Paul Gacek

Paul GacekPaul Gacek died in January 2021. He was the founder, first president, and Principal Violinist of the Yale Symphony Orchestra. After graduation he served as musical director for at the Yale Dramatic Association, Southbury Playhouse, and many theatrical productions in the New Haven area.

He worked in the Yale admissions office from 1970 to 1988 and as a technical programming specialist for the Yale New Haven Health System from 1989 to 2007. He was an accomplished scuba diver, treasurer of the Fairfield County Diving Association, and was an avid wreck diver and videographer. Paul served as Music Director for the Hamden Symphony Orchestra from 1969 to 2007 and continued as Conductor Laureate.

“Paul, John Baron and I were involved at the very beginning of what became the Yale Symphony Orchestra,” says Bill Krinsky. “We started as a small string chamber group, the Calhoun Chamber Orchestra, meeting about once a week in Calhoun College. Paul instituted the endeavor and was its most enthusiastic member. He organized the gathering, providing the music and conducting. Back then, I only knew him as a fellow musician. But I only learned a few years ago that he was an active scuba diver and enthusiastic videographer, who took many videos of underwater life.”

“He was a bumptious guy, a delight to have as a friend,” adds John. “He helped me build a stereo amplifier from a kit, quizzed me on my French vocab, and gave me an opportunity to play in the performances he organized. He was also a presence in Calhoun more generally. He conducted Stravinsky’s ‘L’Histoire du Soldat’ and Petruska, and he played RWB Lewis – white socks and all – in our senior skit. He had a largely unsung important impact on Yale itself since he was the moving force of the Yale Symphony Orchestra, which evolved out of less formal Calhoun music groups to become a premier undergraduate symphony.”

“Paul and I were roommates sophomore through senior years, and his devotion to music and performance really bloomed in our senior double suite,” says Tom Maciolek. “Our rooms were filled with musicians and music, mostly classical. He was a violist who loved to conduct orchestras, and he developed a lifelong relationship with the organization that became the Hamden Symphony Orchestra.

“One of his cats was named Igor and another was Ludwig. He became the prime mover behind our collaboration on a production of Stravinsky’s “L’Histoire du Soldat.” He organized and conducted the musicians, produced our Yale performances, and even arranged the production’s performance at a Connecticut College arts festival. John (bass) and Peter Ecklund (trumpet) played in the ensemble. That collaboration was the high point of my senior year.

“Paul stayed in New Haven, buying a house and working in IT in the Yale medical complex. When we reconnected after many years, he astonished me with stories of his scuba diving experiences. He once dove on the wreck of the Andrea Doria, a very deep and apparently technically difficult dive. I should not have been so surprised by this aspect of his love of adventure and achievement. I have many more memories this lovable and complex man.”