Vincent DeRosa

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Vincent DeRosa
Birth nameVincent Ned DeRosa
Born(1920-10-05)October 5, 1920
Kansas City, Missouri, U.S.
OriginLos Angeles, California, U.S.
DiedJuly 18, 2022(2022-07-18) (aged 101)
La Cañada Flintridge, California, U.S.
GenresClassical, jazz, soundtrack
Instrument(s)French horn
Formerly ofFrank Sinatra

Vincent Ned DeRosa (October 5, 1920 – July 18, 2022) was an American hornist who served as a studio musician for Hollywood soundtracks and other recordings from 1935 until his retirement in 2008. Because his career spanned over 70 years, during which he played on many film and television soundtracks and as a sideman on studio albums, he is considered to be one of the most recorded brass players of all time.[1][2][3] He set "impeccably high standards"[4] for the horn, and became the first horn for Henry Mancini, Lalo Schifrin, Alfred Newman, and John Williams, among others, with Williams calling him "one of the greatest instrumentalists of his generation."[5] DeRosa contributed to many of the most acclaimed albums of the 20th century, including some of the biggest-selling albums by artists as diverse as Frank Sinatra, Barry Manilow, Frank Zappa, Boz Scaggs, Ella Fitzgerald, Harry Nilsson, Stan Kenton, Henry Mancini, The Monkees, Sammy Davis Jr., and Mel Tormé.

Early life and training[edit]

DeRosa was born in Kansas City, Missouri, on October 5, 1920. His family moved to Chicago about a year after his birth. His father, John DeRosa, was a professional clarinetist; his mother, Clelia DeRubertis DeRosa, was an accomplished singer. He began his horn studies at age ten with Peter Di Lecce, Principal Horn of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.[6] In 1932, the family moved to Los Angeles.[7] While still a teenager, DeRosa studied briefly with his uncle, Vincent DeRubertis.[8] He also studied with and played several times for Alfred Edwin Brain Jr., Dennis Brain's uncle. [9]


DeRosa began his professional career in 1935 by substituting for another player in the San Carlo Opera Company's production of La traviata. When the U.S. entered World War II, DeRosa enlisted before he could be drafted and was assigned to play with the California Army Air Forces radio production unit. He was discharged in 1943 because he was the head of a household. However, eventually he was recalled to service and was demobilized in 1945.[10]


DeRosa's recording career began shortly after his military service ended, and he quickly established himself as the first-call session horn player in the recording industry.[8] He recorded extensively in several genres, including jazz, rock, pop, and classical. His name has become a metaphor for prolific recording: in Collected Thoughts on Teaching and Learning, Creativity, and Horn Performance Douglas Hill refers to a prolific session player as "the Vince DeRosa of the London freelance scene."[11]


As a jazz player, he is recognized as one of the first French horn players to forge a career as a jazz sideman.[12] During his career, he played on important jazz instrumental recordings, including Art Pepper's Art Pepper + Eleven – Modern Jazz Classics, Stan Kenton's Kenton / Wagner, and Johnny Mandel's I Want to Live!. He also appeared on landmark recordings by jazz vocalists, including Mel Tormé and the Marty Paich Dek-Tette, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Rodgers & Hart Song Book and Ella Fitzgerald Sings the George and Ira Gershwin Song Book, Sammy Davis Jr.'s The Wham of Sam, and June Christy's Something Cool. DeRosa also contributed to important jazz fusion recordings, including David Axelrod's Song of Innocence and groundbreaking albums by Jean-Luc Ponty including King Kong: Jean-Luc Ponty Plays the Music of Frank Zappa.

