Former UT Professor and Cellist Paul Olefsky Dies at Age 87

Paul Olefsky

(courtesy of Hai Zhang-Olefsky)

At 11 a.m. Monday, June 10, 2013, the Butler School of Music’s Bates Hall, 2406 Robert Dedman Drive, is providing a memorial service for former faculty member Paul Olefsky. Attendees can park for free at the San Jacinto Garage, 2401 San Jacinto Boulevard; parking tickets will be validated following the service.

Dr. Paul Olefsky, a retired music professor at University of Texas at Austin and accomplished cellist, passed away on June 1, 2013. He was 87 years old.

Among his many professional accomplishments was becoming the youngest principal cellist in the history of the Philadelphia Orchestra, where he appeared as a soloist at Carnegie Hall under Eugene Ormandy.

In a concert review of Olefsky’s appearance at Carnegie Hall, the New York Times wrote, “Unquestionably, one of the finest cellist before the public today.”

He released many acclaimed recordings as concert cellist and conductor for the Amatius Classics; Americus Record, Monitor; Musical Heritage Society; Voice of America; and Vox labels.

In 1974, Olefsky landed at UT, where he spent nearly four decades mentoring students such as Louis Lowenstein, John Sant’Ambrogio, Carolyn Hopkins and Stephen Gates. Olefsky spearheaded an innovative chamber music program for UT’s Plan II, one of the first intensive fine-arts courses for the famed UT honors program.

Paul Olefsky

(courtesy of Hai Zhang-Olefsky)

Olefsky’s UT students continue his legacy, teaching at premiere universities and music conservatories throughout the world and holding important positions in major symphony orchestras. Austin Symphony principal cellist, Douglas Harvey, was a protégé of Dr. Olefsky. His widow, Hai Zhang-Olefsky, also a UT alumna, is assistant professor of cello at Southwestern University in Georgetown, TX.

Olefsky also created the first Feuermann International Cello Competition at UT and became an emeritus professor at the Butler School of Music in 2002. During his lifetime, Olefsky and his wife were members of the Littlefield Society and the University of Texas System Chancellor’s Council.

To honor his former teacher, Mr. Olefsky’s former student, Gregory L. McCoy, established the Paul Olefsky Cello Scholarship, an endowed scholarship that was approved by the Board of Regents of The University of Texas System in 2012. The scholarship benefits The University of Texas at Austin’s Butler School of Music.

In lieu of flowers and remembrances, contributions may be made to the Paul Olefsky Cello Scholarship fund to the following address: The University of Texas at Austin, Butler School of Music, 2406 Robert Dedman Drive, Stop E3100, Austin, TX 78712-1555, Attn: Development.

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One comment on “Former UT Professor and Cellist Paul Olefsky Dies at Age 87
  1. Mark Holt says:

    I studied with Paul in the late 70’s. He was a nice man, kept to the basics in his approach, and was always supportive…when I came prepared.
    Thanks for keeping us informed.

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