California Trumpets, Brooklyn Violins

My father is going to be a subject on this blog for the second post in a row. But this time he will be alive in a family memory, not in my distressed drawings of his grave. This story relates somewhat to a superb video I have chosen for Music Monday about the great craftsmen who make musical instruments. But first, the Hajian misadventures.

In the early 1970s our family took a vacation to California. While we were out there my dad, a professional trumpet player, wanted to visit the shop of Domenick Calicchio, an Italian immigrant and well-respected maker of fine handcrafted trumpets and other horns. Perfectly understandable. If my brother and I (nine and five respectively) were getting Disneyland and the San Diego Zoo, and my mother was getting museum visits and scenic drives up the Pacific coast, my father was surely entitled to meet a trumpet craftsman as his must-see California vacation priority. So we made our way to a less-than-spectacular section of North Hollywood. It was hot as hell that day I remember. My dad went into Calicchio’s place ready to meet the man and place an order for a horn. My mom, my brother Chris and I waited in the rental car, mistakenly assuming my dad would take no longer than 20 or 30 minutes, 40 minutes tops. But we waited. And waited. And waited. Bored out of our minds, hot and uncomfortable, stranded in a part of Hollywood in which there was absolutely nothing to do. No place to walk, no sights to see, nothing to eat! We got restless fast, especially my mother for whom patience is not a virtue. The three of us started to go nuts. How long is this taking??? It’s been over two hours!!! Mom, can we leave yet??! Where’s Daddy???!!  In Mom’s defense, the woman was in hell. Trapped with two young children in the days when you couldn’t just stick a video game or portable DVD player in a kid’s hands to keep them occupied. The whole situation sucked. My brother went in to see what was going on. It turns out that Dad was having a marvelous time, talking trumpets with old man Calicchio and chatting with other trumpet players who were hanging out, comparing notes about brass, mouthpieces, etc. Musician stuff. Good stuff. Dad stuff.

My father was not a fast-paced guy. He didn’t like to rush or be rushed. He enjoyed conversing and bonding with people who interested him and could spend hours doing so. And he always made the most of unique opportunities. He knew he’d probably never be in Los Angeles again, so why not savor his time in Domenick Calicchio’s shop? That’s how his mind worked.

But friends, let me tell you. I loved my Dad deeply, as you know, but he made us wait so long it was literally HOURS! In hot LA weather. With nothing to do! We were going batshit crazy. It was freaking torture! What we should have done, in retrospect, was tell Dad we’d just leave him there while we took the car and drove around to better parts of LA. We’d pick him up later. But you know when you’re waiting for something and you’re afraid to leave because you think it will only be “another 20 minutes”, so you might as well just stay and wait it out? That kind of reasoning? I think that’s the trap we fell into. Also, we didn’t want to do any sightseeing without him. We had to wait for Dad. He was our guy.

My favorite part of that episode was how completely pissed my Mom was. She’s still pissed to this day. Bring up the Calicchio thing and she’ll say, “Oh god, please! We wasted an entire day of our vacation at that place!! Your father took forever!!”

Keep in mind that my father was just placing orders for horns. When he finally came out he didn’t have any instruments with him. Only receipts for purchases. The custom made trumpets – four I think – were shipped weeks later to our house in New York City. Dad said they were fantastic and well worth the time and visit. Oh sure, to him they were worth it! What about us? The innocent family he left stranded in a rental car in Hollywood??!! 😆 By the way, the Calicchio company is still in existence. They moved years ago from SoCal to Tulsa, Oklahoma. See a photo of old man Domenick, now deceased, on their website.

Last point before we move on. My Dad made it up to us days later when we drove up to San Francisco. He took us all on a thrilling drive on the steep, hairpin turns of Lombard Street. Chris and I were laughing and screaming like lunatics, and my father had so much fun amusing his children with crazy driving. It was awesome. We loved it, he loved it. All was forgiven for the Calicchio chapter.

Ok. On to our video. Filmmaker Dustin Cohen profiles Brooklyn-based violin maker Sam Zygmuntowicz. His commitment to craft, music, and his valued clients is evident in this excellent profile. It’s also comforting to know that the great tradition of skilled instrument-making is alive and well in this day and age. Domenick Calicchio may be gone, but the artistry of his specialized field lives. We transition from brass to strings. Enjoy this clip!

12 thoughts on “California Trumpets, Brooklyn Violins

  1. Bill MacDonald says:

    Now Claudia, consider how lucky you were. If all of this had happened a few years later, you would have been spending your vacation at the Tulsa Zoo and the Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame 🙂

    Of course, your mother might have had something to say about that . . . 🙂

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      Yes, she sure would! Interesting anecdote: one of the most famous trumpet players, Chet Baker, was an Oklahoma native.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Claudia

  2. Coulda been worse, Claudia. Whenever I’d hear something like; “Daddy, this is boring!”, from my children, I’d reply with something like: “DAMNIT KIDS, YOU’RE BOTH REASONABLY INTELLIGENT APPRENTICE HUMAN BEINGS! IF YOU’RE BORED IT’S ‘CAUSE YOU AREN’T LOOKING DEEP ENOUGH NOR THINKING HARD ENOUGH!!!” 🙂

  3. Andrew says:

    Is “batshit crazy” crazier than a shithouse rat?

  4. Jennifer says:

    An amusing memory to share (in the way that you tell it, as opposed to how it was at the time!). Interesting video – great to be able to spend one’s life as a craftsman.
    Jennifer

    • artmodel says:

      Jennifer, thank you! The story lives quite vividly in my memory, especially since I was only five at the time. With all the passing years, it has taken on larger meaning with regard to my father.

      Glad you also liked the video!

      Claudia

  5. Lovely Claudia…as trumpet Player since 1960 something… and owner of four Dominik Calicchio horns I can understand you a little. I can Imagine scene you describe in your blog. But you been living between musicians, you live near to musicians and mostly trumpet players..you know …Trumpret Players are a “breed apart”..Anyway I’m so glad to know your blog…Also I’m glad to see a very nice, cute and charming NYork girl as you talking about Calicchio Trumpets…Best Regards..JC/Dr.Brass
    http://www.doctorbrass.com

    • artmodel says:

      Juan,

      Thank you so much for your comments! it means a lot to me to hear from a trumpet player. Yes, you guys are definitely a “breed apart”, and have a special place in my heart for obvious reasons. It takes a great musician to play well a difficult instrument like the trumpet.

      I will never forget the Calicchio day in California and how much it meant to my father, regardless of how long he made us wait! He really valued the craftsmanship that went into a fine trumpet. How wonderful that you own four Calicchios! Cherish them.

      Again, thank you for your kind words. Hope you visit this blog again.

      Claudia

      • One more time. I respect memory of your father as a good Man and great Musician, no doub. And also I really apreciatte you mention in this page a man as Dominik Calicchio. I felt and feel actually for him and his job a particular feeling. e always remaindme to my Grandather, a man as him, Craftsmanship from who I learn all what I know…Regards..JC

  6. violinhunter says:

    I can easily relate to this but in terms of violin makers. Your dad must have known trumpet player Charles Schlueter from Boston and William Vacchiano from New York.

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