The Imperial Band

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Jamestown Imperial Band played at Johnsonburg, PA - August 13, 1930

Contributing Writer
Joan V. Cusimano Lindquist

Among my earliest memories of listening to live music was sitting with my family on the porch of our home at 17 Derby Street on Sunday evenings when the Salvation Army Band of the Jamestown temple, located at 24 Harrison Street, would play for their congregation on the band stand at the foot of Fenton Park on S. Main. Music has always been a part of Jamestown’s cultural history, and in addition to this band, two early bands were formed by the city’s European immigrants: the Corona Band, whose members were mostly of Swedish heritage, and the Imperial Band, whose members were Italian and Sicilian immigrants and their first generation Italian/Sicilian American sons.

There may be some among my readers who recall or even participated in the myriad activities, both religious and secular, that were part of the Imperial Band’s thirty year history. This group of musicians, some amateur and some whose profession was teaching music, were first loosely gathered under the leadership of Philip Crucilla in 1910. By 1913, however, the band had become an established musical organization under the direction of Joseph Triscari, and its members, some whose surnames will undoubtedly be familiar to many old families of Jamestown, were the following: Joshua Joy, Joe Desimone, Sam Raimondo, Frank Fadale, Fred Panebianco, John LaJohn, Sam Mancari, Tony Paterniti, Philip Crucilla, Joe Triscari, Sebastiano Civa, Anthony Giglia, Angelo Locastro, James Valenti, and Achille Paladino.

In its early years, the Imperial Band concentrated on Italian music, but in time, its repertory expanded to embrace all types of music, especially the march. And, indeed, the company became a marching band and performed for feast days, church celebrations and also religious processions, especially near St. James R. C. church during Lent, as well as secular occasions, such as the annual Memorial Day parade, park concerts at Allen Park and Celoron, weddings, baptisms, funerals, street dances, steamers on Chautauqua Lake, and concerts in neighboring communities in Warren and Johnsonburg, PA and South Dayton, NY, to name a few. This well-known band was under the direction of Joe Triscari until his death in 1918 when Joshua Joy became the band’s director until the organization was disbanded in 1940. It was a notable and creditable length of time, a span of three decades, for these talented, dedicated musicians to stay together.

Members of the Imperial Band. Left to right: Charles Fasciana, trombone; 13 year old Vincent Joy, Sr., trumpet; Direcor Joshua Joy, trumpet.

Some members of the band, in particular John LaJohn (born Cosimo DiGiovanni), whose family was among the first Italian immigrants to settle in Falconer, NY, enjoyed careers as teachers of music for many in the city of Jamestown. Mr. LaJohn, a graduate of the Marcus Lucius Quinn Conservatory of Music and the Sherwood School of Music, taught piano, organ, saxophone, and clarinet. However, he was not only a member of the Imperial Band as a clarinetist but was also a member of the Italian Band, the Jamestown Municipal Band, Company E Band, the Old Timers Band, the Corona Band, the Jamestown Concert Band, and was the director of his own orchestra in his earlier years.

The name Joy is probably familiar to many, especially those who knew Vincent Joy, Sr., always known as Vince, as the boys’ physical education instructor at Jefferson Jr. High as well as Jamestown High School, where he also coached. Joshua Joy, who was the director of the Imperial Band for twenty-two years, drew his young son Vince into the Imperial Band where, like his father, he played the trumpet. Vince joined the band at age 13 in 1933 and remained a member until the age of 18 when he had to decide where his life’s work would take him: music or athletics. Of course, it was athletics, and Vince enjoyed a career as a well-respected teacher and track and football coach.

Vince’s father, Joshua Joy, learned the fundamentals of music in his home town of Marianopoli, Sicily, were music seemed to be part of the education of its young male population. But in addition to playing in various musical organizations in the Jamestown area, Joshua Joy extended his talents to play as a local with the small rodeo band that came to Gerry, NY for many summers. As Vince recalled, the rodeo band was similar to a circus band because it performed for the duration of the rodeo playing fast and furious without much interruption—demanding to say the least! Nevertheless, it was a musical challenge that Joshua Joy enjoyed for the seven or eight summers that he was part of it.

Two other members of the Imperial Band were remembered in my article “The Imperial Band” in my second book BROOKLYN SQUARE, THE LOST NEIGHBORHOOD, AND BEYOND (2013): John D’Angelo, an immigrant from Pratola Peligno, Italy, who played the clarinet and was the father of Frances D’Angelo, who followed a career in education in Jamestown, and Frank Fadale, an immigrant from Valledolmo, Sicily, who also played the clarinet and was the father of Carolyn Fadale Demarest, an RN and long-time Jamestown resident, having spent her early years on Victoria Avenue. All are deceased. But as I was preparing my book, two poignant recollections were recorded from the memories of the daughters of these men. Frances always remembered her father’s Imperial Band uniform that hung in a prominent place in the closet: a black gabardine suit with collar and cuffs in black velvet with a gold braid trim. Carolyn kept her father’s clarinet for all of her long life, 103 years, and whose daughter Carolyn Demarest Gold now possesses as a family keepsake. Memories of a band formed by immigrants and well kept by their descendants.