Donald A. Shore, a nationally acclaimed bassoon player with the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra for 30 years and a supporter of charitable events for D.C.’s gay community, died Oct. 9 at his home in Washington following a hard-fought battle with brain cancer. He was 52.
During his long tenure with the Kennedy Center opera orchestra, for which he held the title of Principal Bassoon, Shore collaborated with luminaries of the opera world, including Placido Domingo, Renee Fleming, Kiri te Kanawa, and Denyce Graves, according to his friend and colleague, bassoonist Chris Jewell.
In a biographical write-up, Jewell said Shore also worked with some of the world’s most prestigious ballet companies, including the Bolshoi, Kirov, Paris, Joffrey and Royal Ballets in the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra’s dual role of playing for ballet performances.
In addition, he played during performances of the American Ballet Theater and the Dance Theater of Harlem,” Jewell said.
“As a member of the orchestra he performed at the White House, toured Japan, and played for the Kennedy Center Honors as well as numerous musicals and chamber music performances on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage,” Jewell said in his write-up.
Jewell said Shore’s playing spanned both classical and popular music, ranging from the orchestra’s performance of the Mozart Sinfonia Concertante under the direction of Maestro Heinz Fricke to a solo performance in a routine with comedian Steve Martin at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
A lifelong resident of the D.C. area, Shore was born Nov. 30, 1961 to Kitty Murray Shore and Francis Marion Shore Jr. He was a graduate of Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School and studied with National Symphony Orchestra bassoonist Linda Harwell, Jewell said in his write-up.
Shore attended the University of Maryland and the Peabody Conservatory before transferring to the University of Toronto, where he studied bassoon and received a bachelor of music degree, according to Jewell.
He became recognized as an up-and-coming star bassoonist in 1984 when he was chosen as a winner of the National Symphony Orchestra’s Young Soloists’ Competition. That same year Shore won his position in the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra at the age of 23.
In addition to his skills as a bassoonist Shore was also a talented vocalist and pianist, Jewell said.
Friends said Shore was involved in D.C.’s gay leather community and contributed regularly to charitable fundraisers organized by local leather groups such as the annual Dusty Cunningham Picnic Basket Auction. He also enjoyed attending leather events in other cities, including New York, Montreal, New Orleans and Chicago.
Jewell said Shore’s favorite time of the year was Christmas, when he loved to decorate a live tree – usually the tallest one he could find.
“Donald Shore touched many people deeply with his kindness, generosity, superb (and bawdy) wit, and unparalleled Musicianship,” Jewell said in his write-up.
“I am very sad about the news that Donald Shore has passed away,” said Placido Domingo in a statement.
Domingo served from 1996 to 2011 as artistic director and later general director of the Washington National Opera.
“Our principal bassoonist was a great artist with whom I talked very often during our rehearsals and performances,” Domingo said. “I remember being told some months ago about his operations and, now to learn that he has lost his battle. Please convey to his family and to the orchestra my sincerest condolences for this terrible loss.”
Survivors include his companions of nine years, David Peiffer and Arnold Mixon, of Washington; close friends Chris Jewell of Burke, Va., and Richard Thibadeau of Washington; two brothers, Tony Shore of Chevy Chase, Md., and Francis Shore III of Fort Myers, Fla.; and two sisters, Lynne Grace of Eastbourne, England; and KC Shore.
A celebration of his life will be held at the Kennedy Center Atrium, roof-level Terrace Gallery, on Monday, Nov. 3, at 7 p.m.