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Trumpeter, Teacher William Vacchiano Dies

Trumpeter and Julliard professor William A. Vacchiano died Sept. 19 of natural causes at Cabrini Medical Center in Manhattan. He was 93. Vacchiano was a noted musician and instructor, having taught jazz greats including Wynton Marsalis, Miles Davis, Mercer Ellington, Gerard Schwarz, Philip Smith and John Nelson. Vacchiano’s students have been in practically every major orchestra in the United States, including many first-desk and section players of Lincoln Center’s orchestras.

Vacchiano was born on May 23, 1912 in Portland, Maine, and began studying trumpet at age 12. By 14, Vacchiano was talented enough to join the Portland Symphony and also performed as an unofficial member of the 242nd Coast Artillery Band. He attended Juilliard as an undergraduate from 1931-1934 and went on to study at the Juilliard Graduate School from 1934-1935.

After finishing his studies at Juilliard in 1935, Vacchiano was offered contracts at both the Metropolitan Opera and the New York Philharmonic. Vacchiano chose the New York Philharmonic and became principal trumpet in 1942. During his 38-year tenure with the Philharmonic, Vacchiano never missed a concert in which he was scheduled to perform.

Vacchiano, known for his impeccable technique, beautiful tone and graceful legato, is also largely responsible for the widespread modern practice of using trumpets in various keys to more closely fit the instruments to the music. While at the Philharmonic, Vacchiano performed and recorded with an impressive array of conductors including Leonard Bernstein, Andre Kostelanetz, Dmitri Mitropoulos, Leopold Stokowski, Igor Stravinsky, George Szell and Bruno Walter.

Throughout his teaching career, which spanned from 1935 to 2002, Vacchiano taught at Juilliard, Columbia Teachers College, Mannes College of Music, Manhattan School of Music and the City University of New York-Queens College. He once estimated that he had taught about two thousand trumpet students throughout his career. Vacchiano received an Honorary Doctor of Musical Arts in 2003 from Juilliard.

Vacchiano is survived by his daughter, JoAnn Vacchiano; his daughter-in-law, Barbara Vacchiano; and four grandchildren. His son, Ralph, and wife, Ethel, predecease him.

The funeral will take place Saturday, Sept. 24 at 9:15 a.m. at the Church of the Holy Family in Flushing, Queens.

Originally Published