As a sideman on pop records, his contributions to Sinatra's most important recordings are perhaps best known (see with "Work with Sinatra" below). However, he also contributed to many other hit pop recordings such as Barry Manilow's triple-platinum album Even Now, Neil Diamond's hit September Morn, and Louis Armstrong's I’ve Got the World on a String and Louis Under the Stars, two of the most important pop albums from Armstrong's later catalog.[13]

As a sideman on rock, blues, and funk records, DeRosa contributed to seminal recordings such as Frank Zappa's first solo album Lumpy Gravy, Boz Scaggs' quintuple-platinum Silk Degrees, and Tower of Power's Back to Oakland, and to rock cult classics such as Harry Nilsson's Son of Schmilsson and Van Dyke Parks's Song Cycle.

DeRosa was also an accomplished classical player. He was the hornist on the album The Intimate Bach which received a Grammy Nomination for Best Classical Performance – Chamber Music (1962). [14] Music critic Alfred Frankenstein wrote of DeRosa's performance on this record, "This is the most astonishing example of virtuosity on the horn I have ever heard on records...To play as lightly and speedily as a harpsichord, right out in the open with a minimum of support, is to give an incredible performance."[6]


In addition to his work as a sideman, DeRosa appeared on many prominent soundtracks for film, musicals, and TV, including Carousel, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Edward Scissorhands, How the West Was Won, Jaws, Mary Poppins, Midway, Oklahoma, My Fair Lady, Rocky, The Days of Wine and Roses, The Magnificent Seven, The Music Man, and The Sound of Music.[15] The television programs for which he played include Batman, Bonanza, Dallas, Hawaii Five-O, Peter Gunn, Star Trek, The Rockford Files, and The Simpsons.[16]

Work with Frank Sinatra[edit]

DeRosa's playing and career are closely associated with Frank Sinatra's recordings because of Frank Sinatra's fame, the number of seminal Sinatra albums on which DeRosa played, and two highly publicized accounts of Sinatra's comments to or about DeRosa (see below). DeRosa played first horn on many albums considered to be the greatest in Sinatra's catalog and among the greatest of all time, including In the Wee Small Hours, Songs for Swingin’ Lovers!, Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely, and Strangers in the Night.

Sinatra was not known for openly complimenting his musicians (drummer Irv Cottler once said, "Frank will never come right out and tell you that you swung your ass off"[17]). However, he publicly acknowledged DeRosa's excellence. In Sinatra: The Chairman, author James Kaplan discusses DeRosa with Milt Bernhart, a trombonist who had played with both Sinatra and DeRosa on many occasions:

"Another time, Bernhart remembered, Sinatra praised French horn player Vince DeRosa on executing a difficult passage by telling the band, 'I wish you guys could have heard Vince DeRosa last night—I could have hit him in the mouth!' We all knew what he meant—he had loved it!" Bernhart said. "And believe me, he reserved comments like that only for special occasions."[18]

Another reason DeRosa is closely associated with Sinatra is that an exchange between DeRosa and Sinatra was featured in the article "Frank Sinatra Has a Cold" for Esquire by Gay Talese in 1966. The article became one of the most famous pieces of magazine journalism ever written, and is often considered not only the greatest profile of Frank Sinatra but one of the greatest celebrity profiles ever written.[19] In his piece, Talese documents the following touching conversation between Sinatra and DeRosa:

When a French horn player, a short Italian named Vincent DeRosa who has played with Sinatra since The Lucky Strike "Hit Parade" days on radio, strolled by, Sinatra reached out to hold him for a second.
"Vincenzo," Sinatra said, "how's your little girl?" "She's fine, Frank."
"Oh, she's not a little girl anymore," Sinatra corrected himself, "she's a big girl now."
"Yes, she goes to college now. U.S.C."
"That's great."
"She's also got a little talent, I think, Frank, as a singer."
Sinatra was silent for a moment, then said, "Yes, but it's very good for her to get her education first, Vincenzo."
Vincent DeRosa nodded.
"Yes, Frank," he said, and then he said, "Well, good night, Frank." "Good night, Vincenzo."[20]

The exchange was given renewed exposure by Pulitzer Prize-winning music critic Alex Ross in his book Listen to This. In the chapter "Edges of Pop," Ross highlights the famous article and calls the exchange between DeRosa and Sinatra "The sweetest moment in Gay Talese’s classic Esquire profile."[21]

