Seymour "Red" Press, a prolific music coordinator on and Off-Broadway, has passed away. He was 98.
Originally a woodwind player, Mr. Press got his start at 15, playing saxophone in a small stock orchestra with his friends at the local YMHA for $3 per basketball game. His sights were initially set on playing in a big band, and at 13 he wrote to legendary bandleader Benny Goodman asking to play in his orchestra. Mr. Press was a frequent sight with the Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey Orchestra, and in 1957, Mr. Press did join the Benny Goodman Orchestra at the Waldorf Astoria. That same year, Mr. Press made his Broadway debut in the short lived musical The Body Beautiful, before stepping into the original orchestra of Jule Styne and Stephen Sondheim's Gypsy, originally contracted to have an orchestra filled with big band players.
From there, Mr. Press became a stalwart member of Broadway's musical landscape, first as a woodwind player in the pit orchestra of the original productions of Pippin, Mame, Chicago, and many more. As a member of the original orchestra for Mack and Mabel, he accompanied Bernadette Peters on the saxophone for the enduring ballad "Time Heals Everything," his particular musical style preserved on the cast recording.
In the early 1970s, Mr. Press transitioned into his longtime role as a music contractor or coordinator. Comparable to hiring managers, music contractors do not necessarily play in the orchestra and are not always present at every performance, but every musician in said orchestra goes through the contractor, who hires—and fires—as needed. They help to create the unique musical blend of a production, and are critical to the sound of a shows score.
As a contractor, Mr. Press worked on a remarkable number of productions, including the original productions of Dreamgirls, Nine, Baby, The Tap Dance Kid, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, Rags, Roza, Black and Blue, Once On This Island, Nick and Nora, The Red Shoes, Bring in 'Da Noise, Bring in 'Da Funk, Side Show, Marie Christine, Wild Party, The Light in the Piazza, Elaine Stritch at Liberty, The Color Purple, LoveMusik, After Midnight, A Gentleman's Guide to Love and Murder, Violet, An American in Paris, and Bright Star. He also contracted numerous highly successful revivals over his fifty year career, including The Most Happy Fella, Alice in Wonderland, Anything Goes, Ain't Misbehavin', Guys and Dolls, She Loves Me, Carousel, Company, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, On The Town, Bells Are Ringing, Flower Drum Song, Wonderful Town, The Pajama Game, The Apple Tree, Gypsy, Hair, Finian's Rainbow, and Sunday in the Park with George.
In 2007, Mr. Press was awarded the Tony Award for Excellence in the Theatre, honoring his lifelong commitment to the music of the American theatre.
Mr. Press was one of the founding members of the New York City Center Encores! program, creating the music department alongside music director Rob Fisher in 1994. Mr. Press worked on more than 75 Encores! productions, and frequently played in the Encores! orchestra in addition to his work as a contractor. Mr. Press left the program following the completion of the 2022 Encores! season.
At the time of his death, Mr. Press was working on three 2022-23 season productions: Into the Woods, Almost Famous, and KPOP, in addition to his work on the currently running revivals of The Music Man, Funny Girl, and Chicago. He is survived by his daughter, Gwynn Press Anidjar; his stepson, Edward Finkenberg; his grandson, Ethan Anidjar; and his granddaughter, Madison Rose Anidjar.