Before he even stepped onto campus as a first-year, Queens native David Vascones ’18 had already served under Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan in New York’s famed St. Patrick’s Cathedral, rung the bell at the New York Stock Exchange and danced the foxtrot competitively at local Jacob’s Pillow. The Record sat down to talk with David in our office, partly to learn how exactly someone so young could have accomplished so much, but mostly to get to listen to him joke and muse in his quintessential Queens accent.
ZH: Where are you from?
I am from Queens, N.Y. I have lived there all my life. Middle Village. So it is not like the big city, but it is in New York City.
ZH: What was your high school like?
I went to Regis High School in New York. It was a Jesuit school – all boys. So it was a pretty big change coming here to Williams. But it was a very good school and I always got along with everyone. We studied a lot too. We were all really close and there are actually six of us here from Regis in our year.
ZH: So tell me more about your experience there.
Well, I was valedictorian. The way it works is that the valedictorian is not the one with the highest grade – that certainly I did not have – but the valedictorian is elected by his peers. So they picked me – still not sure why. I gave my speech at graduation. Not sure they could hear me because my mom was crying the whole time. Afterwards, they all stood up. I thought it was a standing ovation, but they were all just getting up to leave.
ZH: What did you talk about in your speech?
I talked about the idea of a gift – how we receive gifts in our lives and use them, how much they mean to us, how Regis had been such a gift to us. We all had gone to this great school for free. It had been a really great thing for all of us. I got a lot of great opportunities through Regis. I ended up being hooked up through Regis with some people at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York. I got to be an altar server there for Cardinal Dolan – apparently he is a pretty big deal; he made the big time. This, by the way, was my big break. So I was there for a while. It was the first time I had ever done it. So I went basically from zero to hero, and even though I didn’t know what I was doing, there were a lot of people who helped me out. Luke [Rodino ’17] seems to think a lot of this. He keeps saying, “St. Patrick’s Cathedral, St. Patrick’s Cathedral.”
LR: Well, it was the big time.
ZH: What are you looking to get involved in here?
Well, partially by accident I ended up in the Williams Jazz Ensemble. I ended up at the open house and [Lyell B. Clay Artist in Residence in Jazz Activities and Lecturer in Music] Kris Allen, the director, asked what instrument I play. When I said I played trombone, he said, “We need a trombone player, put your name down for an audition.” I said, “When?” and he said, “Tonight!” But I hadn’t played trombone in three months! He said it was okay, come anyway. I am, all things considered, a pretty mediocre trombone player. I was a senior so I got good parts and everything, but I come into the audition, same day, not having played in months. I play admittedly poorly, and he says, “Alright! You’re in!” But I hadn’t even thought about joining. So now, I am in the Williams Jazz Repertoire Ensemble. Surprise! Still not sure I want to be. So there is that. Also, the Catholic Campus Ministry. Also, getting involved in the radio WCFM could be pretty unique.
LR: You also have a great voice for radio.
I have also been told I have a great radio voice.
LR: What would you call your radio show? If you need a reminder, you thought of it after you had to read Cosmo aloud on our WOOLF trip.
Oh yeah, “Female Sex Tips featuring The Expert Luke.” I don’t know anything and will just have to read out loud from Cosmo, but I guess I will just call in the expert, Luke. Always value his input. Hope the radio folks don’t read about this.
ZH: Is there anything about you someone wouldn’t know from looking at you?
I also have had a lot of ballroom dancing, since the first grade through high school. That was a pretty big part of my life. A lot of different types of dancing. The first time I visited [the College] actually was when I came up to Jacob’s Pillow and danced on the outdoor stage, and then came here, and I saw it for the first time. Dancing is a really good thing for you, and especially [when it’s] with another person. When you dance with another person, you learn a lot of things. You learn about how to stand up straight, how to relate to another person. You look at another person from a distance and talk to them, but when you hold a person and are right next to them, and you have to move together, you don’t even have to talk. You know everything about the person already.
LR: You are going to make the ladies swoon.
ZH: Did you compete?
Yes. I wasn’t that much competition at all. [Laughs.] Never any big ones, but small ones. Foxtrot was my favorite. I usually did pretty well in that.
LR: Tell them about how everyone thinks you’re Italian.
I am one quarter Italian, but apparently if you are from Queens, you are Italian. Not true. This is a Queens accent, not an Italian accent. There is a Brooklyn accent, Long Island accent, Queens accent – not Italian accent. I don’t have that.
ZH: Were you aware of your accent at home?
Naturally, if you come from a small family that speaks a particular way you will notice in the larger picture. Queens still is the most diverse county in America. There is no place that has more ethnic and cultural groups than Queens. I was always surrounded by different types of people, even in my house. My father with his accent, and my mother with her Brooklyn accent, so I kind of got all of that messed together. That is what Queens is about – diversity. My dad came from Peru. He was a very young man. Came, by himself, with his guitar in his hand and a few shirts – the way all people come. But he got by, he is a smart guy. He had to make his living and played his classical guitar, which he studied in Peru. He left Peru, though, before he got his degree, so he has no college degree. But he came here and played his guitar on the streets, then at parties and what not. Now he is working in IT. He taught himself everything about computers – at the time computers were brand new. He has made a pretty good living for us, thank God. And he learned how to do it himself, which is I think the right way to do it.
LR: What would you say are your ambitions in life?
I don’t know. I have been in college two days. I think I’d like to go to law school, but you know, I’ll figure it out. I don’t like to make plans too far in advance because then you know. A big part of my whole life outlook is living right now. The past is gone, the future hasn’t happened yet. All you got is right now. You got to make it good. You can plan ahead, but don’t lose the present in the future. It is equally as damaging as losing it in the past. I’ll figure those questions out when I get there.