Joe Parisi – Trumpet, Educator - Performer
BMHOF Class of 2014
Since growing up on the west side of Buffalo, Joe Parisi's involvement in the Buffalo music scene has been two-fold. As both a performer and a music educator, Parisi has made an impression on the Buffalo music scene.
Unlike many performers who fall back on teaching to help pay the bills, Parisi set out to be an educator. He attended the University at Buffalo and studied music education, graduating in 1974. In the fall of 1974, he was a vocal music teacher in Depew. From 1976 to 1994, he was an elementary and middle school instrumental music teacher in the Buffalo Public Schools and taught performing jazz ensembles, concert bands and string ensembles. Also in 1975-76 he was an adjunct trumpet instructor at Villa Maria College.
In 1995, he became the senior high school instrumental music teacher at South Park High and taught developing and performing bands, concert bands, marching bands and jazz ensembles. He retired from that position in 2009 after 34 years of teaching, the last 14 of which he spent at South Park High School in Buffalo. He also directed the All City Marching Band from 2006 to 2009.
All along the way, Parisi was frequently performing outside the classroom as a member of local combos and as a backup musician for touring groups on stages such as the Seneca and Salamanca Casinos, and also headed up his own group in the early 80's called “Close Encounters”. He's had a passion for playing big band jazz as long as he can remember. “It comes from my heart. It comes from my soul,” he said in an interview. “You just feel the music and you run with it”.
Both Parisi and the students he taught were awarded for their musical excellence. Parisi's concert, marching and jazz bands won awards throughout Western New York and Canada. One of the most memorable performances was when the South Park Band was asked to play for former President Clinton and Vice President Gore who were visiting Buffalo at the former Marine Midland Building back in 1999.
As an educator, Parisi was recognized in 2006 as Channel 2's Educator of the Week. In 2009 he was awarded the Achievement Award by the Buffalo Public Schools Music Department. In 2010 he received the Career Excellence Award from the Buffalo Music Department.
“Those kids really inspired me,” he said. “We had a great rapport at all my schools, but especially at South Park, where I retired from”. “It was a two-way street. I could call them up at any time and whenever a special school function presented itself, they were ready. I wore many hats in my teaching career from a mentor to a father figure.”
Parisi, who lives in Tonawanda, is proficient on many instruments (trumpet, flugelhorn, flute), but is best know regionally on trumpet. He has performed with artists such as Don Menza, Larry Covelli, Sam Noto, Gary Mallaber, Bobby Militello, Sam Scamacca, Sam Guarino and Nick Veltri (The Original Blues Room Diva Shows), JJ Swing and Urban Renewal. He has played with fellow 2014 Buffalo Music Hall of Fame inductees Joe Baudo, Jack Prybylski and Bob Meier as well as inductees from past years.
At the Seneca Niagara Casino, Parisi has also had the opportunity to play with many big name traveling acts that have passed through the area. When bands arrive in town and are in need of backup horn players, Parisi is one of the go-to musicians. This relationship has led to some incredible experiences for Parisi. He has been able to play with artists such as Bobby Vinton, Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, The Box Tops, The Four Tops, The Temptations, Ronnie Spector, Pia Zadora,, Susan Anton, Lou Christie and Wayne Newton, just to name a few.
Among his other career highlights are:
• Performing in a jam session alongside Clark Terry at a Jazz Festival at Villa Nova College while working with the Canisius Jazz Ensemble.
• Performing with the UB Jazz Ensemble at Kleinhan's Music Hall backing Dizzy Gillespie.
Now retired from teaching, Parisi plays with the Pete Ciraolo All-Star Big Band, Buffalo Jazz and Swing, Joe Baudo Big Band, George Scott Band, Sam Guarino/Nick Veltri Band, Sentimental Journey Band, Pyramid Band, and various others. He is also a member of the Greater Niagara Musicians' Association (Local #97-106) and the Buffalo Musicians' Association (Local #92). In 2013, he was an instructor at the Community Music School of Buffalo where he directed the “Second Chance Band”, a band for adults who played when they were younger and wanted to reconnect with playing again.
Parisi's career has been successful both inside and outside the classroom. While he doesn't miss sitting through the long meetings that come with being an educator, he did admit that he “misses the kids”. Though he says he enjoyed teaching and performing equally, he still finds it rewarding to run into former students, reconnect with them, and have them thank him for being a teacher, mentor, friend, or even the father figure they needed.
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