By Carol P. Bartold, Senior Reporter
Jul. 25, 2018: Founded by Al Mingrone in 1974 after several village residents expressed interest in a community concert band, the Bronxville Pops Concert Band has enjoyed 44 summer seasons of bringing live music to the community.
The band will play a concert tonight at 8:00 pm on the front lawn of The Bronxville School. In case of inclement weather, the performance will take place in the school auditorium.
"I did everything when we started," Mingrone said. "I hired the players, got the music together, and came up with the programs for six concerts every year. It was a lot of work but, of course, I was younger then." To start the band, Mingrone added, he recruited some students and hired a few professionals to play. With time and a successful door-to-door fundraising effort in the downtown business district, the band grew into an ensemble "big enough to make a respectable sound" and made up of avocational players as well as professionals.
Initial funding was not easy to come by, Mingrone noted, but several seasons of funding from the Bronxville Chamber of Commerce allowed the group to become so successful that professional musicians from Westchester County wanted to join. Adding a few more professionals enabled the band to present more varied and interesting programs. Trumpet player Ron LoPinto noted that several of the Bronxville Pops musicians come from a concert band and orchestra background.
LoPinto, a graduate of the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan and New York University, joined the band in 1980 and hasn't missed a season since. A lifelong trumpet player and big band musician who also studied arranging, he played professionally until, as he said, "I got married and had to earn a living." That hasn't deterred him from playing whenever he can. Ron enjoys traveling to Florida, where he meets up with other musicians who have settled there, and playing almost every night of the week.
Several musicians in the band, Mingrone included, come from a career in music education. He was teaching elementary, middle, and high school students when he started the Bronxville Pops Concert Band. Mingrone taught at The Bronxville School from 1960 until he retired in 1989.
Sharon Slote, Bronxville Elementary School music teacher, began playing trumpet in elementary school because, she said, "I wanted to be better at it than my big brother." Primarily a brass player, she had learned to play clarinet and saxophone by the time she finished middle school. Slote joined the Bronxville Pops Concert Band when she was twelve years old. She studied music education and performance at the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, part of the State University of New York system. She earned her master's degree in performance and conducting.
Slote stood in for Al Mingrone and conducted the band's July 18 concert. "I like being able to help out," she said. "I play any instrument they need that week." In addition to trumpet, she has played the French horn and baritone saxophone in concerts. She also plays in the Greater Newburgh Symphony Orchestra.
Clarinetist Janet Corvini has played in the Bronxville Pops Concert Band for three seasons. She began her musical studies as a child in the Yonkers Public Schools. "My cousin played clarinet in the fourth grade, and I pretty much did everything she did," Corvini said. "When I got to fourth grade, that's what I wanted to do also." She played throughout middle school and high school, then continued her studies at Manhattanville College, where she majored in clarinet performance and music education. She earned her master's degree in clarinet performance at Lehman College of The City of New York University. She has played in several ensembles, including a chamber ensemble at the Turtle Bay Music School in New York City, Hunter College Wind Ensemble, Yonkers Pops Band, as well as bands in Mount Vernon and Mamaroneck. Corvini taught elementary school music in The Bronxville School from 2001 until 2016, when she retired.
In addition to providing musicians and leadership for the Bronxville Pops Concert Band, Ron LoPinto credits The Bronxville School with being most generous in allowing the group to use its band room, copier, and auditorium. "The school is one of the best resources we have," he said.
As with many arts organizations, funding for the band has been uncertain at times. A 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, the group depends solely on support from the public and local businesses through a mail campaign. Anyone wishing to support the band can send a donation to the Bronxville Pops Concert Band, P.O. Box 284, Bronxville, NY 10708.
"My heartfelt thanks to people who contribute," Al Mingrone said. "I enjoy conducting a nice group of musicians and having people come out and enjoy the music."
Click here for photographs from the opening concert of the season.
Pictured here: Founder and conductor Al Mingrone.
Photo by A. Warner
Editor's note: A member of the staff of MyhometownBronxville and her son are members of the Bronxville Pops Concert Band.