chance to communicate to him and also do something important for NSO that meant so much to him.

  • Grey Maier

    I first must express my deepest condolences to the NSO on the loss of your resident conductor. I found the NSO quite my accident, thinking you were in my neck of the woods, and the NSO has been my introduction to the orchestra. My junior year of college, I found myself interning with the BSO at Symphony Hall, Boston, and I got a chance to conduct a little bit at one of their rehearsals. I found myself up in front of that orchestra thinking “what would David Stiers do here? How would Adam Flatt handle this? How would the NSO make this sound?” That’s the impact the NSO and David Stiers has had on me. David Stiers was a tremendous inspiration to me as I entered the world of Classical music having never gone to conservatory, conducting my stereo with a kitting needle, and reading music horizontally rather than vertically. To me, David Stiers will always have a home in the BSO, as well as fondly in my heart.

    Peace and love from 3000 miles away
    – Grey
    (Newport, RI)

  • Tom Reel

    Pasted below is a remembrance of David Ogden Stiers – actor, conductor and arts supporter. It is a slightly edited version of what I sent to members of my orchestra, the Virginia Symphony (which included a link to an obituary). The original subject line was “David Ogden Stiers – How He Impacted YOUR Life.”

    Actor David Ogden Stiers passed away this weekend. He was most famous for his role as a classical music loving army major in the TV series M*A*S*H, but his body of work as an actor extended far beyond that. In real life he loved our art form and used to attend conducting master classes at Juilliard when he was studying acting there.

    He was in Norfolk almost three decades ago and was involved peripherally in an action that has impacted the life of every Musician in this orchestra – including those not yet born in the fall of 1988. The Union invited him here to conduct a Benefit Concert while we were on Strike. Net proceeds would be distributed to the Musicians AND to the laid off Staff. (This was an example of the creative public relations we used to present ourselves in the most positive frame and was important in getting Mr. Stiers to agree to come here since his management was reluctant to have him involved in helping a striking Union. Also we explained that we hoped to achieve a settlement before his November 5th concert date.)

    As things turned out, we settled WHILE HE WAS HERE and re-billed the concert as a celebration of the settlement. He was prepared to conduct us, even if we were still out. The publicity surrounding his visit may have helped to end the strike which had held a prominent place in the local news for 6 weeks, ever since our “Farewell Concert” (so labeled by the Union in the media in the days leading up to the pre-announced strike date). On Friday September 23rd we had concluded the concert playing Beethoven’s “Eroica” Symphony with its famous Funeral March. On that emotionally charged evening there was a sizable audience at Chrysler Hall with many Saturday subscribers having swapped their tickets for the Friday night “Farewell”; performance. Some even brought a banner with our slogan “Stand Up for Your Symphony.”

    If you like having employer-paid health insurance or having any paid leave at all or having Mondays off each week, you can thank those who were here in 1988 and gained all of those things (as well as pay increases) by having the fortitude (and planning) to stop working until they were achieved. I remember David Ogden Stiers’ observation about our annual pay at the time. “I’m paid more than that for one day making a TV commercial!”

    In addition to paying many of his expenses, Mr. Stiers also wrote us a check to help with the Local’s production costs because ticket sales didn’t look like they would yield much profit after hall rental and a catered post-concert reception, both in Virginia Beach. (Ultimately, I think we were able to give about fifty bucks to every member of the Staff and Orchestra.) He was also generous with his time, doing radio and television interviews as well as speaking with print journalists. He was a joy to be around and had a wicked sense of humor. I remember that Rob Cross had a minor fender-bender while driving with Mr. Stiers who proceeded to call him Red Cross for the rest of his visit.

    I also remember that he was slightly taken aback when he saw our Musician media chair being interviewed after the settlement and saying how pleased we were with the settlement and how we appreciated Management's agreement, looking forward to working together, blah, blah, blah… and cellist Miriam Perkoff turned to him and said, “Now THAT’s acting!” (Miriam had been a leader in mounting the Benefit Concert and securing the participation of Mr. Stiers and today is still an active Musician on the west coast.)

