Rey Vinole, master trumpet player and teacher, taught dozens of San Diego musicians as he launched and led the Mission Bay High School Jazz Band for 26 years. To his credit, it’s still going strong under the direction of Jean Paul Balmat, the school’s music director, and one of Vinole’s former students.
Vinole’s a man who doesn’t miss a beat: with his swing band today, he’s routinely on the road, playing horse-shows, Twilight in the Park, Concerts on the Green. And, as an adjunct professor with community colleges here, he conducts workshops for aspiring musicians.
His irrepressible personality makes the man fun to play with – fun to write about:
LW: So, Rey, the first thing we want to know is your secret: you just turned 72, your good-looking head of hair is white, you’ve been tooting that horn for decades – and c’mon, you’re still kind’ve a … kid!?
RV: Life is a gift. I begin the day by going to Mass. I love my wife Caroline, children, friends, and students… throwing the football, making music. Playing jokes on everyone keeps me young at heart. Laughter is great therapy for … well, everything.
LW: The city’s musicians – many are still at it rave about their experience with you as teacher. Do you have a secret there, too?
RV: Well, I love to teach… I love to perform and learn from my musician friends and students. I hope that’s infectious.
LW: Give us a little personal history. Why the trumpet? When did you know you’d be a life-long musician? Your “gigs” before you turned to teaching?
RV: I was born in San Diego in Little Italy Dec. 8, 1939. At 13, a friend of mine owned a trumpet and I asked him if I could try it. I played one note – and that did it. I joined the Pacific Beach High School band in 1954; Ozzie’s Marching Band in 1955; Playboys Rock Band, 1953. Then, Mission Bay High School Band, class of ‘58; four years of the U. S. Navy Band through ‘62; Chargers Band in the 60’s and my Rock band, The PROPHET$, in 1963. I recorded with Gary Puckett, and worked with Lou Rawls, the Supremes and the Temptations.
My B.A. and Masters are from the University of Arizona. I became the band director at Morse High, 1969-74, then to Mission Bay HS, where I stayed ‘til 2000.
I directed and/or produced over 40 musicals, and acted in 1980’s television: “The Lassie Show,” “Harry and the Hendersons,” “Space” and in the movie “Man Without a World.” From 1974 until now I’ve been an adjunct music professor in the San Diego Community Colleges.
LW: You play “The Great American Songbook,” Dixieland, jazz, show tunes. Hardly what kids are into today? What do you think of “contemporary” popular music?
RV: Well, I love any music that makes me want to perform/listen/dance – but, I’m not a fan of x-rated hip-hop, rap.
LW: What musicians have inspired you the most?
RV: The current/past members of my swing band/horse show orchestra, for starters! But Louis Armstrong probably inspired me the most. Tony Bennett said, “The bottom line of any country is, what did we contribute to the world? We contributed Louis Armstrong.”
LW: Playing the horse shows has to be the most fun. Challenging? Do you make the horses dance?
RV: True: horse shows are my favorite… Three – five hour shows. We play 80-90 arrangements including, pop, rock, jazz, Latin, marches and show tunes.
LW: You recently composed a new number that has a very inspiring source…?
RV: I wrote “Sofia Angelina” for our new grand-daughter, and we debuted it at this year’s Del Mar Fair. We’ll record and play it for her this Christmas.
LW: You’ve got three sons and a daughter – but you’re going to confuse us with “Rey” and “Ray,” right? Are your kids musical? How does your wife put up with all that?
RV: At 39, Rey III is very talented and can throw the football very far but not as far as his father… Raymond – also 39, can’t throw at all, but is still the family’s best athlete. Just ask him. Anthony. 29, and I love to hide and scare each other. That’s the reason we dye our hair – (Oh, but I’ve stopped! Who knows what’ll happen now.) Our daughter Michele and husband Steve, and our newest Sofia Angelina – that’s a thrill – a game changer.
LW: OK, are you going to get serious here?
RV: Caroline’s our cheerleader. It is not easy living with a trumpet player who can easily play too loud. Rey III plays woodwinds and has performed at Caesar’s and many other Las Vegas, LA, and San Diego venues. He’s the former CEO of High Roller Limousine. Raymond is on Team USA for Dragon Boat Racing and will be competing in Milan in August for the World Championship title; he’s also producing the first “Miss Gaslamp Beauty Contest” late summer, definitely versatile! Anthony was a drummer for the MBHS Dixie band. He’s currently a plant manager and chemical technician for Eco Building Products. Our daughter, Michele, is a Delta flight attendant and the mother of little Sofia Angelina. All my kids performed with me at Mission Bay.
LW: Here’s a teaching question. What was your point in having your adult class play about ten full minutes of “China Town?” You know once through would be enough.
RV: Playing in a band is not all fun and games. To improve, you must do the work; team work, helping each other to be the best you can be. I wanted each musician to stretch, both imagination and ability, to make every new round of that number better than the one before. I think it worked.
LW: Do you have any advice for today’s high-school music teachers?
RV: Teaching is a gift. Prepare. Care, and the rest will come.
LW: Do you still practice?
RV: I practice almost every day. If I miss one day, I know it; miss two days – then everybody knows it.
Category: Life Style