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William and Shirlejean Babcock (Vincent Cichowicz collection)

The Chicago Symphony notes with the sorrow the passing of William Babcock—a former member of the Orchestra’s trumpet section from 1951 until 1958—on June 10, 2019, in Townshend, Vermont. He was 94.

Born in New London, Connecticut on May 7, 1925, Babcock began playing the piano at the age of four and trumpet at seven. He won many high school competitions as a trumpet player, was first solo cornet in the All New England High School Band for three years, and graduated from Bulkeley School for Boys in 1943.

After graduation, Babcock enlisted in the US Air Force and was called into duty on June 14, 1943, serving for nearly three years, active in combat flying in the European theatre.

Benefiting from the G.I. Bill, he enrolled in the New England Conservatory of Music in January 1946. While in line for admittance, Babcock met not only his future colleague Adolph “Bud” Herseth but also his future wife Shirlejean Wallace (whom he would marry on March 29, 1947). During his three years at the conservatory, he studied with Boston Symphony Orchestra trumpets Roger Voisin and Marcel LaFosse. Babcock performed at Tanglewood’s Berkshire Music Center (under the guidance of BSO principal trumpet Georges Mager), with the New England Opera Theater and at Boston’s Shubert Theatre, and also as a substitute with the Boston Symphony Orchestra under Serge Koussevitzky, Charles Munch, Leonard Bernstein, and Pierre Monteux.

William Babcock (Vincent Cichowicz collection)

Rafael Kubelík, during his first season as music director, hired Babcock into the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s trumpet section, beginning with the 1951 Ravinia Festival season. He was a member of the section until 1958, when he became principal trumpet of Chicago’s NBC Orchestra, where he remained until 1965. Babcock continued to work as a freelance musician and private trumpet teacher into his retirement, and he and his wife were longtime members of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Alumni Association.

William Babcock’s beloved wife Shirlejean—after sixty-seven years of marriage—preceded him in death in 2014. He is survived by his children Douglas, Richard, Barbara LaMontagne (Henry), Laura Casoli (Darrel), and granddaughter Melissa. Memorial gifts may be made to the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and services have been held.

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