Gene Carrescia '51, a member of the first-ever graduating class of the Schillinger House, has been making music for over 70 years, including during World War II.
Eugene Carrescia was born in 1925 in Massachusetts. His father, who made a living as a musician traveling across the country with circuses, started teaching him to play the trumpet at 10 years old. In high school, Carrescia was already playing in nightclubs as well as in his high school band as drum major.
In 1943, when he was 18, Carrescia was drafted into the U.S. military along with his whole graduating class before they even got their high school diplomas. He had been offered a scholarship to the New England Conservatory but had to turn it down due to his military service. While serving overseas in the Pacific, he played in the service band, backing up some big name entertainers such as Bob Holt and Jack Benny during USO shows.
The Schillinger House
When Carrescia got out of the military in 1946, he had some friends who had been going into Boston to take trumpet lessons from Fred Berman, a founding member of the Schillinger House. In the fall of 1947, the Schillinger House opened up for regular classes. Although you couldn’t get a degree from the school, the credits were accepted by colleges, so if someone wanted to attend the Schillinger House and then get a Bachelor of Arts, they could do it at Boston College or Boston University.
The school's only building was a three-story brownstone on the corner of Newbury Street and Gloucester Street, where original faculty assembled, including Larry Berk, Harry Smith, Lee Daniels, Fred Berman, and the two ensemble teachers, Joe Viola and Freddy Guerra. At the time, it was a small school, and most of the students were World War II vets attending under the GI Bill.
Some of Carrescia's classmates and friends from that time include notable players Charlie Mariano and Dick Nash. His time at the Schillinger House culminated with their very first concert in the John Hancock building where two ensembles performed, one under the direction of Viola and one under Guerra.
Another Half Century of Trumpet Playing
After Carrescia left the Schillinger House, he spent some time traveling with a hotel band, playing at chain hotels such as the Sheraton and the Hilton. His career also included such highlights as playing shows for GIs in Greenland and being lead trumpet at a larger supper club in Framingham, Massachusetts, Caesar's Monticello, which hosted an array of top-name stars when they traveled through the area.
In the '60s, Carrescia began another career working with juvenile delinquents, running parallel to his life as a musician; he worked in the court system with children under his jurisdiction after they were handed over from the state.
Thanks to the Jazz History Database, created by professor Richard Falco at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, we can listen to examples of Carrescia’s playing throughout his career, along with some videos of Carrescia playing with the Leominster Colonial Band.