Jane Little, World’s Longest-Playing Orchestra Musician, Dies at 87

Jane Little
Little  JD Scott

She died doing what she loved. Jane Little, the world’s longest-playing orchestra musician, passed away at the age of 87 not long after her final concert on Sunday, May 15.

Little, who served as a bassist for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, was playing with her fellow musicians when she collapsed during a live show and was rushed to the hospital, where she died, according to symphony spokeswoman Tammy Hawk.

Little studied bass for two years in high school and fell in love with the instrument. At 16 years old, the Georgia-born musician joined the Atlanta Symphony Youth Orchestra and then went on to play with the ASO for a whopping 71 years.

“We can truly say that Jane Little was fortunate to do what she loved until the very end of her storied life and career,” Hawk said in a statement. “The Atlanta Symphony Orchestra was truly blessed to have Jane as part of our family for the past 71 years and we all miss her passion, vitality, spirit and incredible talent.”

Jane Little
Little Dustin Chambers

Little held the Guinness World Record for having the longest career with just one symphony. Her last concert was themed “Broadway’s Golden Age” and she collapsed during the group’s lively rendition of Irving Berlin’s “There’s No Business Like Show Business.”

Jane Little
Little during her earlier years Courtesy Atlanta Symphony Orchestra

In addition to her tenure with the ASO, Little also was principal bass with the Theater of the Stars Orchestra for 15 years. She also played with several ballet and opera companies including the American Ballet Theatre, Covent Garden Ballet, and Boris Goldovsky Opera Theatre. In July 1996, she took her talent to the Olympics and played in the opening and closing ceremonies at the prestigious sporting event, which was held in Atlanta that year.

Little was married to the ASO’s late principal flautist, Warren Little, who died in 2002. She never had any children. 

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