Organist Reaches Milestone; He Marks 25 Years at Riverside Park United Methodist Church

By Opisso, Erica | The Florida Times Union, March 16, 2005 | Go to article overview

Organist Reaches Milestone; He Marks 25 Years at Riverside Park United Methodist Church


Opisso, Erica, The Florida Times Union


Byline: ERICA OPISSO, Times-Union staff writer

Dan Francabandiero of Ortega coaxes the music out of the pipe organ as he simultaneously pulls numerous knobs, plays the three keyboards and tap dances on the multiple foot pedals, just as he has every Sunday for a quarter-century.

The sound from the organ as he plays at Riverside Park United Methodist Church is deep and rich, bellowing from the 2,500 pipes stretched toward the ceiling.

Francabandiero, 58, was recently honored for his 25 years of service to the church with a surprise luncheon and a few gifts.

"They thought they were surprising me," he said with a chuckle. "There's not much that goes on here that I don't know about."

Wayne Williams, senior minister of the church, says it's Francabandiero's combination of talent and personality that make him so special.

"He has found a home here because he is able to create and be accepted," Williams said. "He's highly respected in the larger community of musicians due to his high standards for quality of his work."

Francabandiero's work at the church has not been limited to the organ, as he is also choirmaster, directing four choirs, one vocal and three handbell (tuned bells rung by hand).

"I've been here long enough that people who were in my youth handbell choir are now in my adult handbell choir, with children of their own back in the choir," he said.

As a child growing up in upstate New York, Francabandiero began piano lessons at age 5, continuing them through high school. After majoring in piano and minoring in voice at the University of Tampa, he kept many part-time jobs, including teaching music education at elementary and junior-high schools and directing music at area churches.

One job in 1971 required him to play the handbells in order to direct the choir. Never having played the handbell didn't stop Francabandiero.

"I'm one of those people who, when thrown into a situation, I find out what I need to do to accomplish that task," he said.

A summer course in handbells at Westminster choir college in Princeton, N. …

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