    I wish we could have brought him back for a subsequent engagement. He would have been blown away by the change in the quality of the orchestra!

    Rest in Peace, Mr. Stiers. And Thank You.

    Respectfully submitted by Tom Reel, Union Advocate and Double Bassist with the Virginia Symphony since 1984

  • Tony Haynes

    I met Mr. Stiers when asked to update his home heating system. In the process of getting to know him and his enthusiasm for environmental issues, he invited my two college age sons to join us in test driving his two Tesla electric cars. They obviously had no idea of his star power that I was overwhelmed with but both were left with lasting memories of his passion to improve our planet and to be behind the wheel when going 0 to 60 mph in 3.6 seconds. So sorry to here of his passing, he will be missed by many.

  • Edmund Stone

    I have twice had the personal and professional honor to work with David Ogden Stiers, hosting “Newport Symphony Goes to the Movies”. Sharing the stage with such a great presence was a delight. David was personally invested in each of the pieces he conducted and brought his own flair to the music. When we were selecting the film music for the concerts he chose John Williams’ theme to Steven Spielberg’s comedy “1941”. With a warm smile, he told me that when he was filming M*A*S*H in 1979, one day he crept into the recording studio to watch Williams conduct the “1941” score live, and he had loved it ever since. David was a great thespian, conductor and a genuinely gracious person. Through my work in broadcasting, music and on stage I know how challenging it is to bring all the elements together. When David Ogden Stiers took up the baton he made it look so easy – the mark of a true professional. Moreover, he made it fun for everyone involved – the mark of a great spirit. You will be missed.

  • Jim Myers

    Many people may not know this about David. But in 1997 David was only one of three of the MASH stars who went to Korea to participate in the official ceremony closing the MASH unit which inspired the series. Where the rest of the cast were I do not know, but David went to honor the unit and those who served in it during WWII and Korea. What a class act he was! Here is the link to the LA Times article and the video from the AP in which David was featured.



  • Jay A. Steele tuba

    I really enjoyed David’s conducting!! I really liked his taste in music and style. I was in awe of his career as well.But what a great advocate for classical music.He contributed greatly to the many regional symphonies in Oregon and Washington.But also nationally as well ! I think he will be sorely missed by the Newport Symphony for his artistry ,eloquence and great sense of humor.

  • Shelley Mathewson

    Mr. Stiers had a magnificent presence, a fabulous humor that he readily shared, and was tremendously devoted to the Newport Symphony, to promoting talented young students and the community. He is very much missed and may his inspiring spirit rest in peace.

  • Pat Lewis

    When I joined the NSO Board, I felt that David had no idea who I was, but he was a complete gentleman when I cornered him in the PAC parking lot to show his Tesla to my visiting friends. After that we encountered each other around town, and one day he even gave me a ride in the Tesla. He was wonderful in his support of the NSO, the musicians, staff, board, and Adam. I will miss him greatly, around town, on the concert stage, at his Christmas readings, and so many other ways.

  • Rose Taylor

    Mom brought me to her rehearsal when I was young, I only hoped someday to talk to him. Now its been almost 20 years of calling him a friend. Hes my favorite actor, I will never forget anytime I got to sit with him, or got a hug. He was a very sweet man, he is very missed. Rest In Peace David Ogden Stiers.

  • Anthea Kreston

    I first met David when I was 11 – at a contest for young musicians in Chicago. He was the MC, and gave us all a pep talk before going on stage – he made us feel like we had already accomplished our goals, and the finals were just a bit of dessert. What a gift to be able to speak to kids this way. Hoping all the best to the Newport musicians, and greetings from Germany!

