Retired San Diego Symphony principal clarinet player Charles Ellis-MacLeod grew up in Haverhill, Massachusetts, near Boston, and graduated from Haverhill High where his father was the principal. After high school, he joined the U.S. Military West Point Band and performed for President Truman's second inauguration in 1949. He attended Eastman School of Music, where he performed and recorded with both the Eastman-Rochester Orchestra and the famed Eastman Wind Ensemble.
After Eastman, he earned a master’s degree from Boston University in education, and another graduate degree from California State University at Northridge in music. He co-founded and played in the Ventura County Symphony, founded and conducted the Ventura County Wind and Percussion Group, and was principal clarinetist with the Santa Barbara Symphony Orchestra before moving to San Diego to join the music faculty at Grossmont Community College in 1966.
During his twelve years at Grossmont, Ellis-MacLeod taught a wide range of music courses and ensembles while also conducting youth orchestras and summer musicals. In 1967, he was appointed principal clarinetist of the San Diego Symphony and Opera Orchestras, a position he held with the Opera Orchestra until his retirement from orchestral playing in 1999. During most of these years, he also conducted the California Ballet Orchestra in their annual performance of the Nutcracker, in addition to other occasional ballets.
In retirement, he renewed his birding skills, took poetry classes, marched for peace, spent more time with friends and family, and continued doing what he most loved: performing, teaching, and arranging music for the clarinet. In 1999, he co-founded the San Diego Clarinet Society to create opportunities for local clarinetists to perform with one another, and to educate and encourage the next generation of musicians.
Ellis-MacLeod died on Sunday, October 30, 2011, with his wife of 29 years, Elissa, by his side. He was 81. In addition to his wife, he is survived by three children and two grandchildren.