Connellsville's Molinaro Band celebrating 100 years with special performances
The Molinaro Band is celebrating its 100th season this year.
To allow the public to be part of festivities, the band will perform several shows in addition to its traditional role in parades year-round.
At 3 p.m. May 5, the Molinaro Band will present a special public performance in Edwin S. Porter Theater at Connellsville Community Center.
“This will be a free community concert to celebrate the 100 years of the band, founded by Mike Molinaro in 1913,” said Francis “Coco” Molinaro, son of Henry F. Molinaro, current band director.
“We're pleased that our concert at the Porter Theater is the same day as the 110th-year celebration at the Carnegie Free Library,” Coco Molinaro said.
“They will be starting their celebration at noon, and it's an open house, so people will be able to come and go — then, hopefully just walk over to our concert. It should be great for those who want to make an afternoon of it, to get out and enjoy the history of our city,” he said.
“People love band music. It will be all upbeat — no one will fall asleep. We plan to play 15 to 18 marches. There may be some surprises thrown in, too,” Molinaro said. “We appreciate being able to use the Porter Theater for this special concert and thank the city for that.”
The concert is the beginning of a busy May month for the band. Members will open the 10th annual Geranium Festival by marching down Crawford Avenue from Immaculate Conception Church to Lions Square, starting at 9:30 a.m. May 25.
As its tradition, the Molinaro Band will march in Connellsville's Memorial Day Parade on May 27.
”The Memorial Day Parade is usually our kick-off for summer parades and performances. This year, we are getting an early start,” said Coco Molinaro.
Another special performance will be 7 to 9 p.m. July 28 at Lions Square, as part of the Connellsville Lions Summer Concert Series held every Sunday from June 23 through Sept. 1.
“The celebration of the 100th year of the Molinaro Band will be all year long. We're not sure of the exact date when Uncle Mike started the band, but we know it was 1913, so we turned 100 years old on Jan. 1 as far as I'm concerned.
“We will stretch the celebration out all year, but starting it off in the historic Porter Theater just seemed like a good idea. The Community Center will turn 100 in 2016 so our band is older than the theater we'll be playing in and my dad, Henry F. Molinaro, the band director, graduated from that school,” Coco Molinaro said.
When the band started to think about a special performance, members initially wanted it on March 4 — the date that Amedio Molinaro, a longtime band director, passed away.
“What Uncle Amedio always preached, always, was don't let the band die. Keep it going after I'm gone. Make sure you march on,” Coco Molinaro said.
“Then he died on March 4 — as in ‘march forth.' It was a direct command,” he said. “Of all the 365 days he could have passed, it was on March 4. It was amazing!”
Amedio Molinaro was the second band director after Mike Molinaro's death. Amedio held the position for several decades.
Coco Molinaro said the Molinaro family helps the band continue financially.
“Connellsville attorney Carmen Molinaro Jr. and Danny Molinaro of Houston, Texas, are both my first cousins and are our two biggest contributors.” he said.
“I think this 100 years is a tribute to all who have been affiliated with the band — directors and all the musician participants in the band. They are all volunteers. To have a volunteer organization operating for 100 years is a tribute to these people wanting to preserve a community institution,” Carmen Molinaro said.
A painted wall along Arch Street, owned by Carmen Molinaro, depicts the band's history. Carmen Molinaro said it was born when his uncle, Henry Molinaro and artist Gerald Lloyd Metzger, were Anchor Hocking co-workers.
“They were both artistically and musically inclined. They were talking in my office one day and said it would be nice to commemorate the Molinaro Band and suggested the wall of my building here on the corner of Peach and Arch streets. I said okay, and they got together and decided how they wanted to do it. They showed me the plan, and I said go ahead and do it, put it on there.
“From Mr. Metzger's original outline, almost nothing has changed. He always expressed a great admiration for Uncle Henry, and they got along very well at Anchor Hocking,” the attorney said.
In 1975, Carmen Molinaro asked Metzger to paint bicentennial scenes on the wall.
“He told me that God gave him talent, and he thought he was wasting his talent designing bottle caps,” Carmen Molinaro said. “He was happy to have the opportunity to use his talent designing the wall for everyone to see. I'll never forget that.”
Metzger also did a tribute to coal mines and Anchor Hocking on the fence above the attorney's property.
The Molinaro Band performed on the 90th anniversary.
Metzger passed away in 2009. Artist Sheree Cockrell freshened up the wall, Carmen Molinaro said. The band roster holds 80 to 100 names.
“We put out a schedule every year so everyone knows the dates, and we try to call, but everyone is so busy these days — it's not like it was in the old days when people didn't have so many things to do and everyone showed up for every parade. Now we are happy to have a quarter of our members show up. It's nice when we have 30 or more, then we really sound full,” Coco Molinaro said.
Don Witt is contacting members. Organizers hope the May 5 concert will draw at least 50.
“That many playing would be great — just the volume would be so loud. It would be outstanding if we can have that many,” Coco Molinaro said.
Witt said he has enjoyed his time with the band. He has been a member with Gary Wandel since they were in junior high in the 1960s.
“Which means I've been a part of it for almost half of its life. I am proud of that. I have great memories of us sitting around with Ron Scott and John Sloan.
“The other thing that stands out from back then is these crazy uniforms. Imagine gold with elastic on the sleeves and at the neck! They may have looked like what a clown wears at showtime. They were awful!” Witt said. “I remember being in a parade in Dunbar with only four band members. We really stood out in our gold shirts, navy pants and hats. It was 90 degrees, and I thought we would die in those uniforms.”
Witt said the Molinaro Band is one of the oldest family bands in the nation.
“I am looking forward to being part of this celebration as we honor the history and legacy of this family and this band,” Witt said.
Pat Stefano has been a member of the band since 1984.“Playing with the band has given me the opportunity to play alongside some of Connellsville's finest musicians. People like John Sloan and Jimmy Betters, Smitty and Jonesy — guys of long ago,” Stefano said.
Stefano remembers Amedio Molinaro's rehearsals every Tuesday night in the East Side Fire Station.
“Rehearsals and social events all rolled into one. Amedio was a married ‘single man' — married to the band. We were his family.”
Nancy Henry is a freelance writer.