  • Adrian Dee flute

    David – I remember the first time I played under your baton in rehearsal at the Newport PAC. I was awed at how much passion you brought to the music. I remember you and Patty Duke performing “Loveletters” as a fundraiser for NSO. I remember standing next to you on stage during “Peter vs. Wolf” and the little tail you had pinned to the back of your jacket. I remember your great voice filling the hall, and your great heart filling our lives. I remember the “Battle of the Batons” in which you inspired and coached young people to conduct and perform theatrically. But most of all, I remember your expansive kindness and generosity and caring and humbleness. Thank you for being here.

  • Gabriela Weiss-Vickers

    Mr Stiers was a remarkable man. The first time I met him was at the Presbyterian Church in Newport. We had a Concert that night. I walked in and noticed that there was no seating available. David noticed me and offered me his seat with no second thought.
    I also remember the time he was very interested in buying my in-law’s home. He asked my husband if I would mind lots of music next to our home. Oh my. Me ????? I am a Singer. LOVE Music. I would have been in heaven. Would have NOT been an issue.

    He was a gentleman. Showed lots of grace and heart. Thank you David for entering my life, even though it was a quick one you have made a big impression on me.

    Heaven just gained another beautiful Angel. ❤️❤️❤️

    Gabriela Weiss-Vickers.

  • Kirk Frederick

    Having just attended last weekend’s memorial tribute concert by the NSO, it was my good fortune to have my friends Martha and Glenn Griffith, harp and trombone players with the orchestra, introduce me to Adam Flatt at the post-concert reception. Adam and I bonded instantly, exchanged email addresses, and when I sent him the following story, he suggested I post it on this memory wall. IT’S LONG, and for that I apologize. But it’s a fun story about David’s and my early years. We were friends for 55 years, and I’m honored to have known such a remarkable human, a gifted actor, and an extraordinary musician. Enjoy the read….

    “Are You Someone Too?”
Introduction to a new book by Kirk Frederick:

    We met in 1963 when the young actor David Stiers came to Santa Clara University as a guest artist from Oregon. We worked together in several productions that school year, then stayed through the summer of 1964 for the second year of the California Shakespeare Festival, where we were actors in residence.
    David and I were 20-somethings; he was older by about 10 months, but we were both budding young actors, and honored to be cast in the Senior Acting Company of CSF. We out-of-towners also became housemates.
    “Call me Dave” was perhaps the first thing he ever said to me. He was known professionally as David Ogden Stiers, but he was “Dave” for our first few months. Shortly thereafter, he became “Davey,” which he allowed me to call him as we became better friends over the next 55+ years.

    This book deals with celebrity: where it comes from, how it’s dealt with, and how it affects its recipients, for better or worse. The title comes from an episode that David and I shared a decade later, shortly after his first season playing Major Charles Emerson Winchester on the television version of M*A*S*H.

    Several summers into the Shakespeare festival, our then acting coach John Houseman pulled David aside and told him he should consider going to New York’s Juilliard School of Acting where Mr. Houseman taught.
    David was that good.

    And so he went. His years there are fodder for yet another chapter, but cutting to its finale: David graduated and got his first job in “The Magic Show” on Broadway, where he was seen by television producers. They cast him as the bad guy: the executive at the “Mary Tyler Moore Show” TV station who was responsible for firing everyone, ending that popular show’s long run. David Ogden Stiers was disliked by MTM fans, because of the character he played.

    Some of that show’s producers were also involved with TV’s smash M*A*S*H. When one of the lead characters left the show five seasons into the show’s hugely successful run, it fell to the producers to find a suitable replacement to play a doctor/surgeon who would be a good foil to Alan Alda’s Hawkeye and Mike Ferrell’s B.J.

    Perhaps partly out of guilt from making this remarkable young actor the object of such loathing, just for being responsible for the end of the MTM Show, they came to David and offered him a part in M*A*S*H.

