Vincent Simonetti, 73, reflects on his life’s work and passion: the tuba. “I could go on for days talking about it,” he said during a visit to the V & E Simonetti Historic Tuba Collection housed in Durham, North Carolina.
Accumulating over 300 of the brass instrument in what he believes is the world’s largest private treasury of the sort, Vincent’s beloved museum opened March 5, 2016 to hundreds of visitors. Over a year later on November 28, 2017, the tiny yellow house hosting the horns remained quiet. Other than bursts of tubas being played gleefully, that is.
Pictured in this selected story is his wife and business operator, Ethel, 74. Granddaughter Aiyana Simonetti-Poe is also the museum’s curator. Together, it’s very much a family-oriented enterprise.
“I love it when people come in,” Vincent said. “Sometimes children come in, and a few days later their mother will call saying, ‘He enjoyed it so much, he wants to take lessons!'”
“I was auditioning for the North Carolina Symphony [in 1967]. I had just broken up with a girl, and I went in playing my tuba very softly. I was bummed out,” Vincent said in between loud bursts of his favorite tuba. “Turns out, my predecessor was super loud, the conductor couldn’t take it. So he heard me and liked that. But once I came down to North Carolina for the symphony, I was over it and was as loud as I could be. He was taken aback, but it was too late then. I was already in.”
“Music has been my life,” Vincent said. “It’s taken me around the world, and I’ve gotten to meet a lot of people, some odd and some nice. Believe it or not, it’s not just the tuba. It’s mainly the tuba. But it’s also the piano. I’ve been learning recently.” Classic Christmas carols followed his fingers “without a hint of mistake,” his wife added. Vincent was requested by a church in Durham, North Carolina, to play the piano for their children’s Christmas choir. Far from local, however, Vincent has gone to Russia, Germany, the UK, Canada and all over the US for his beloved collection.