Inside Mr. Ventre’s Office

Photo by Helena Yang/The Choate News

Mr. Ventre’s office displays artifacts from his 47 years at Choate.


Mr. Phil Ventre, a music teacher and conductor of the Choate Symphony Orchestra and the Wallingford Orchestra, has inspired myriad students in his 47 years at Choate. His office, tucked away in the basement of the Paul Mellon Arts Center (PMAC), displays nuanced details of a vibrant legacy.

The office sits near the PMAC Concert Hall, where Mr. Ventre assists growing musicians in orchestra almost every day of the week. The space is filled with posters, keepsakes, and photos, granting observers the opportunity to explore.

Regarding his musical legacy, Mr. Ventre pointed to a black-and-white photo of an orchestra. He explained, “I come from a very rich musical heritage. Since 1930, my father has played in the Radio City Music Orchestra, and all of his four brothers are musicians too. One is a violinist, one is a clarinetist, one is a conductor, and the last one is a pianist — people call him the Eddy Duchin of Boston.”

Behind the door hangs a Bermuda flag, which Mr. Ventre and his jazz ensemble earned after winning first place in a music competition in the country. Rows of trophies fill the shelves, displaying the first place awards from the All-Northeast Jazz Competition, as well as from the Connecticut College Music Festival.

Though limited in space, Mr. Ventre’s office presents a variety of gifts from his former  students, family, and friends. On the shelves sit two humorous keepsakes: the statue of a conducting Yoda and a black-and-white conducting penguin. Motioning to the penguin figurine, Mr. Ventre joked, “Why do penguins conduct? Because they are always dressed to perform!”

On Mr. Ventre’s desk sits a dotted alarm clock that mimics the mooing of the cow, a gift from a friend. Mr. Ventre added, “The man who gave me this was the one who invented the Number One Foam Finger that people wear in games.”

Pointing to a dark hat on the top of the shelf, Mr. Ventre said, “Since I’m an orchestral conductor, one of my best friends in China wittily gave me a conductor’s hat from the Beijing underground subway as a gift.” After he began conducting in China in 1998, Mr. Ventre developed an international career, bringing the Wallingford Symphony Orchestra to China in 2000. Later, when Japan suffered from a devastating tsunami in 2011, the Choate orchestra organized concerts in a series titled “Music for Japan” and raised more than $10,000.

Choate students who embarked on the 2012 Symphony Orchestra trip to China summarized Mr. Ventre’s teachings on one t-shirt, displayed on his office wall. The shirt, a collective gift from the orchestra, states, “Nothing ‘Ventred’ Nothing Learned.”

Mr. Ventre’s profound impact on his colleagues is exemplified by his numerous and varied recognitions.  In 2011, Mr. Ventre won the Teacher Recognition Award from the U.S. National Scholar Program. Mr. Ventre was also nominated for the Grammy in the Schools Award, which recognizes outstanding achievement in the music industry. Tarn T. Granucci included Mr. Ventre in his book Legendary Locals of Wallingford, citing his impact on the community. Freddy Cole, the leader of the distinguished jazz ensemble Freddy Cole Quartet, has also performed with the Choate Rosemary Hall Orchestra under Mr. Ventre’s conducting.

Moving busily from one interest to the next, it’s fitting that Mr. Ventre also shares a great passion for cars. Pointing to miniature car models on his desk, he said, “When I was in middle school, the house next to mine had a car in its garage that I had never seen before. One day, when I had enough courage to ask the owner about the strange-looking car, he told me that he served in the military force in Germany and fell in love with Porsche, so he brought one back.” Mr. Ventre now drives a Porsche and displays the miniature models on his desk.

Outside of these interests, Mr. Ventre is also an avid fan of basketball. He said, “In high school, I was the power-forward, and my best friend was the center; he was six-seven. Local newspapers sent a photographer to take our picture because we were very tall.”

Looking at Mr. Ventre’s accomplishments, this sport is perhaps most emblematic of Mr. Ventre’s character. As Mr. Ventre summarized, “Basketball is a team sport, where it is not only about you.”

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