Sep 062009

My great-grandfather Rosario Millonzi and his older brothers, Ignazio Millonzi and Phillip Millonzi, were outstanding musicians.

My great-grandfather Rosario played guitar and mandolin. My mom had Rosario's mandolin for years until my father graciously handed it over to my cousin, who is also a musician.

According to another cousin, my great-great-uncle Ignazio, or Uncle Gnazio as I remember people calling him, was a professional musician. My only vague memory of him was when I was very little, at a family function at my great-grandparents home. He did that "watch me pull my thumb off trick" and I cried my eyes out. I wish I had a more positive memory, but it is what it is.

Uncle Gnazio apparently auditioned to play in the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, a popular band during the jazz age of the 1920s. According to my cousin, he didn't like the music. He is said to have worked under George M. Cohen. He was an Italian radio disc jockey. And played Cello in the Buffalo Philharmonic.

Phillip Millonzi played contrabass in the Buffalo Philharmonic. His death certificate lists his occupation as a symphony orchestra member. As a boy, I remember going to a tribute concert the Philharmonic held in honor of Phillip. He sat in a specially reserved section of the hall reserved for family. I learned later that it was sponsored by Phillip's son, Robert Millonzi, who was a major benefactor of the Phil.

A few years ago, my cousin pointed me toward a magazine story that a UB faculty member had written about mandolin ensembles that were very popular in Western NY in the early part of the twentieth century. I scanned in the article and its available here: Mandolin Mania : The Music That Swept WNY from 1880 to 1920.

He also gave me some photos of my great-great-uncle Gnazio and my great-grandfather Rosario.

Ignazio Millonzi (left), brother of my great-grandfather Rosario Millonzi
along with a couple of fellow musicians

Emilino Ricco, Tony Millitello, Teresa Plicato, and Ignazio Millonzi
at the first ethnic radio show in Buffalo (WEBR), abt 1940

My great-grandfather Rosario Millonzi

Rosario Millonzi and Ignazio Millonzi
(my cousin Russell Millonzi swimming in the pool)