Academic journal article Journal of Band Research

A Southern Italian Band Tradition Lives in Northeastern Ohio: Michael Lucente and the Lowellville Mount Carmel Band

Academic journal article Journal of Band Research

A Southern Italian Band Tradition Lives in Northeastern Ohio: Michael Lucente and the Lowellville Mount Carmel Band

Article excerpt


In the tiny village of Lowellville, Ohio (population: 1,217) generations of ItalianAmericans celebrate July 16 as they have done for one hundred and fourteen years. This is the community's annual festa (plural feste), or feast day of their patron saint. The first festa was celebrated in Lowellville in 1895. By this time, most Italian immigrants were poor laborers from southern Italy.1 Enclaves like Lowellville provided them with some protection from discrimination and also a means of support. Such relatively-isolated communities also undoubtedly made it easier for distinctive Italian- American cultural signs (like the festa) to continue through multiple generations.2 For many, the festa remains the highlight of the year and a sign of their Italian- American cultural identity. It is also the most important venue for one of their other distinctive signs: their own Lowellville Mount Carmel Band.

Nearly three-quarters of festa participants interviewed between 2002 and 2004 mentioned the band and/or the music as what they considered the most important or most meaningful aspect(s) of the festa.3 Therefore, a great deal of time was spent listening to, recording, and transcribing the music played by the Lowellville Mount Carmel Band during this research. In addition to pieces played in specific festa ritual-contexts, the band's repertoire includes music completely unique to them, in the form of hand- written scores of compositions and arrangements by the band's founder, Michael Lucente.

Beyond relaying previously unwritten details about the Lowellville Mount Carmel Band's founding and early history, this paper will include discussion of instrumentation and specific experiences of band members. Special attention will be paid to the band's repertoire, including historical descriptions of pieces and their functions and contexts in Lowellville. Reinterpretation of the band as a result of the addition of female, non-Italian-descended, and non-Lowellvilleresident personnel, as well as the recent influx of young members recruited from the local high school band, will also be discussed. Furthermore, new additions to the band's repertoire will be examined. Thus, this paper provides the first written account of the history of the Lowellville Mount Carmel Band, showing how the group and its repertoire function as signs of ItalianAmerican cultural identity, and how these functions, along with changes in personnel and repertoire, have been integral to the band's longevity.

Michael Lucente and the Founding of the Lowellville Band

Michael Lucente was born in Italy circa 1875 and arrived in the United States around 1905 (Department of Commerce - Bureau of the Census 1920: 7). He conducted the West Aliquippa Italian Band in western Pennsylvania from 1905 until he retired in 1923. The group continued without Lucente until it finally disbanded in 1982 (Rocco 1990: 79, 103).

Lowellville also had its own band in the first decade of the 1900s, but no information is available for this group. The current band traces its history back to the one founded by Michael Lucente in 1927 .4 Band member Vincenzo "Bananas" Iudiciani confirms Lucente's previous position as conductor of the band in Aliquippa before he decided to bring his music to Lowellville - a decision he made after "visiting his paesans5 here [Lowellville]" (2002). Since Lucente started the Lowellville band, the group disbanded only once, during - and due to - World War II (1941),6 but they reformed in 1946. Lucente himself taught most of the men how to play their instruments and how to read music notation. He used a collection of his own handwritten original compositions and arrangements, which he sold to the band for a total of twenty-five dollars before he returned to Italy in 1931.

After Lucente left, the Lowellville musicians decided to continue with the help of the local Mount Carmel Society,7 electing band officers and rehearsing three to four times each week. …

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