January 8, 2011

A History of the Consentino Family Musicians

Part I
Francesco Consentino

circa 1910 - Lawrence, Massachusetts
The first of the Consentino family
to bring music to America

Among the early Italian pioneers in Lawrence, Massachusetts is my husband's family - on both sides.  His father was a Consentino as well as his mother.  His mother Maria Grazia/Mary Grace descends from the brother of Francesco Consentino.

Vincenzo Consentino
circa 1910 - Lawrence, Massachusetts

His name was Vincenzo.  When they arrived in America they set out to "Americanize" themselves and became known as Frank and Vincent.  So both Frank and Vincent are my husband Anthony's grandfathers.

Mistretta, Sicily, Italy

All Consentino originally come from Mistretta, Italy.  On the ship's list for Vincenzo his occupation was that of a shepherd.  When he came to America he started a cigar business.  Cigar stores were very popular back then.  What I've always loved about the immigrants who came to America is that they could be very enterprising - very entrepreneurial as we would say today.

On the ship's list for Francesco, he is listed as a cobbler.  Apparently he had honed a fine trade in shoemaking when living in Italy.  He once told my husband Anthony the following:  "Before coming to America, I apprenticed for sevenyears, leraning to design and hand craft custom made shoes."

When  he arrived in Lawrence, the first thing he did was to open a cobbler's / shoemakers shop and later his son Filippo/Philip - my husband's father - would learn the trade and eventually take over the business.

Meanwhile, Francesco had another passion in life:  he was a musician.  He came to America knowing to play the violin and the bass violin.

His oldest son Giuseppe/Joseph, whose photo is to the left, played the mandolin and other string instruments.

Family oral history tells us that while sailing to Ellis Island they entertained other immigrants on the ship while at sea.

In 1910, at about the age of 20, Joseph Consentino had already been playing publicly with other musicians and he also had three studios in a tenement (today we call them apartments) he rented where he taught string instruments.  In the photo to the left you see him playing the banjo.

Uncle Joe must have done quite well for himself as it was not long before he had a building built on Newbury Street in Lawrence where in addition to the studios he now opened a music store in 1920.

Born 5 December 1890 in Mistretta, Italy, Joseph married Maria Rancatore on 29 November 1909 in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  He was 19 years of age.  His new wife, Maria was 15 years old.  She passed away 28 July 1916 and Joseph remarried 22 November 1917 to Grace Maglitta.

[Note:  Joseph's daughter Dorothy tells me that Paul Whiteman had invited him to join his orchestra but Joe turned him down because it would mean lots of traveling and he had young children at home.]

Frank Consentino
aka Frankie Kahn

Issue from the first marriage was a son Frank Consentino born 29 March 1913.  Frank would become a very accomplished musician.  He would found and direct the Frankie Kahn Orchestra and his was one of the "Big Bands" of the era.     Frankie Kahn's  "Big Band" played at the Canobie Lake Ballroom in Salem, New Hampshire as did other bands of great renown like Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Count Basie, Guy Lombardo, Jimmy Dorsey, Lawrence Welk, Paul Whiteman, Louis Armstrong just to name a few.

Children from Joseph Consentino and Grace Maglitta included a son named Gildo.  Gildo, half brother to Frankie Kahn, wrote all of the arrangements for  the orchestra.

Tomorrow:  Part II - the Consentino family prepares more musicians for the community.

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Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
Lucie's Legacy
and the

***No part of this family history may be copied
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