Biography

Benjamin G. Del Vecchio

(Born 1942 in Revere, Massachusetts. Grew up in the Boston suburb of Winthrop.)

Music is in my blood...

My grandfather, an Italian immigrant to the United States, loved opera and named three of his daughters after Verdi's heroines. My mother was named "Desdemona" (Otello) and I had an aunt "Aida" (Aida) and "Leonore" (Trovatore). My first experience with "Trovatore" was Grandfather's recording of the opera on 23 one-sided 78s, which I heard on his wind up Victrola.

With his encouragement, I began studying piano at age eight. It quickly became apparent that I would be a very headstrong student. If I didn't like the music, I would not practice. However, if I liked it, I learned my entire week's lesson in a single day. People still complain that I exhibit this kind of tenacity on the podium. Grandfather had seven children. Each time he came to visit, I was marched to our piano and had to play seven songs for him. God help me if tried to sneak in a repeat from his last visit!

After being tested in grade school for musical aptitude, I was handed a trombone and joined the band. Up to this point in my life, I had given great consideration to the notion of becoming a priest. Once I realized that music was the gospel I wanted to preach, my career choice was easy, and as I couldn't stand looking at only one line of a composition, I concluded that I had to conduct. Fortunately, my instructors in high school realized this and I was given many opportunities to conduct the orchestra, band and chorus.

I attended the New England Conservatory of Music, founded in 1867 and the oldest music school in the United States. I received my Bachelor of Music in 1964, majoring in conducting and music education. I was the first undergraduate conducting major in the history of the Conservatory, studying conducting with Frederick Prausnitz. In fact, he often told the story that as a sophomore, I accosted him in the hallway (he was much bigger than I), grabbed him by the shirt collar and insisted "I'm going to study conducting with you!" He thought that anyone with that much nerve should be given the chance. I, of course, have no memory of this incident.

I earned my Master's Degree in instrumental conducting from the Conservatory in 1966. In addition to studying with Prausnitz, I was fortunate to also study violin with George Zazofsky, and voice with Richard Rosewall. Regarding my personal vocal skills, if the maxim, "the worse the voice, the better the conductor" has any truth, I would become a most outstanding conductor! One day I was correcting a musician and Prausnitz exclaimed "My God, you have perfect pitch!!" I replied in the affirmative, and he then said "I didn't think it was possible for anyone who sings as badly as you to have perfect pitch!"

During my studies I learned that I had natural teaching ability. At the Conservatory, I coached my classmates in theory and I taught in the "prep" division. Among my conducting experiences during that time period, I prepared the chorus for the Mozart Requiem that was sung at President Kennedy's funeral.

My doctoral work in orchestral conducting occurred at Indiana University's School of Music between the years of 1968-1970 and 1975-1977 which resulted in excess of 260 college credits. While at Indiana University, I studied conducting with Wolfgang Vacano, Tibor Kozma, and Jean Martinon.

While studying at Indiana University, in 1970, I was engaged by Taylor University to build the orchestra. I took a fledgling five-member ensemble and built it to an impressive sixty-member orchestra in two years. At that time I became Director of Instrumental Ensembles. The orchestra toured the Midwest, both as a performance experience and as a recruiting tool.

Also in 1970, I founded the Marion Philharmonic. My initial goal for this group was to serve as a vehicle for my students to play symphonic music while I was building the college orchestra. However, in five years, this emerging group achieved a balanced budget and a sold-out season! Among our guest artists were: Van Cliburn, Chris Schenkel, Josef Gingold, Nancy Shade, Doc Severinsen, Carlos Barbarosa-Lima. Many of my favorites in our repertoire are listed in the performances section of this web page.

At the request of the Indiana University Music Department, in 1971 I was asked to "put together" a small orchestra in Kokomo for special events. This group soon became the Kokomo Symphony, which I directed for ten years. Realizing that a string program was a necessity, I convinced the school system to add one to the curriculum and provided string teachers as part of our outreach program. To further promote interest in the symphony, I programmed large choral works using groups brought together from all the churches or schools in the county. This soon became the Kokomo Symphonic Chorus. Among our guest artists were: Nancy Shade, Michael Sylvester, Robert Merrill, Mildred Dilling, Indiana University Ballet Theatre, Menaham Pressler, Franco Gulli, and Javier Calderon. Initially the orchestra was nearly as big as the audience, but good music, varied artists, and imaginative programming soon gave us a sold out house and a balanced budget.

The Eighties found me in Indianapolis, conducting both the Carmel Symphony and Indianapolis Philharmonic Orchestra. A part-time position as choir director at St. Alphonsus Church in Zionsville led to 25 years conducting various choral groups in this area. In 2007, I teamed up with community members from Hendricks County to actualize the concept of a west-suburban chorus and orchestra, the Hendricks Symphonic Society.

I reside in Avon with my wife Joyce and a Border Collie. For relaxation, I raise rare tropical fish.