Ted Rollins - Fall 2002
Theodore "Ted" Higgins Rollins in Akron, Ohio, 78 years ago. He grew up living in towns in Ontario, Canada and in Ohio, and graduated from high school in Findlay, Ohio. His musical career began in high school, where he took up horn because he decided it was a lot less work than football practice. He decided to pursue horn professionally and moved to Baltimore, where he studied at the Peabody Conservatory with Charles Lanutti, a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Ted's best recollections of Charles include "what" and "huh?" as he could never seem to understand what the Italian-American was talking about.
Ted worked hard to be accepted into one of the military bands, auditioning for and being accepted by at least four groups, but state draft quotas during the early war years prevented him from actually enlisting. He was finally accepted into the Army Air Transport Command Band, where he played from 1943-1946. This group relieved Glenn Miller's Band at the end of its tour of duty. Ted's secondary responsibility was to create the schedule for his jazz orchestra. His position was important. As he put it, "I was one of the few people with only two stripes that could tell a colonel to mind his own business!"
After the war, Ted entered the Juilliard School in Manhattan to complete a Performer's Certificate. To put himself through school, he played at Billy Rose's Diamond Horseshoe in the Paramount Hotel. Ted recalls a trombonist who used to pull his slides out while he was playing solo lines. More importantly, he recalls this as the location where he met Mary Helen Rutherford, a stunning dancer just out of high school. They were married on October 1, 1949.
Ted's next jobs kept him on the road. He became a regular player in the touring orchestra scene, including such posts as a year-long stint with the Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet and Sigmund Romberg's orchestra. It was in this group that Ted played his first Arkansas concert in a performance in Robinson Center Music Hall in Little Rock. He returned to New York, where he played with Xavier Cugat's mambo band for two years and in many Broadway shows. These productions included His the Trail, Girl in Pink Tights, House of Flowers, and My Fair Lady. Ted remembers that when the routine became too routine in the pit, squirt guns could keep everyone awake, including audience members in the front row! He also played jobs at Radio City Music Hall for over eight years.
His bread-and-butter for many years was the quintet work for Young Audiences. One of the first groups to present concerts for this organization was the "University Brass Quintet", which consisted of Ted on horn, Irv Bork and Bob Roberts, trumpet, Dick Hickson, trombone, and Walter Sears, tuba. They met 2-3 days per week and gave concerts each day at two different schools. Educational performances like these have made an impact on countless youngsters, exposing them to the arts for possibly the first time.
Ted decided to retire from music in 1965, when the business and busy-ness of musical work simply wore him too thin. His last Broadway production in the pit was How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. You can hear Ted on recordings from this time with Andy Williams and Julius LaRosa. He and his family moved to Baltimore, where he worked for many years in real estate. After 18 years off, the horn hunted him down, and Ted began to play again. He became involved in several ensembles in the Baltimore area, including the Gettysburg Symphony of Baltimore, the Hartford Community Band, and a brass quintet.
Ted retired again in 1989 and moved to Arkansas. He currently lives
in Vilonia, and he and Mary Helen attempt to keep up with their
adult children Harry and Catherine. Ted occupies himself with
participating in the Arkansas Horn Club and playing local gigs
whenever he's called. Ted is a treasure trove of experiences and
stories of professional New York and East Coast musical life, and
we are fortunate to have him here.
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