One reason for DeRosa's appearance on so many of Sinatra's albums is that DeRosa was the preferred first horn for Sinatra's frequent collaborator Nelson Riddle (Riddle's biographer refers to DeRosa as a "horn player extraordinaire"[22]). As an example of Riddle's esteem for DeRosa, he chose DeRosa as a featured soloist on the Sinatra album Close to You, an album on which the Hollywood String Quartet and typically one soloist per song accompanied Sinatra. Riddle was deliberate in his choice of sideman,[23] selecting trumpeter Harry "Sweets" Edison, clarinetist Mahlon Clark, and DeRosa for this project.

Work with Henry Mancini[edit]

While DeRosa might be most closely associated with Frank Sinatra, he is also well known as Henry Mancini's first-call horn player, working with Mancini on at least eight albums and many film scores. The albums included The Music from Peter Gunn, the first album to win the Grammy award for Album of the Year (1959) and was selected by the Library of Congress as a 2010 addition to the National Recording Registry, which selects recordings annually that are "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." The album's title song features famous,[24] difficult-to-execute French horn lines, with DeRosa as first chair.[25]

Mancini often composed his themes with a favorite player in mind: "Sometimes when I hear people play, especially if they’re distinctive players, I actually try to incorporate their sound into a particular score."[26]

Mancini had Vince DeRosa in mind when he composed his Academy Award-winning theme to the film Days of Wine and Roses: "For the first yawning notes of this score, he was hearing the solid round tone of studio veteran French horn soloist Vince DeRosa, and that became the voice of solitude in the film."[26] This theme won the 1962 Academy Award for best song.


DeRosa's impact on studio horn playing was significant, and set a new standard for studio horn parts.[8] As a sideman on thousands of sessions and a horn instructor at USC and elsewhere, DeRosa influenced many musicians and composers. The list below documents composers and musicians who are publicly acknowledged to have studied with, or been influenced by, DeRosa's teaching or playing.


  • John Williams (American composer who has written some of the most popular and recognizable film scores in cinematic history). At DeRosa's retirement concert/celebration, composer John Williams wrote:

"Vince Derosa's contribution to American music can't be overstated. He was the premier first horn player on virtually every recording to come out of Hollywood for over forty years. He represented the pinnacle of instrumental performance and I can honestly say that what I know about writing for the French horn, I learned from him. DeRosa was an inspiration for at least two generations of composers working in Hollywood and beyond. He is respected world-wide and universally regarded as one of the greatest instrumentalists of his generation. It has been a privilege to have worked with him all these many years."[5]

  • Henry Mancini (American composer, conductor and arranger, often cited as one of the greatest composers in the history of film). Mancini had Vince DeRosa in mind when he composed his Academy Award-winning theme to the film Days of Wine and Roses.[26]

Horn players[edit]

The following horn players have publicly acknowledged studying with DeRosa.

  • Nathan Campbell (Professor of French horn, The Master's University)[27]
  • James Thatcher (Session player, recipient of the Most Valuable Player Award from the National Association of Recording Arts and Sciences)[28]
  • Brian O'Connor (Professor of Horn at UCLA)[28]
  • Henry Sigismonti (Principal Horn of the Los Angeles Philharmonic under Zubin Mehta)[3]
  • George Price (Longtime third Horn of the Los Angeles Philharmonic)[3]
  • Suzette Moriarty (California Philharmonic)[29]
  • Laura Brenes (Principal horn player for the Redlands Symphony Orchestra)[30]
  • Richard Todd (Professor of horn at Frost School of Music)
  • Dylan S. Hart (Principal horn of the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra under Thomas Wilkins)

Awards and honors[edit]

