Molinaro Band's family ties survive wars, name changes
Connellsville's Molinaro Band's root comes from the “boot”: Italy, where music maestro Giovanni Molinaro taught the art of low brass to his younger brother Michael Molinaro.
One hundred years ago, Mike “marched” the music across the Atlantic Ocean to Connellsville, forming the Royal Italian St. Rita's Band in 1913.
The band's name has changed several times during the past century but not its family ties. Only five men have marched as director – all of them named Molinaro.
In the Molinaro family, memories of “Uncle Mike” are treasured — almost sacred — although it's been more than 75 years since Mike passed away in 1936 at 47.
Name dates to 1936
“When Uncle Mike died, we renamed the group the Molinaro Band in his honor,” said Amedeo Molinaro in a 1982 interview. Amedeo took up the music mantle with gusto, leading the ensemble for more than 50 years.
Amedeo, who owned a tailor shop in Connellsville, taught several generations of Molinaros to march and play. He enthusiastically recruited musicians from the Fay-West area, drawing heavily from high school bands. Hundreds of players have come and gone, and many others have marched for decades.
The Molinaro Band plays in every Connellsville parade; they're a fixture at the city's annual Memorial Day celebration. Over the years, they've taken their spirited brass sound to parades and competitions throughout Western Pennsylvania and even to out-of-state competitions. But hometown has always been their heart.
In 1968, the group merged with New Haven Hose Company, whose band had dissolved, and the ensemble was renamed the Molinaro/New Haven Hose Band. In recent years, New Haven Hose volunteer firefighters proudly march with their own bagpipers, unaffiliated with the Molinaro name.
Small, mighty Amedeo
Amedeo Molinaro was diminutive in size but formed a mighty presence when it came to music, especially the low brass sound of marching tunes. He was fondly nicknamed the “Little Giant.” To this day, the Molinaro Band leans heavily on songs by brass composers, especially John Philip Sousa.
Sousa's music emphasizes low brass, which Amedeo was quoted as saying gives the Molinaro Band its “oomph!”
“Of course, we have our drummers and reed instruments (such as clarinets and saxophones),” Amedeo said in 1982. “But it's those trombones, bass horns and trumpets that make you hear the band from miles and miles away.”
Amedeo was assisted by his older brother, Carmine Molinaro Sr., for many years. When Amedeo served with the Army during World War II, Carmine directed the band, which saw more than 120 local units of soldiers off to war at the B&O Railroad station.
When Amedeo finished his military service, Carmine relinquished his baton but continued to be active with the Molinaro Band until he passed away in the 1980s. Amedeo marched as the band's director until shortly before his death in 1997 at 86.
By that time, younger Molinaros assisted him, especially his younger brother, Henry Molinaro Sr. After Amedeo passed away, Henry Sr.'s son, Henry Molinaro Jr., served briefly as the band's fourth director.
However, Henry Jr., a longtime music teacher at Connellsville Area High School, had a growing family at the time. He was unable to devote enough hours to effectively run the band. He turned to his father for help, and Henry Sr. has marched with and managed the ensemble since the late 1990s.
The band plays on
Henry Sr. will turn 85 in August, but he still manages the band with gusto. Maybe the brisk pace that he sets is fueled by the comforting knowledge that a sixth Molinaro is waiting in the wings to take over the reins.
For more than a decade, Henry Sr.'s son, Francis “Coco” Molinaro, has assisted with the band's organization and has often carried its banner out front during performances.
So the Molinaro Band plays on — and if Uncle Mike is watching from the pearly gates, he's sure to be smiling.
Laura Szepesi is a freelance writer.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Squirrel causes power outage on South Side Connellsville
- Everson OKs recreational burning ordinance
- Connellsville Redevelopment Authority director touts revitalization
- Fayette municipalities will meet on land bank idea
- ‘Hairspray’ coming to State Theatre in Uniontown
- Fayette County Fair nears kick-off
- Uniontown woman accused of stabbing man
- West Side Hill’s Italian Bash celebrates 15 years of food, fellowship
- Volunteer firefighters hard to find in Mt. Pleasant, Scottdale
- Connellsville library on course to get new windows
- 2 Connellsville men jailed in Subway robbery