    They made the offer difficult to resist or refuse: come aboard a series in its sixth successful season, create your own character as the brilliant but pompous Bostonian medic, and slide into the tent with Hawkeye and B.J., two of America’s most beloved TV characters.
    But, thought David, I’m a Juilliard graduate, a trained Shakespearean actor, a musical fanatic (he snuck out of Juilliard acting classes to “audit” John Williams’ conducting sessions), and a Broadway performer. Now I’m being offered a role on a TV sitcom?

    So he called me to ask what I thought.

    “You have to THINK about turning down a major TV show?” I asked.

    Yes, of course, David insisted. He was concerned: what about being “type-cast?” What about his career as a serious actor? What about his passion for music and desire to conduct?

    “Yeah, but it’s a huge hit show,” I gushed. “You’d be a major player. Certainly your agent would negotiate a fine salary for you. You’d make a lot of money, become a household name and a celebrity, and you’d be working with some of the greatest talent on television.”
    I like to think that I helped influence his decision to accept the job, and in fact he later let me take some of the credit when he called me shortly after they finished his first season. He thanked me for encouraging him to take the part, admitting that it truly was a remarkable experience, and announcing that he’d just been signed for a second season. (He ended up doing five more.)

    As thanks, he invited me to his parents’ home in Eugene, Oregon, to hang out with them for awhile. Ken and Maggie Stiers and I had met several times earlier in David’s and my friendship, when they came to the Bay Area to see him in various Shakespeare roles – among them, Jacques in As You Like It, Polonius in Hamlet, Gremio in The Taming of the Shrew, and the title roles in Richard III and King Lear (yes, old King Lear, when David was in his early 20s). I had spent a few Thanksgivings with the Stiers family in Eugene; we’d became close friends.

    After a few days with the Stiers family, David and I headed west for a short stay at The Inn at Otter Crest on the magnificent Oregon coast. It was one of those idyllic, iconic places with a sweet name, charming and comfy seaside cottages, and a main building like an old lodge, housing one of the area’s finest restaurants.

    We spent our last evening together in that dining room, sitting at a cozy table for two against the window overlooking the Pacific. David ordered a fine Pauilliac, and just after our salads arrived, we got into a conversation about how he was adjusting to celebrity.
    He didn’t like it. He mentioned how annoying it was to be shopping at a drug store, and having a goofy guy come up to him without introduction, interrupting with “Hey, you’re a doctor. I’ve seen you on TV. What should I get my wife for her headache?”

    We laughed about the perils of popularity, and just as we started a conversation about the highs and lows of celebrity, I noticed a young woman over David’s shoulder, approaching the table carrying an autograph book.

    Uh-oh, I thought; here we go.

    The woman stopped next to David, and without introduction or apology, shoved his salad plate aside, and put her little book down on the table, announcing that she wanted his autograph.

    David put down his fork, rose to his full 6’3″ height, towering over the unsuspecting fan, and railed at her. He may have been a bit harsh, but he’d had enough of these fanatics throughout the year. He told her how rude she was to interrupt, how insensitive she was to his privacy, and how he resented her for bothering him and his friend.

    Utterly unfazed by his tirade, she picked up the book, turned to me, and asked “Are you someone too?” Without hesitation, I grabbed the book and signed “Keir Dullea,” the actor who played the astronaut in “2001: A Space Odyssey,” whom I slightly resembled at the time.

    After she walked away, apparently appeased, David and I burst into hysterical laughter. We both agreed that if we ever wrote about this night, that line would be the title of a chapter. If not a book.

    Everyone is “someone too,” but some are just more well known. Let’s talk about that. [Book to be published soon; probaby in 2020]

  • Good morning, It is with great sadness we recognize the loss of David Ogden Stiers, and yet I feel he lives on, with his work at the NSO and when watching Mash and other films he acted in. I remember how excited locals were when he visited the Newport Farmer’s Market.

