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Obituary from Chicago Tribune, December 14, 2006
Vincent Cichowicz, a member of the Chicago
Symphony Orchestra's trumpet section from 1952
until 1974 and professor emeritus of trumpet at
Northwestern University, died Monday evening
following a long illness at his home in Fontana,
Wisconsin. He was 79.
Obituary from Chicago Sun Times, December 14, 2006
Vincent Cichowicz's family didn't have a musical background, but there were always classical programs playing on the radio when he was growing up in Chicago.
The sounds of concerts and operas struck a responsive note that lingered throughout his attachment to the trumpet that lasted more than 50 years, and included the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Northwestern University and generations of his students who carry on the music.
Mr. Cichowicz, 79, died Monday at his home in Fontana, Wis., from colon cancer.
His wife, Geniq E. Murphy, recalled when the music started.
"His family always had the radio on in their house to classical music," she said. "They listened to those Metropolitan Opera broadcasts that used to be on Sunday. He decided he would like to try that. He would like to be a musician."
Mr. Cichowicz's family couldn't afford an instrument, but a local boys' club came up with an old cornet. He learned to play at school, and when he made it to Harrison High School, he was taking lessons from Renold Schilke, a renowned trumpet player for the Chicago Symphony and an instrument designer and innovator.
"He used to go to Mr. Schilke's house for lessons, and he worked in the garden in exchange for the lessons," Murphy said. "When Vince graduated from high school, Mr. Schilke got a call from the Houston Symphony, and they were looking for a player. Vince went down there and started at the age of 17."
But it was 1945, and trumpet players were in big demand with the United States Army. Cichowicz was drafted into the Fifth Army Band and opened a one-year stay performing at Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas.
"He played for dance bands and concert bands," his wife said. "He raised the flag and lowered the flag."
Following his discharge, he enrolled at Roosevelt University. In 1952, there was an opening at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
"He auditioned for it and won the position," she said. "He always said that you had to do the work and be prepared, but there is also luck involved."
His philosophy of playing and teaching was to bring the music out from the heart, not the printed sheet.
"He would say, 'Don't get yourself tangled up in the paralysis from analysis. Always go back to the music. Even when you are doing a technical, boring exercise, find the music in it; otherwise it will be deadly boring.'"
His success as a teacher came from his ability to combine the technical with the artistic, and to make his students grasp them both, she said.
"Vince had such a philosophy that kept things simple," she said. "A lot of people are coaches and can musically coach how a phrase should go. He not only could do that, he could teach people to play the instrument, and after that, learning the notes was the easiest."
He knew, from experience and study, the intricacies of breath and brass and lips and tongue.
"The trumpet is not a matter of being big and burly," she said. "It's the efficiency of how you use everything. That's why Vince always said that women could play the trumpet as well as men. It was not a physical thing. It was efficiency."
Mr. Cichowicz played at the CSO from 1952 until 1974, performing for such directors as Raphael Kubelik, Fritz Reiner, Jean Martinon and Georg Solti. He was a member of the Chicago Symphony Brass Quintet and performed on the Grammy Award-winning recording of Giovanni Gabrieli's "Antiphonal Brass Music."
He was on the faculty of Northwestern University since 1959 and was a full-time professor of trumpet from 1974 until retirement in 1998, receiving Northwestern's Legends in Teaching Award.
"When he retired from Northwestern, he went to conducting, and directed the Millar Brass Ensemble," Murphy said. "He tapered off on his own playing because he didn't want to practice for hours and hours. But he could still pick up the horn and have that gorgeous sound."
He was especially proud of the Ensemble's "Brass Surround" recording on the Delos Records label in 1995, which he directed, she said.
"All the trumpet section are his former students," Murphy said. "They have a very particular sound that reflects how he wanted things and how he played."
The ensemble has prepared another CD, which Mr. Cichowicz arranged. It will be released next year and has yet to be titled, she said.
"He loved to travel in Europe," she said. "But it was related to his teaching. He was not a golfer. He didn't have a hobby. His passion was passing on his music."
Mr. Cichowicz frequently conducted workshops and seminars in the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan.
Survivors include three sons, Michael, Steve and Rob; three grandchildren, and two sisters, Ange Duda and Ann Carney.
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