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William Vacchiano © 2016 Brian A. Shook

Personal Reflections

Personal Reflections from William Vacchiano

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“My first pupil in New York was Cecil Collins who had come from Salina, Kansas. I charged him three dollars for the lesson and felt so guilty after that I mailed him a one-dollar refund.”

“The going price of a good B-flat when I was growing up $125 dollars. I bought mine right off the boat—literally. The sailors in those days would buy them in Paris and bring them over. Mine cost $90 dollars because I bought it before it reached the stores.”

“People don’t understand the tremendous pressure that we live with in an orchestra and especially in the Philharmonic. We were in a rehearsal once with Toscanini and we were playing a unison call in the trumpets and one of us—not me—missed a note. Toscanini freaked! He went into such a rage that he went out from the rehearsal at Carnegie Hall and into a snow storm with no coat. If a stage-hand hadn’t gone and found him he might have gotten pneumonia and died!”

“Mr. Ernest Clarke, who was the brother of the greatest cornet soloist of all time, was fond of me and invited me to his home to meet his famous brother who came to New York periodically. I met Mr. Herbert Clarke about six times and he gave me many pointers and much advice on breathing, articulation, and points on playing. There was no fee required for these meetings since I was a guest of Mr. Ernest Clarke, and I received refreshments as well. Every one of Ernest Clarke’s pupils have only the highest praise and admiration for this outstanding gentleman. Both he and his brother were very well advanced in years and had a very philosophical attitude towards life. Mrs. Ernest Clarke had recently passed away and when I offered my condolences, he simply smiled and said: ‘That’s very kind of you Bill, but I’ll probably be joining her in a little while. We have had a long and happy life together.’”

“I can’t say enough good things about the old-timers. The bigger they were, the nicer they were because they didn’t have anything to fear. It’s always the fellow who really can’t play who doesn’t have the nicest personality. You meet him once in a while; but guys like Gustav Heim, Louis Kloepfel, Walter Smith . . . were so good. Del Staigers was a prince—a fine gentleman. They were all friendly among themselves. There was no jealousy. There was so much work that they didn’t have to be. It wasn’t as if they were taking something away from each other. They all admired each other and recognized what each could do. I realize now what a great life that was in those days.”

“One of the great thrills and rewards of my career is the number of Christmas cards I receive every year. I receive and mail out over a thousand every year. As soon as I receive a card I check it against my list to make sure I send a card in return.”