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‘Last Stop, Carnegie Hall’ explores life of trumpet great William Vacchiano

William Vacchiano - Brian ShookWilliam Vacchiano was principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic, taught at The Julliard School for 67 years and influenced countless musicians. But one of the things that most impressed Brian Shook, author of a newly released biography about Vacchiano, was his great love of people.

“He loved music, but his real passion was caring about people,” said Shook, assistant professor in the Mary Morgan Moore Department of Music at Lamar University. “He taught more than 2,000 private students, and he could remember them by name and what mouthpiece they played! But, if something had happened in a student’s personal life, such as physical injury or the loss of a family member, he would always ask them about it – even decades later. He had an incredibly sharp mind and used it touch the lives of so many. That is the type of teacher and musician I aspire to be.”

Shook explores the life and career of Vacchiano (1912–2005) in “Last Stop, Carnegie Hall: New York Philharmonic Trumpeter William Vacchiano,” published by the University of North Texas Press. “Last Stop,” with a foreword by Grammy-winning jazz musician Wynton Marsalis, details the professional life of Vacchiano’s performing and teaching through the eyes of more than fifty of his students, colleagues, friends and family members. Shook will sign copies of his book Saturday, May 21, at the Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Beaumont.

“Few trumpet teachers impacted as many individual students professionally and personally as Vacchiano,” said Shook. “He won the job as principal trumpet for the New York Philharmonic and the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra in the same day. He chose the Philharmonic and then had the tremendous honor of playing under many famous conductors such as Toscanini, Walter, Szell, Rodzinsky, Mitropoulos and, of course, Bernstein. Vacchiano was always a student of music and gleaned as much wisdom as possible from all of these individuals. He was as eager to learn as he was to perform.”

At one point, Vacchiano’s students could be found in every orchestra in the United States. Before union laws, many conductors would call him up and ask him to recommend a student. According to Shook, every principal and co-principal trumpet of the New York Philharmonic since Vacchiano’s retirement in 1973 has been one of his students: Gerard Schwarz, Louis Ranger, Johnny Ware and Philip Smith.

Before his appointment at Lamar, Shook served as an adjunct brass instructor at Towson University and American University. From 2004 to 2009, Shook toured the United States with The King’s Brass and since 2009 has been principal trumpet of the Symphony of Southeast Texas.

When completing his doctorate at Arizona State University, Shook decided to write a biography of a famous trumpet player for his dissertation. He and his professor, David Hickman, composed a list of eligible performers and were both astounded to discover that no major writing had been done on Vacchiano or his career. Hickman called Vacchiano to ask if Shook could write his biography, and he agreed.

“I was very lucky because after I started this project, I had a ticket to talk with almost any famous trumpet player that I wished,” said Shook. “At the top of the list were Philip Smith, Wynton Marsalis and Malcolm McNab. I got to interview Philip Smith in the brass locker room backstage at Avery Fisher Hall. Wynton Marsalis invited me up to his apartment in Lincoln Center at 11 p.m., and we did the interview until after midnight.”

The booksigning for “Last Stop, Carnegie Hall” will be 2 – 4 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at the Beaumont Barnes & Noble at 4153 Dowlen Road.

“I’m honored to know that through this book more people will come to know the life and career of a musical giant whose humble heart and caring soul touched everyone he met,” said Shook.

For more information on the Mary Morgan Moore Department of Music, please visit To learn more about the life of William Vacchiano, visit the book’s official website at