VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA – Beth Orson passed away on Dec. 14, 2022. An accomplished musician and teacher, she played Assistant Principal Oboe and English Horn with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra (VSO) for 31 years. She served on the faculty at the UBC School of Music and as Oboe Coach at the National Youth Orchestra of Canada. Beth held dual Canadian and U.S. citizenship.
Beth grew up in Rhode Island in a family that nurtured creativity and independent thinking. When she was 6, she began studying piano. During middle school, the local youth orchestra asked if she’d try the oboe – and that was it. Just days later, Beth informed her parents she’d need a top-notch teacher because she wanted a life in music.
She graduated from Oberlin Conservatory and was the winner of the Oberlin Concerto Competition. Beth was Principal Oboe of the NY Symphonic Ensemble from 1988-2005 and completed 19 tours to Japan.
On English horn, her solo performances with the VSO included the US and Canadian premieres of Bramwell Tovey’s “The Progress of Vanity” composed for her.
Before moving to Vancouver, she worked as a freelance musician in New York City and regularly performed with the Metropolitan and NYC Opera orchestras and on Broadway.
Beth was a beloved teacher and mentor. In messages sent to her in her final weeks, former students said she went beyond technique to teach “the whole person.”
When not making oboe reeds, Beth was secretary of the BC Whippet Racing Club and devoted to her dogs. She was a runner and helped to organize the VSO’s team in the Vancouver Sun Run each year. She loved to cook and was an avid gardener.
Beth Orson was the daughter of the late Jay and Barbara Orson. She is survived by her husband, Robert Elner; stepdaughter, Julia Elner; twin sister and brother-in-law, Diane Orson and Tim Moran; brother and sister-in-law, Ted Orson and Iris van der Walde; niece and nephews, Emily and Max Moran, and Jacob and Joshua Orson. She also leaves behind her faithful whippets, Plox and Preston.
Her family would like to thank the doctors, nurses and staff at St. John Hospice for the outstanding care they provided. Contributions may be made to BC Cancer Foundation or to the Order of St. John Palliative Care Foundation.