April 6, 1918 - September 19, 2010
by Erwin Fishman
Ruth got us started, but it has been Sidney Stafford who has kept us going. He has been moving ahead since, at age 15, he moved from his birthplace of Joliet, Illinois, to Kenilworth on Chicago's North Shore. After high school graduation, Sidney attended Sherwood Music School in Chicago, where he had some wonderful piano and music instruction. Then he was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1941 and served as an infantryman until 1945. Sidney saw action on New Guinea at the Nassau Bay-Salamaua campaign (for which his unit received a Presidential Citation) and Hollandia followed by Biak Island, Dutch New Guinea, and then in the south and central Philippine Islands.
Sidney's brother Ernie also served in the South Pacific and the two brothers managed to visit each other on three occasions: once in Lae, New Guinea, once in Zamboanga, Mindanao, and once on the island of Leyte.
When Sidney's military career ended, he returned to Chicago and attended the Chicago Musical College, with the blessings of the GI Bill. He was a student of the great Swiss pianist, Rudolph Ganz and, for chamber music, of violinist Paul Stassevitch. It was at the Chicago Musical College that he began his associations with Sidney Weiss and with the famous violinist Aaron Rosand, who had graduated from Curtis and was living in his hometown of Chicago.
Sidney's professional career actually started back in 1937 when he accompanied a group of opera singers on tour. However, he went "big time" in 1948, leaving school and joining national tours. That year he accompanied Aaron Rosand and cellist Raya Garbousova.
During this period of major assignments, Sidney toured with Mishel Piastro's Longines Symphonette (1953 through 1959). Also he was Michael Rabin's accompanist in 1959. He toured with David Abel from 1959 to 1966.
Sidney moved to California in 1950, as did his parents, sisters and brother. His headquarters between tours at that time were in North Hollywood, near Ruth Breytspraak's studio. Then he moved to the South Bay in 1960, on Avenue B in Redondo Beach. He set up a teaching studio in the Malaga Cove Plaza and continued concertizing and playing chamber music with many of Hollywood's greats, including Louis Kaufman and Joseph Schuster.
The inauguration of the South Bay Chamber Music Society in 1963 in collaboration with Ruth Breytspraak, continued the main line of his career, as did a chamber music series he directed at the Long Beach Library. He also played for opera rehearsals at Long Beach State under the direction of his friend Hans Lampl. The two had met on a troop ship en route Australia in 1942!
In 1968 Ernie and Sidney bought a house at 603 Sapphire in Redondo Beach, which they shared until Ernie's passing in 1986. At that time, Sidney moved to his present condominium on Herondo Street in Hermosa Beach. His vocal coaching, piano teaching, and performances have gradually tapered off in recent years, though his travels and many friendships have not.
Sidney's devotion to the South Bay Chamber Music Society remains at the highest level. It all started, as shown in this history, with his own performances in ensembles with many of the greatest musicians in the studios and orchestras. Now, as a well-known and supremely knowledgeable musician, he engages players who can meet his standards and rejects those who cannot, he cajoles occasionally reluctant performers into joining forces to present a particular work, he helps the ensembles to fill out their programs (occasionally suggesting worthy compositions they may not have heard of), he soothes ruffled egos, he adjusts performance dates against a maze of other commitments with the agility of a circus juggler--all this with a friendly smile and warm humanity.
We love him!