  • Jim Holahan

    Rest in peace, David, dear friend as you move onto the celestial realm. Met David back in 1980 and being a classical nerd without a TV I was unaware of David’s celebrity. We were close and very open in our feelings about music and the meaning of life. We walked the streets of San Francisco on a vacation and someone from the other side of the street yelled out Charles Winchester III. David was quite upset, didn’t glance in the guy’s direction and said to me, my name is not Charles. I was thankful that I knew David as David, not some character. David was interested in my singing career and would make recordings on the best cassette tapes available even redoing about a dozen St Olaf Choir recordings for me. In that vain I am posting a stunning piece, musically and textually for my dear friend David. Love , Jim

    In my heart’s sequestered chambers lie truths stripped of poets’ gloss
    Words alone are vain and vacant, and my heart is mute
    In response to aching silence, memory summons half-heard voices
    And my soul finds primal eloquence, and wraps me in song
    If you would comfort me, sing me a lullaby
    If you would win my heart, sing me a love song
    If you would mourn me and bring me to God,
    sing me a requiem, sing me to Heaven

    Touch in me all love and passion, pain and pleasure

    Touch in me grief and comfort, love and passion, pain and pleasure

    Sing me a lullaby, a love song, a requiem

    Love me, comfort me, bring me to God

    Sing me a love song, sing me to Heaven


  • David Stiers came into my life when I was 20, when he was at the beginning of his acting career and we were both actors in the California Shakespeare Festival, which started at Santa Clara University and later moved to Los Gatos, CA. David played major roles–he was clearly a monster talent from the beginning. Some of us used to hang out in a house–we called it “The House of Will”– rented for some of the guest actors, David among them. Even at that time he would entertain us by conducting Berlioz in the living room–he taught me a lot about how to listen to music. There was much laughter and much comaraderie. I learned that his nickname as a kid was Spook because he was born on Halloween. When I heard he was dying, it was in the spirit of our show-biz good times that I wrote lyrics to this old tune, and sent it to him in with note of thanks for his life.

    To the tune of “Thanks for the Memory”

    Thanks for the Berlioz,
    the nights at House of Will,
    I do remember still,
    our Age of Innocence amid the footlights and the thrills?
    How lovely it was!

    Thanks for your artistry,
    the ease with which you played,
    the talent you displayed,
    from Lear to Richard Three to Gremio to peasant slave?
    How lovely it was!

    Many’s the nights that we partied and many the nights that we marveled,
    to see you conducting the symphony…the concerti, oh–the repartee!

    So–thanks for the memories,
    and wishing you the best,
    a heaven where you’ll rest,
    where flights of angels sing in perfect tune at your behest;
    your gold baton is radiant, having just been blessed?..
    Thank you, thank you.

  • John Lavrakas

    Sadly a giant of a man has left us. I have known David for over 30 years. He was family in the sense that Aunt Muriel Ogden Newsam, a dear friend and longtime member of the Very Little Theatre, and David were the actors in the family. David, after leaving Eugene to study acting, would return frequently to visit his parents and his aunts, Muriel and Louise.

    In 1991, David and I (and Michael Gross and his wife) put together a benefit for the Very Little Theatre featuring Love Letters, which he cast with one of the actresses from the membership of the Very Little Theatre. In community theatre circles, David was Muriel’s nephew, who frequently did major benefits for the cultural community of Eugene. He and the Geltners looked after Aunt Muriel in her final years in Eugene. David graciously served as the MC for my wife’s (Jo Maitland Geltner) memorial in 2008. In addition to being the Associate Conductor of the Newport Symphony Orchestra, he was also active during the years of the Ernest Bloch Music Festival. In 2009 when we were looking to preserve Ernest Bloch’s legacy through the purchase of his former home in Agate Beach, David lent his voice over talents to a video about Ernest Bloch. Over his final years David performed his annual Christmas Program, which included readings of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol and Dylan Thomas’ A Child’s Christmas in Wales.

    We will miss seeing his imposing figure grace the stage of the Newport Performing Arts Center.

    Frank Jo Maitland Geltner

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