William Zaccagni, 57, of Port Richmond, a college music teacher who performed with and arranged for Johnny Mathis, Burt Bacharach, Bernadette Peters and Bobby Rydell, died of heart failure Thursday at Temple University's Northeastern Hospital.
Mr. Zaccagni was born and raised in Port Richmond in a home filled with music: His dad was a self-taught musician, his mother and sister sang, and an uncle was a professional musician. Naturally, he played in bands at Northeast Catholic High School (Class of 1967) and Temple University. He dropped out of Temple to play in saxophone quartets and make a living as a musician.
Mr. Zaccagni began his professional career with summer gigs at Catskills resorts and orchestras at the Forrest and Merriam Theaters and other venues in Philadelphia, New York and Atlantic City.
In 1979, the Philadelphia College of Performing Arts (now the University of the Arts) hired him to teach jazz history, theory and arranging. He also taught saxophone and directed ensembles.
"Bill, or 'Z' as he was known to many, was a world-class saxophonist, composer, arranger, conductor, and teacher," said Marc Dicciani, director of the University of the Arts School of Music.
Mr. Zaccagni's woodwind and big-band arrangements were published and sold internationally by Kendor Music. While teaching, Mr. Zaccagni wrote for and performed with stars internationally.
" 'Z' was truly one of a kind," Dicciani said, "whether he was cooking a giant pot of gravy and meatballs for 20 of his friends, telling jokes to enraptured students, pulling all-nighters to write charts for professional singers, or getting tickets for opening day at the Vet."
Mr. Zaccagni amazed fellow musicians by never missing a note while watching a ball game on a mini-TV in the orchestra pit at the Walnut, Dicciani said. He was the type of friend who never forgot an anniversary or a birthday.
"At almost 6 feet, 4 inches, his shadow, real and figurative, was larger than life," Dicciani said.
"He had a quick wit and a was a fanatical Eagles fan," said his sister, Lorraine. "My brother was a father figure to his students. He was stern, but kind."
He had no other survivors.
Services were held yesterday.