rival, the Boston Red Sox. Their star, Ted Williams, whose prowess with his bat was electrifying, became my hero too.2
Hastings was also in the shadow of Carnegie Hall and the much-mourned Lewisohn Stadium at City College, the regular season and summer homes of the New York Philharmonic Orchestra, respectively. By 1945, when I entered junior high school, I was a music fan as well as a baseball fan and began studying the trumpet, which I would go on to play for some 10 years. (Records with Verdi arias sung by Beniamino Gigli and bugle calls played by Harry Glantz that my father brought home may have got me started.) It was not long until I became aware of the aura around William Vacchiano, the principal trumpet of the Philharmonic. The teacher under whom I studied the trumpet, Melvin Warshaw, sometimes spoke of Vacchiano, who had been his teacher. The music director at my high school, Howard Marsh, was a member of Robert Shaw’s Collegiate Chorale when it first recorded Bach’s B Minor Mass with players from the NYPO and he told me how impressive it was to hear Vacchiano on the top trumpet part. When he played for me the awesome 1948 RCA Victor recording, Vacchiano became my trumpet idol.
What was most striking to me was the huge size of his sound. Howard told me how he marveled when one day Vacchiano forgot to bring his D trumpet and played the rehearsal with his B-flat trumpet, making an enormous sound.3 Vacchiano said he owed some of this size to his experiment with a large mouthpiece in 1939. “Overnight,” he
2 Williams was a two-time Most Valuable Player winner, led the league in batting six times, and won the Triple Crown twice. He had a career batting average of .344, with 521 home runs. He is the last player in Major League baseball to bat over .400 in a season (.406 in 1941) and holds the highest career batting average of anyone with 500 or more home runs. His .551 on base average held the record for 61 years. (Wikipedia, 4/13/2009)
3 This story is somewhat at odds with an interview shortly before his death in in which Vacchiano, discussing his years as a “specialist in the B Minor,” remarked that “[today] even a high school student could play it” thanks to the D trumpet. But that is puzzling since he himself used a D trumpet and we can see them in the photograph of the players for Robert Shaw’s 196x RCA recording – a photo in which the first desk trumpet has been cropped out of the picture. By the way, to my ear this recording has less presence than the 1948 recording and the trumpets sound more distant.