J.P. Young

J.P. Young, Violin

J.P. For WebJ.P. Young is the oldest person ever to play with Prometheus—and he’s probably been on more airplane rides than all the rest of us combined. Here’s the story. It all began in 1924 when John Peter was born in Schenectady, New York. Which puts him round about 91 years old!

“There was always music in the house,” JP says. His grandmother studied music in Leipzig in the 1800s, his mother played violin and piano, his uncle piano, his brother cello—and his father worked for RCA.

After moving to Philadelphia, he started piano lessons at age 7. “It didn’t take,” he says. But when he was 10 he decided to play a stringed instrument. “Mom said I was to play violin and my brother cello, so that’s what we did.” He took lessons from students at the Curtis Institute “because they needed to make some money.” Of course the family played trios and his father made recordings.

Then JP was off to boarding school in New Jersey where he continued lessons and played in the school orchestra. He also took up flute one summer and played in the band. “But it was 10 degrees in the wind and I decided playing violin was much warmer!”

JP started a degree in Government (now called Political Science) at Harvard, but was interrupted by military service. “I was a medic for three years in the Infantry, captured in the Battle of the Bulge and spent some time as a POW.” But then it was back to Harvard to complete the degree. And a year studying and bicycling through France, enjoying la bon vie.

In 1950, JP went to work for Smith Kline (now GlaxoSmithKline) healthcare. His main job was to go with scientists to meet other scientists—even a few Nobel prize winners—all over the world looking for promising drugs to bring to the U.S. He’s been to Europe about 250 times and Japan about 50 times (oh, had there only been frequent flyer miles!). The most well-known drugs that came out of his work were the replacements for penicillin, the cephalosporins.

During his career there, JP started violin lessons again with a member of the Curtis Quartet, played with the Mainline Symphony Orchestra, played chamber music in the summers and Mozart Quintets in Japan, all while raising a family of four with his wife. He retired in 1989 and he and his wife moved to California to be near his children, all of whom live within an hour of here and all of whom play music (well the great-granddaughter not quite yet).

JP met another Prometheus violinist, Bob Bacskai, while playing tennis. “I heard he was Hungarian and just knew he played violin” (look for Bob’s profile coming to this space soon). Bob convinced JP to join Prometheus in 1994, when we were playing Hindemith. “It was hard and I loved it!” Those first 20 years with us went very quickly and we’re looking forward to a good 20 more (with a Happy 100 serenade along the way)!

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