Ed Capasse’s Band

News of Ed Capasse’s death this week brought tributes from many quarters.

In his 91 years, the lifelong Westporter touched many lives. He was a Board of Finance chair, an active volunteer with the Westport Weston Family Y and Assumption Church, and a scrupulously fair, generous attorney.

He made his mark locally, for sure. But for one week in 1946, Ed’s face was seen in nearly every American home.

A few weeks earlier, Westport artist Stevan Dohanos invited 5 students from the 40-member Staples High School band to model for a Saturday Evening Post cover. He wanted to show a marching band.

The 5 musicians posed individually in Dohanos’ home studio. Each one earned $30 — $400, in today’s money — to sit still for a half hour, while pretending to play brass instruments.

What made the cover special was that every band member looked not straight ahead, at the director, but off to the side — where the football game was taking place. That action was reflected in the tuba.

Ed Capasse was on the top left, playing his trumpet.

The Saturday Evening Post — for which Dohanos drew 125 covers — was one of the most popular magazines in America. That October 19, 1946 issue, smack in the middle of football season, ended up in millions of homes.

Years later, Donahos donated the oil painting to what is now the Westport Schools Permanent Art Collections. For decades, it hung in the Staples band room. Then it moved to the principal’s office.

Former 1st Selectman Jim Marpe — a big Stevan Dohanos fan — commandeered it for his office. Later, it hung elsewhere in Town Hall.

Today it awaits a new location.

The work — called “The Band Played On” — gained new attention in 2001, when Staples Players staged “Music Man.” The poster showed 5 current actors, mimicking the painting.

Staples Players’ 2001 poster …

Fifteen years later, Players reprised the musical. Directors David Roth and Kerry Long redid the poster too.

… and the 2016 version.

Two years earlier, WestPAC had raised funds to restore the painting to its full brilliance. It was displayed proudly in the Staples auditorium, throughout the play’s run.

In 2016, theater-goers admired Stevan Dohanos’ painting in the Staples High School lobby.

For over three-quarters of a century, Dohanos’ work has been a part of Westport history.

Trumpet player Ed Capasse is gone now. But his — and Dohanos’ — band plays on.

Ed Capasse, in the 1948 Staples High School yearbook.

(Hat tip: Kathleen Motes Bennewitz) 

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7 responses to “Ed Capasse’s Band

  1. A fascinating slice of local history—and one of your best ever.

    One question (if anyone knows): how did Ed manage being in the Marching Band and playing on the football team? Perhaps he achieved something akin to a childhood dream I had of scoring the winning touchdown at Ohio State and dotting the i at halftime.

  2. Without your eye for bringing stories like this to life, so much would be missed or maybe even lost. Thanks Dan.

  3. I loved this post, thanks — and had the same question — band at same time as football? — Wowzer!

  4. Dan,
    You sure know how to dig deep into the soul of our town.

  5. I well remember the Dahanos painting hanging in the “Band Room” at Staples High School in the 1960s. It was a great inspiration, and we enjoyed being “in” on the joke of the players all looking at the action on the field rather than at the conductor. I would suggest that the painting either hang in a highly visible location in the Town Hall building, or else be returned to its historic location in the Staples Band Room, there to inspire future generations of Staples musicians.

    One quibble, though: the painting is widely referred to as “March Band at Football Game,” not “The Band Played On” — including on the Saturday Evening Post web site.

  6. Dan–First off, Capasse family greatly appreciates 06880 memorializing our Dad. On the band/football mystery, I played football in Fall and played clarinet in band rest of year. I “got the look” from a small group of the band members to model for the pic.

  7. Sorry meant “he” not “I”

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