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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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