Music men

June 27th, 2015 1:22 am

First Posted: 6/19/2013

The tradition continues.

The Cino Paci Band, a group of professional musicians who’ve been playing Italian and American symphonic marches at local festivals and parades since 1923, has reached a milestone: 90 years. And they’re still strolling along.

Bob Sabatino, a 30-year member of the band, explained that despite being a traditional marching band, they don’t march. They stroll.

“The first time (former director) Ross (Tarintino) asked me to play with the band, he said, ‘The one thing about this band, you better not march in step or you’re outta here!’,” Sabatino recalled.

The rotating group of nearly 40 musicians play trombones, tubas, baritones, trumpets, clarinets, saxes and percussion.

There are no vocals in any of the band’s music and the band rarely, if ever, has rehearsal time. The band’s working songbook has about 15 Italian songs and seven American ones. The band plays selections from La Traviata, Aida, and the Barber of Seville, and their signature song is “Caderna.”

Three members of the band, Jack Brogan, Bob Sabatino and Ed Zebrowski, the band’s accountant Len Bonfanti, and Cino Paci’s daughter, Fedora Paci Rigle, gathered on a recent afternoon to share some memories. And laughs.

“Then I started tuning up,” Sabatino, who plays clarinet, remembered, “and Ross said, ‘What the hell are you doing? You don’t tune up in this band!’”

Native of Italy

The Cino Paci Band was named after its founder, Cino J. Paci, who was born on June 19, 1881, in Cireglio, located in the Province of Pistoia, Northern Italy.

Cino began music career when he was just a boy, learning what he could from local musicians. Baritone and euphonium were his two instruments of choice.

His daughter, Fedora, said Cino’s parents would sometimes ask him to go practice in the nearby mountains to afford them some peace and quiet.

Paci served in the Italian Army from 1911 to 1913, just before World War I. Then he and his brother, Pacino Paci, emigrated to the United States, and settled in Exeter. Pacino soon moved back.

“He went back to Italy because he decided he could make a better living there,” Rigle said.

But Cino Paci stayed and soon his wife joined him. He taught music to local immigrants, and in 1923, he formed the Cino Paci Band.

The band, Rigle said, was modeled after village bands in Italy. Many of the men that joined his band were students of his and other musicians from the North Italian Citizens’ Club, primarily residing in Exeter and Old Forge.

The group played parades, concerts, backyard parties, processions, and church picnics at churches such as St. Rocco’s, Our Lady of Mount Carmel in Pittston and St. Cecilia’s and St. Anthony’s on the West Side.

The processions, some of which continue today, are held on patron saints’ feast days. A crowd of parishioners carry a statue of the saint through the streets of the neighborhood. The Cino Paci Band was always seen behind the group carrying the statue, playing Italian and religious songs.

A Midnight Seranade, when the band would stop at each member’s home for food, drink and music, occurred the night before a procession.

“They’d go in, play a number and have a drink,” said band manager Jack Brogan. “The next house, they’d do the same. By the end of the night, well, you get the picture.”

The three Pittston Italian social organizations, the Serradifalco Society, the Montedoro Society and the San Cataldo Society, all based on locations in Italy, often provided financial support for the processions and helped them carry out the traditions of the Old Country.

“These societies were the backbone, the support group,” Sabatino said. The serenades ended in the 1980s.

Paci served as a staff sergeant in the U.S. Army during World War II . At that time, he directed Army concert bands stateside in Virginia, South Carolina and Louisiana.

While he was in the service, Cino Paci’s son, Adrian, directed the band back home until he, too, was drafted in June, 1943. Adrian Paci was killed in action, March 2, 1945, in Germany.

Following his discharge in 1945, Cino Paci got the band back together.

In 1953, when his health began to fail, he turned control of the band over to his protégé and trumpet player, Ross Tarantino, who kept the Cino Paci style. Tarantino retired from Wyoming Area High School as chairman of the music department.

