Stanley Gayetzky, aka Stan Getz was born at St. Vincent's Hospital in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Feb. 2, 1927. He had one brother, Robert, who was born on October 30, 1932. His parents had come from the Kiev area in the Ukraine in 1903, tired and fearful of the Pogroms. The Getz family had first settled in West Philadelphia, but moved to New York City after Stan's fraternal uncle told them there were better jobs in New York. They lived first on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, and then moved up to the East Bronx.
Stan's father had many jobs, but he wasn't aggressive by nature and was thus often unemployed. Stan's mother was a more demanding person and pushed her first son hard to study. She hoped he would become a doctor or a professor and took extra care of him, setting straight "A" standards for his schoolwork. Stan worked hard in school. During hot Bronx summers, Stan developed a love for swimming at Crotona Park. At this same park, he sold sunflower seeds in two-cent packets that he had purchased in bulk. Stan had his Bar Mitzvah in 1940. Neither Stan nor Robert had much spiritual grounding. Between them, they would have four wives and seven children, none of whom were raised Jewish.
Stan finished 6th grade near the top of his class and was accepted into an accelerated program where he would combine 7th and 8th grades into one academic year. He was attracted to musical instruments, and he pestered people until he could try whatever instrument came within his view. He was playing the harmonica by age 12 and bass in Jr. High School. Early indications off his innate talent became apparent with his ability to play new tunes he would hear- picking them out on the piano or his harmonica. He conducted a fantasy opera orchestra in front of the radio. He would hum all of the famous Benny Goodman clarinet solos from memory. As he studied music, he was instantly good at sight-reading and seemed to have a photographic memory, as well as an instinctive sense of pitch and rhythm.
On February 16, 1940, his Dad bought him a $35.00 alto saxophone. Stan was 13. He moved on quickly to play all of the saxophones, as well as the clarinet, but he really loved the sound of the tenor saxophone. "In my neighborhood my choice was: be a bum or escape. So I became a music kid, practicing eight hours a day. I was a withdrawn, hypersensitive kid. I would practice the saxophone in the bathroom, and the tenements were so close together that someone from across the alleyway would yell, 'Shut that kid up', and my mother would shout back, 'Play louder, Stanley, play louder'." He mooched quarters off of his Mom so that he could take saxophone lessons every week from an excellent local teacher named Bill Sheiner. He even took up playing bassoon in the school band.
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