Ralph A. Buck, 83, of Woodbury, New Jersey, beloved husband of Emily Nicholl, passed away on September 17, 2020 peacefully at home. Ralph was born in Haddonfield, NJ, January 23, 1937 to Edward and Ruth (Dempster) Buck. He resided in Woodbury, NJ since 1980.
Ralph’s musical education began in elementary school and continued through high school where he played 1st trumpet. He won auditions that enabled him to perform in the All State Orchestra and Band. In his senior year, he played principal trumpet in the All Eastern Orchestra based in Boston. Ralph graduated from Vineland High School in 1955 and was awarded a full scholarship to Valley Forge Junior College where he spent a year before applying and being accepted to the prestigious American music conservatory, the Curtis Institute of Music, graduating in 1960.
While attending Vineland High School, Ralph became a crewman, and later captain, of an oyster research vessel, the “Julius Nelson,” working on the Delaware Bay. His love for being on the water continued throughout his life. He was an avid boatsman, water-skier, fisherman and scuba diver in his early years.
Ralph was a founding member of the Pennsylvania Ballet Orchestra and performed as Principal Trumpet 44 out of the 52 years he was a member. He was also a 1st call substitute and extra with the Philadelphia Orchestra for over 40 years, making over 25 recordings and touring with them in Europe, Asia, and South America, performing under Ormandy, Muti, Sawallisch and Eschenbach. He performed in the pit orchestras on Broadway for the shows, “Mame” and “Les Miserables,” as well as performing for those shows and others in Philadelphia, including “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.” Ralph enjoyed his summers performing as principal trumpet with the Ocean City Pops Orchestra in Ocean City, NJ, from 1960 through the mid 70s, but gave up his position to perform at the Robin Hood Dell, later the Mann Center, and the Saratoga Performing Arts Center in Saratoga Springs, NY, summer homes of the Philadelphia Orchestra. For the past 12 years Ralph was a member of the Bonsal Blues Band, meeting at American Legion Post 133 in Woodbury, where he enjoyed performing with his daughter Debbie and granddaughters Elyse and Sine.
Ralph was active as an orchestra committee member in many of the organizations in which he performed. Ralph was Chairman of the Pennsylvania Ballet’s Orchestra Committee from the committees inception until 1991 and helped to secure the Ballet Orchestra’s first ever collective bargaining agreement. He also served on the Executive Board of the American Federation of Musicians, Local 77, for at least 35 years. Additionally he was on the executive board of the Delaware AFM Local 21 from 2008-2016.
Ralph loved to use his God given talents performing sacred concerts with full orchestra, and participating in worship services on Christmas Eve and Easter at the Haddonfield United Methodist Church. For just about 15 years he contracted the 40 piece orchestra, “Members of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Friends,” to accompany the 110 voice chorus, the “New Jersey MasterChorale.” One of his last performances was in May, recording a hymn to be played during a service broadcast on the internet by his home church, Central Baptist Church in Woodbury. Ralph’s last “performance” was given at his home a week before his death. Summoning up the strength as only a great principal trumpet player can do, to the joy of his wife as his audience, he let out one last bugle call, “Charge!” letting her know that he was still fighting the good fight.
Ralph is survived by his wife of 32 years, Emily Nicholl; daughter Debbie Buck of Woodbury; daughter-in-law Peggy Buck of Bridgeton; 3 grandchildren, Dr. Elyse Morel, Summer Morel & Sine Glenning; and 6 great grandchildren. He was predeceased by his first wife, Darlene Camp, mother to Debbie and Ralph, Jr.; son, Ralph A. Buck Jr.; and older brother, Paul Buck.
A celebration of life service will be held once the threat of Covid-19 has been thoroughly resolved. The family request no flowers. Memorial contributions may be made to the PA Ballet (if desired, accompanied with a note requesting that the gift be earmarked for the PA Ballet Orchestra), the Curtis Institute of Music, the Philadelphia Orchestra or other cultural organizations of your choice.
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