  • Grammy Nomination: Best Classical Performance – Chamber Music for The Intimate Bach (1962)[31]
  • The Vince DeRosa Scholarship Fund was established in DeRosa's name and currently supports the IHS Solo Contest (2003)[32]
  • Elected as an honorary member of the International Horn Society (2004)[33]
  • The Hollywood Epic Brass Organ and Percussion Ensemble recorded The Vince DeRosa Tribute Album (2014)[34]
  • Local 47 Lifetime Achievement Award (2017)[35]

Personal life[edit]

Beginning in the late 1950s, DeRosa played a Conn 8D horn. In the 1950s he taught a small number of students at the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music but otherwise taught formally at the University of Southern California from 1974–2005.[36] Since retiring in 2008, DeRosa split his time between his residences in La Canada, CA, Maui, and Montana.[37]

DeRosa's uncle, Vincent DeRubertis, also played with Sinatra on at least one occasion, on the soundtrack for High Society.[38] Like his nephew, DeRubertis also contributed to many soundtracks.[39]

DeRosa died on July 18, 2022, at the age of 101.[40][41]


With The 5th Dimension

With Laurie Allyn

With Laurindo Almeida

With American Flyer

With Louis Armstrong

With Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald

With David Axelrod

With Hoyt Axton

With The Blackbyrds

With Vernon Burch

With Red Callender

With Glen Campbell

With June Christy

With Stanley Clarke

With Nat King Cole

With Natalie Cole

With Judy Collins

With Alice Coltrane

With Rita Coolidge

With Sonny Criss

With Michael Davis

With Miles Davis

  • Dingo (Warner Bros., 1991)

With Sammy Davis Jr.

With Sammy Davis Jr. and Carmen McRae

With John Denver

With Teri DeSario

With Neil Diamond

With Lamont Dozier

With Earth, Wind & Fire

With Billy Eckstine

With The Emotions

With Juan García Esquivel

With Don Fagerquist

With José Feliciano

With Clare Fischer

With Ella Fitzgerald

With Dan Fogelberg and Tim Weisberg

With Donna Fuller

With Judy Garland

With Barry Gibb

With Harpers Bizarre

With Debbie Harry

  • KooKoo (Chrysalis Records., 1981)

