Linda Rose Lombardo Appleby

Linda Rose Lombardo Appleby - Educator Award

Linda Lombardo Appleby

BMHOF Class of 2015

When asked recently about the highlights of her musical career, one event sprung immediately to Linda Lombardo Appleby’s mind.

“Doing the Broadway show, that was a pretty spectacular high point: ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,’” she said. “… The kids did a great job, and we were chosen to be the children’s choir (one of two chosen)”

Appleby’s students at the Olmsted School No. 56 earned the right to perform for a week on the stage of Shea’s with the Broadway touring company of the musical.

“It was a whole week run. Prior to that, it was a month worth of rehearsals with the official choreographers of the show, who came to Buffalo,” she said. “So everyday, after school, on a bus, we went to another facility and rehearsed from 5 to 9. It was an intense rehearsal.

“Then the show came, it was marvelous. … they lit up like Christmas trees on that stage. Closing night, they were on the bus crying their eyes out. They were heartbroken it had to be over.”

Then there are the other choruses that opened up for Broadway performances at Shea’s, the ones that performed before appearances by Hillary Clinton and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the ones that recorded six CDs with Grammy nominee Joseph Wooten. And on and on.

The result is a flood of anecdotes  – reflecting the dedication to students and the high expectations for them –and telling you what you need to know about Lombardo Appleby and why she’s entering the Buffalo Music Hall of Fame as an educator. Lombardo Appleby has spent the past 40-plus years helping students develop as musicians and as people.

She was born in Jamestown and grew up performing.  One of seven children, she started piano lessons at age 4 … practicing on a cardboard keyboards for about two years before her family got a piano. By sixth grade, she was the official organist for St. John’s Church.

After graduating from Jamestown High School, her education took her to Rosary Hill College in Amherst, where she was in the last class to graduate before it became Daemen. She credits teachers such as Claudio Vasquez, a classical pianist from Panama, for helping shape her playing.

She taught for a year in Niagara Falls before starting in the Buffalo city schools in 1975. She taught at schools 31, 75, Olmsted 56 (22 years), City Honors and South Park before retiring in 2009. She also spent a half-year in the district integration office, using music as a tool to help students assimilate through music.

“I was so young and so naïve, coming from Jamestown … I was just trying to do the best I could,” she said. “I learned the thing that works is having compassion, knowledge of your instrument, knowledge of the students you are working with, not being afraid. Going in with your heart and soul, and speaking the language of what is around you.”

“It means being aware of various cultures. Being aware of – what I especially learned at South Park – being reminded of the gangs, the lack of education in the families, the drugs, the kids who were being thrown out at 14-15 years old, the homelessness, to see that this is a societal thing. … The truth of the matter is that there’s a lot of poverty out there.”

LombardoAppleby estimates the number of students she has taught at about 20,000. For many, it was about more than music.

“I became a mother to so many students, bringing in food, bringing in clothing,” she said. “Going into music, it went hand in hand – you certainly are a social worker, a doctor, a nurse, a psychologist, a mother, a father, an aunt … everything.”

But music is what has been at the center of that. Over the years, other highlights of her career have included:

  • Music director for original production of Elizabeth Swados’ “Runaways” and for Tom Dudziak’searly plays.
  • Starting (with Sue Mann Dolce)  the Buffalo Select Chorus, which brought students together from many of the Buffalo high schools. The chorus recorded six CDs with Joseph Wooten, the keyboard player for the Steve Miller Band and part of Nashville’s Wooten family of musicians.
  • Wrote the musician residency program in Buffalo that has brought Joseph Wooten  to approximately 50 schools over the past five years.
  • Innovative teaching that included bringing artists such as Al Tinney, Do Do Green, Oscar Brown Jr., Oscar Brown III, Douglas "Trigger" Gaston and a bevy of other well known artistsinto her classrooms.
  • Student performances at Kleinhan’s, Rockwell Hall, the Tralf and at the state capitol.
  • Choir director at St. Mary of Sorrow’s Church for 22 years.
  • Educator with Al Tinney, Emile Lattimer and SabuAdeyolain Center for Positive Thought events in the 1980s.
  • Music director Red Carpet Theatre Productions since 2010.
  • Board of trustees of the Colored Musicians Club and co-chair of its 2014 and 2015 jazz festivals.

It’s a life filled with music – and the people who make it. What kind of impact has she made?

Here’s what  Buffalo Select Choir member Yolanda Reed had to say when asked in a 2008 Buffalo News article about the things she “couldn’t live without.”

She mentioned God and music, plus “my mothers -- my mother, my grandmother, and Mrs. Appleby.”

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