counter for tumblr

William Vacchiano © 2016 Brian A. Shook

Quotes from Students

William Vacchiano, as seen through the eyes of his students

Stacks Image 1762
The Juilliard School held a memorial concert in Mr. Vacchiano’s honor on Wednesday, January 11, 2006. As part of the ceremony, Lee Soper was asked to say a few words about Mr. Vacchiano. With gracious permission from Mr. Soper, the audio excerpt of his talk are included on this page. Please click here to listen to his very touching comments.
“Before I got to Juilliard I remember that I had learned the first few bars to all the Sachse etudes in several different keys because I knew what was coming. So in the first year he was throwing these Sachse etudes at me and I would knock off the first eight bars and fly right through it. He would say, ‘Alright, that’s good enough.’ But, in my third year, he said ‘Get out the Sachse book.’ I couldn’t understand why. So I pull it out and he said, ‘Here, start in the middle.’ I was in trouble! He said, ‘Hey Balm, I took you for a guy who knows how to transpose—you’re nothing but a bugler!’”
(Neil Balm)

“I was in a lesson at his house once and he said, ‘George Szell called me and he needs a second trumpet—do you want to go Cleveland?’ This was back in the days when auditions were much less structured. First of all, it was one of the best compliments I had ever been given. Secondly, it scared me to death. I couldn’t take the job because I could not get out of my contract in Denver. The point is that Vacchiano was held in high regard by the most famous of conductors all over the country. They respected his opinion so much that they would hire a player based on his recommendation.”
(Stephen Chenette)

“All of his students tried at least forty-nine different mouthpieces. One of his students came back after several months and a couple three-dozen mouthpieces and he played for Bill. Bill looked at him and said, ‘That’s it! Do you hear how good you sound on that one? You finally found the mouthpiece for you!’ And the kid was so happy and he said, ‘Ah, but Mr. Vacchiano, what am I going to do with all the old mouthpieces?’ And Bill, one second later, said, ‘Uh, use them as sinkers when you go fishing!’”
(Carmine Fornarotto)

“I worked in the cafeteria making sandwiches and Vacchiano used to come down at lunchtime and I would make him a sandwich. One day he said, ‘Hey Guarneri, what are you doing next week?’ I said, ‘Well, I will be here making sandwiches Mr. Vacchiano.’ He said, ‘Can you get a tux?’ I said, ‘Well, I guess so.’ He said, ‘Then why don’t you come down and play with us at the New York Philharmonic.’ So Adel Sanchez and I played extra with him on Mahler’s Symphony No. 6 and that was huge—that was something really special.”
(Mario Guarneri)

“The biggest hallmark of what he did is that he didn’t teach you how to play the trumpet, he taught you how to play music and to play it correctly on the trumpet.”
(Frank Hosticka)

“I met Bill Vacchiano around 1937. Students learned that the New York Philharmonic Symphony Scholarship Committee would be starting its trumpet class once again after a lapse due to the passing of our former teacher, Max Schlossberg. During this lapse, most of us, including myself, were practically in a trauma for it seemed that with his passing the musical world had just fallen from under us. We learned that the new teacher, a newcomer to the Philharmonic and a former pupil of the master, would take over the class permanently and also join the trumpet faculty of the Institute of Musical Art. Former Schlossberg pupils reported to Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan for the beginning of our first lessons. We waited. A handsome young fellow, not yet in his late twenties, entered quietly and greeted everyone informally. He did not start to teach right away. He sat down, spoke briefly, radiating good nature and charm, establishing rapport as if it were the most natural thing in the world for him. Indeed it was. For good communication was to remain with him all the time, a most natural ingredient for one who was destined to become of the most successful trumpet teachers in America and one who would inherit the mantle from his teacher, Max Schlossberg, and to bring added luster to it.”
(Harry Jenkins)

“He wanted us to play whatever we played in the most characteristic and appropriate style. Even it was the theme from ‘The Godfather,’ you needed to play that then the way that a Hollywood producer would expect it to be played. Whether it was that or the posthorn solo from Mahler’s Symphony No. 3, he would expect that to be played in the way that Leonard Bernstein wanted to hear it. In retrospect, I think it was a sensational way to teach this particular group of students. By the time you graduated you could absolutely read anything with any trumpet.”
(Manny Laureano)