With Neil Hefti

With The Hi-Lo's

With Bill Holman

With Paul Horn

With Freddie Hubbard

With Gordon Jenkins

With Stan Kenton

With Peggy Lee

With Henry Mancini

With Johnny Mandel

With Chuck Mangione

With Gap Mangione

With Barry Manilow

With Shelly Manne

With Skip Martin

With Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams

With Billy May

With Les McCann

With Carmen McRae

With Sérgio Mendes

With The Monkees

With Mystic Moods Orchestra

With Oliver Nelson

With Michael Nesmith

With Sammy Nestico

With Harry Nilsson

With Michael Omartian

With Lee Oskar

With Patti Page

With Marty Paich

With Van Dyke Parks

With Art Pepper

With David Pomeranz

With Jean-Luc Ponty

With Pure Prairie League

With Johnny Richards

With Minnie Riperton

With Mavis Rivers

With George Roberts

With Pete Rugolo

With Pharoah Sanders

With Arturo Sandoval

With Boz Scaggs

With Diane Schuur

With Jack Sheldon

With Lalo Schifrin

With Doc Severinson

With Horace Silver

With Frank Sinatra

With Judee Sill

With J. D. Souther

With Duane Tatro

With The Temptations

With Cal Tjader

With Mel Tormé

With Tower of Power

With Stanley Turrentine

With Sarah Vaughan

With Paul Weston

With Mason Williams

With Frank Zappa


  1. ^ "Local 47 Honors Members with Lifetime Achievement Awards – International Musician". International Musician. June 14, 2017. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  2. ^ "Vincent DeRosa – James Boldin's Horn World". Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c "vincent de rosa". Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  4. ^ Friedwald, Will (1995). Sinatra! The Song is You. Simon and Schuster. pp. 35. ISBN 068419368X.
  5. ^ a b "Keeping the 'Hollywood Brass Sound' Alive | 47 Blog | AFM Local 47". Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  6. ^ a b Liner notes from the album The Intimate Bach: Duets with the Spanish Guitar, Vol. 2.
  7. ^ Miller, Todd (2009). Carved in Stone, p. 1
  8. ^ a b c Vincent DeRosa biography at the International Horn Society home page
  9. ^ Miller, Todd (2009). Carved in Stone, p. 3
  10. ^ Miller, Todd (2009). Carved in Stone, p. 4-5
  11. ^ Hill, Douglas (2001). Collected Thoughts on Teaching and Learning, Creativity, and Horn Performance. Alfred Music Publishing. p. 175. ISBN 0757906850.
  12. ^ Hill, Douglas (2001). Collected Thoughts on Teaching and Learning, Creativity, and Horn Performance. Alfred Music Publishing. p. 103. ISBN 0757906850.
  13. ^ "I've Got the World on a String/Louis Under the Stars – Louis Armstrong | Songs, Reviews, Credits | AllMusic". AllMusic. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  14. ^ "Vincent De Rosa". May 14, 2017. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  15. ^ Miller, Todd (2009). Carved in Stone, p. 15
  16. ^ Miller, Todd (2009). Carved in Stone, p. 18
  17. ^ Friedwald, Will (1995). Sinatra! the Song is You: A Singer's Art. Simon and Schuster. pp. 35. ISBN 068419368X.
  18. ^ Kaplan, James (2016). Sinatra: The Chairman. Doubleday. p. 86. ISBN 978-0307946935.
  19. ^ DiGiacomo, Frank. "The Man Who Led the Esquire Decade". Vanity Fair. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  20. ^ "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold". Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  21. ^ Ross, Alex (2011). Listen to This!. Picador. p. 221. ISBN 978-0312610685.
  22. ^ Levinson, Peter (2005). September in the Rain: The Life of Nelson Riddle. Taylor Trade Publications. ISBN 1589791630.
  23. ^ Friedwald, Will (1995). Sinatra! The Song is You. Simon & Schuster. pp. 242. ISBN 068419368X.
  24. ^ "Mancini's Peter Gunn Score Launched Dozens Of Careers (2007)". Mornings on Maple Street. November 26, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  25. ^ "Mancini's Peter Gunn Score Launched Dozens Of Careers (2007)". Mornings on Maple Street. November 26, 2014. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  26. ^ a b c Caps, John (2012). Henry Mancini: Reinventing Film Music. University of Illinois. p. 73. ISBN 978-0252093845.
  27. ^ University, The Master's. "The Master's University -". Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  28. ^ a b "Artists". IHS Los Angeles. Retrieved August 2, 2017.
  29. ^ "California Philharmonic: Suzette Moriarty". California Philharmonic. November 14, 2018.
  30. ^ "High Desert Chamber Music Horn Player Laura Brenes". Cascade A&E. January 4, 2018.
  31. ^ "Vincent De Rosa". May 14, 2017. Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  32. ^ "Vincent DeRosa – IHS Online". Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  33. ^ "Vincent DeRosa – IHS Online". Retrieved August 3, 2017.
  34. ^ "Keeping the 'Hollywood Brass Sound' Alive | 47 Blog | AFM Local 47". Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  35. ^ "AFM Local 47 Lifetime Achievement Awards". Retrieved July 31, 2017.
  36. ^ Miller, Todd (2009). Carved in Stone, p. 21
  37. ^ Miller, Todd (2009). Carved in Stone, p. 5
  38. ^ Silva, Luiz Carlos do Nascimento (2000). Put Your Dreams Away: A Frank Sinatra Discography. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 0313310556.
  39. ^ "filmscoremonthly".
  40. ^ "In memoriam: Vincent DeRosa" (Press release). USC Thornton School of Music. July 28, 2022. Retrieved September 8, 2022.
  41. ^ "Vincent Ned "Vince" DeRosa Obituary (1920 - 2022) Los Angeles Times".


External links[edit]