Joe Pendolino Jr.
Joe Pendolino Jr.
BMHOF Class of 2002
Joe has often been referred to as the “musicians’ musician” by several prominent professional local musicians. They describe him as a “musical chameleon” possessing the ability to enhance any ensemble configuration, musical style and individual musician’s techniques and ability. Always professional, always low key, Joe could make everyone sound good. His musical career literally spanned a lifetime as he had to borrow long pants from an uncle to play his first gig and recorded a CD with saxophonist Vic Chiodo between doctor and hospital visits prior to his passing.
During World War II, Joe was an Entertainment Specialist in the Army Special Services. He was the pianist and arranger for USO shows including those of John Wayne, Bob Hope and Jack Benny. After the war, he received several touring offers, but elected to return to Western New York. The Veterans Administration brought him on as Musical Director at the Veterans Administration Hospital and Joe taught vocal music in the Amherst School District. He went on to become an instrumental teacher in the Ken-Ton School District.
Throughout his career, Joe remained a highly sought after pianist for local and touring productions appearing in Buffalo due to his ability to sight read any chart, transpose on the fly, change keys instantly and arrange music. As a member of the Melody Fair Theatre orchestra for over 5 years, he had to adapt to a different show each week ranging from the circus to Phyllis Diller to Liberace. Joe’s other appearances included shows with The Guy Lombardo Orchestra (the Crystal Beach Ballroom’s final dance), Henry Mancini’s guest conducting of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, Henny Youngman at Shea’s Performing Arts Center and many other gigs at The Town Casino, The Glen Park Casino, The Chez Ami, The Saturn Club, The Buffalo Athletic Club (before it became solely an exercise facility) and almost all of Western New York country clubs. Several area senior centers and nursing homes benefitted from Joe’s volunteer performances.
Joe’s involvement with local organizations included working with and arranging music for a variety of bands and choirs. For 20 years, he was the arranger, pianist and a featured soloist with the Amherst Male Glee Club and the Amherst Male Glee Club Red Blazer Variety Shows. The Buffalo Seminary called upon his talents to serve as the Music Director for the “Broadway at Sem” program. He was the arranger and accompanist for The Lake Erie Italian Club’s choir as well as the Ismailia Shrine Chanters. Shortly after his retirement from teaching, Joe founded the Ken-Tones Big Band, through the Kenmore-Tonawanda Adult Education program. Not only was he pianist, he arranged all their charts. Joe also was a long time pianist and arranger for Buffalo Swing. You can hear Joe on several local CD’s of Buffalo Swing, Vic Chiodo, Cheryl Ferris and 1957 recordings of original compositions, “Everywhere Christmas” and “A Christmas Prayer.”
Joe was skilled at doing vocal and instrumental arrangements, always tailoring them to the ability level of each organization. St. Joe’s Collegiate Institute concert band performs Joe’s arrangement of “Honneur a Touir,” The Christian Brothers theme. Russell Owens, Director of Instrumental Music, wanted an arrangement of this piece and none was available. As he put it, Joe “came through in grand style.” Upon his passing, Joe’s entire music library consisting of hundreds of his own arrangements was donated to St. Joe’s.
Joe’s contribution to the Buffalo music ran the gamut. Touring professionals called on him, local organizations depended on him. Whether it be to perform, arrange, organize/present shows, own/operate a music store (Penn Music), Joe always was the consummate professional. Toni Smith Wilson, Chair of the Fine Arts Department at The Buffalo Seminary, perhaps summed it up best, “Joe deserves to be recognized for what he brought to the Buffalo music community, not only in the past but also to the future through the students he trained so well.”
Back - 2002