On Oct. 28, 1983, on the 60th anniversary of the band, Tarantino turned the baton over to Joe “I” Infantino, Paci Band brass player.

Joe “I” led the band until his death in 2001. His son, Charlie Infantino, took over and has led the band ever since. Charlie was 12 years old when he joined the band in 1963.

40 musicians

The Cino Paci Band has a roster of nearly 40 musicians, but not every member plays every gig.

“Sometimes we need 15, sometimes 20, sometimes 30,” said Jack Brogan, the band’s manager.

The band’s 90th season began at the St. Ubaldo Day, La Festa dei Cieri, in Jessup. Two Memorial Day parades, theWyoming/West Wyoming parade and the West Pittston/Exeter Parade, were next. The band has plans to play at St. Rocco’s in Dunmore, the Pittston Tomato Festival Parade, and, in honor of the band’s 90th Anniversary, was invited to open the Tomato Festival on the Main Stage. They will also play La Festa Italiana in Courthouse Square in Scranton.

The band’s distinct uniform includes white shirt with the Italian flag on the shoulder and the Cino Paci Band patch over the breast pocket, black trousers and a black baseball cap, also with the patch.

Members range in age from 23 to 91.

The current roster of the Cino Paci Band is: Todd Hunter on trombone; Mark Stair on trombone; Charles Infantino on trombone and director; Chuck Smith on trombone; Matt Zebrowski on trombone; Bernard Gardzalla on trombone; Don Williams on trombone; Ilan Raschkovsky on baritone; Ed Zebrowski on baritone; Daniel Van Why on trumpet; Joseph Stefanko on trumpet; Daniel Coyle on trumpet; Mark Jennings on trumpet; Ken Reichard on trumpet; Jimmy Bone on trumpet; Howard Housley on trumpet; John Kopec on trumpet; Nick Jendrezejewski on trumpet; Jason Kozemko on trumpet; Andy Kolojejchick on clarinet; Joe Zeigler on clarinet; Joe Gambo on clarinet; Bob Sabatino on clarinet; Dale Houck on clarinet; Ray Stedenfeld on tuba; George Levandowski on tuba; Phil Ioanna on tuba; Nick Driscoll, clarinet and sax; John Woloski, alto sax; Jack Brogan, tenor sax; Mike Pryor, tenor sax; Jim Musto on percussion; Charles Sciandra on percussion; Frank Galoardi on percussion; Paul Dominick on percussion; Dan Mihalko on trombone and percussion; and Ray Musto on percussion.

“We’re all doing it for the love of music,” Sabatino said. “There’s something special about it. And what’s interesting is this Italian group is a mix of mainly Eastern Europeans. It’s quite an ethnic group.

A noted deceased member and longtime band manager was Lino Marchetti, Cino’s close friend and student.

“It was a great loss to the band when he died,” Brogan said. “He meant a lot to us.”

But the band will continue.

“We will be the Cino Paci Band until it no longer exists,” Brogan said. “That’s the band and it’s not going to be anything else. That’s it.”

The future

And the band continues to thrive.

“We’re going to keep doing it as long as we can,” Zebrowski said. “We’re getting some younger musicians in, so we’re in good shape.”

Sabatino said the growth of the band is not what it was 20-30 years ago, but there is a renewed interest in their music on a retro level.

“The new growth is the San Ubaldo and the ethnic festivals like that,” he said. “It’s all about keeping traditions alive.”

He said he has a grandson that is interested in music and hopes to see him playing with the band one day.

“He’s practicing the book,” Sabatino said. “He came and walked along side of us last year.”

This little band that started in 1923 has grown over the past 90 years to become a Greater Pittston institution.

“It’s so distinctive,’ Sabatino said. “It’s beyond Pittston. It’s beyond Italian. It’s about tradition. We’re so rich in tradition. That’s why we’re so unique. The times have changed, but the soul of the band hasn’t.”

Fedora said it’s good to talk about the old times and keep her father’s memory alive.

“He would be so proud of the band today.”