“His lessons were chock-full of analogies for a variety of musical situations. Those little things were my favorites. ‘No . . . that’s too much vibrato. It’s like putting bright red lipstick on a beautiful woman.’ I always thought it was funny that when you broke a musical rule—like accenting a weak beat—he would turn his head away from you sharply, almost as though he were in pain. It’s like you just slapped him in the face by being unmusical.”
(Manny Laureano)

“In my first year at the Manhattan School of Music (1976) I was walking down a hallway filled with practice rooms when I heard the opening solo from Mahler 5. It was amazing! Thinking it had to be a student I ran to the door and opened it. There sat Mr Vacchiano all alone. He had been retired for some time and rarely played much in lessons. He looked at me and I said ‘That was you!’ to which he replied . . .’ Didn't think I had any talent did ya!!’ He pointed to his bell and said, ‘Raschella, you listen here . . . not out where the audience sits.’ That was my first lesson in acoustics and I still can hear that unbelievable sound whenever I play a Mahler Symphony.”
(John Raschella)

“One funny thing is that over the years we exchanged holiday cards. I don’t know how this started, but I would sign mine 2½ C. He would then sign his 1C under his name. Here is another story. It was after a matinee at the opera and a friend and I went just a couple of blocks south of Lincoln Center and went into Angelo’s (an Italian restaurant). Out of the corner of my eye I saw Vacchiano sitting at a table. He didn’t see me come in, and my friend and I sat in the back and after a while I called the waitress over and asked her for a piece of paper. I wrote down 2½ C and said, ‘You see that man sitting over there? Just go give this to him.’ So about a minute later I heard this laughter and I got up and started going over to him. He didn’t even see me and he turned around and blurted out, ‘I knew it was you, Bruce!’ and then he laid his eyes on me.”
(Bruce Revesz)

During the end of one lesson at his home in Queens, Bill offered to give me a ride to the New York Brass Conference. I knew he was one of the guest speakers that day and I asked him what his lecture was going to be about. He said he hadn’t decided yet and asked what I thought his topic should be. Since we spent a good amount of time discussing mouthpieces in lessons, I suggested mouthpiece selection as his topic. When the lecture started, Bill opened by talking about our lesson and he mentioned that I had suggested for him to speak about mouthpiece selection. It was a great feeling to know I suggested the topic for the lecture . . . until it backfired. As the lecture proceeded, Bill said, “Now the mouthpiece must fit the student. Some have thin lips, and some have fuller lips. Where is Bill Roberts? Can Bill please stand?” I rise, as all heads turn towards me. Bill says, “This is Bill Roberts. Bill has fuller lips, which need a larger rim. I call Bill ‘Banana Lips’ due to the thickness of his lips. Thanks Bill.” I sat back down somewhat embarrassed, but so proud of my mentor.
(Bill Roberts)

“Sometimes I would go out to his house in Flushing for a lesson. In his basement he had a room full of trumpet bells, slides, mouthpieces, soldering irons, and all kinds of stuff. He basically had his own workshop there. He said to me, ‘How does this sound?’ He picked up one of those trumpets and played Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 4. I’m telling you, the sound was just incredible. It was huge—centered and gorgeous—with that big vibrato. He had such a singing quality and a style all his own. I was completely overwhelmed.”
(Stanley Rosenzweig)

“He had a great sense of humor, although I never heard him laugh out loud. The most he did was get a real twinkle in his eye and then he would kind of blink his eyes and then say the most outrageously rib-splitting stuff.”
(Adel Sanchez)

“In my second year at school he had a heart attack. I remember he got jaundice after they gave him blood and he was bright yellow—like a stoplight. He called me and he said, ‘Silberschlag, please bring me a mouthpiece.’ I asked what size, ‘You know, one of those 1’s or 1C’s—please, they are keeping the mouthpieces away from me!’ So I go up there and he was at some hard-to-get-to hospital and I brought him a mouthpiece he just wanted to hold.”
(Jeffrey Silberschlag)

“In one of my first lessons he had me play an orchestral excerpt. After one of them he said, ‘What are you, a man or a mouse?’ I replied, ‘Throw some cheese on the floor and you will find out!’”
(John Ware)

“My first lesson was rough and consisted of his usual procedure of verbally describing an exercise and expecting you to play it from just his description. If that wasn’t enough, I had to then transpose the exercise into various keys, and that was difficult for me at age eighteen (many of those exercises are now published in his book, Trumpet Routines—if only we had it then!).”
(Scott Whitener)