November 17, 2009

The 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.  In fact, they were first cousins.  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
Acadian & French-Canadian Ancestral Home

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This article has been cross-posted with the
Acadian & French-Canadian Ancestral Home.

History of the Consentino Family Musicians

Part III
Lucius Consentino 1893-1919
Son of Francesco Consentino and Liboria Virgilio

Lucius Consentino was the second son and fourth child of Francesco Consentino and Liboria Virgilio.  He was born in Mistretta, Italy on 1 March 1893 and passed away on 3 March 1919 in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  He had just celebrated his 26th birthday.  On January 8,  1911 he married Maria  Scandura.

On June 5th, 1917 Lucius registered for  the World War I draft in Lawrence.  The information he provided included his birth date and stated that he was a  musician  and employed by the Orpheum Theater in Haverhill,  Ma.  Lucius and his brother Joseph Consentino provided music for the silent movies before the "talkies" came to be.

Lucius Consentino was an excellent drummer.  He also played other instruments but drums were his main instrument.

When Lucius passed away, in addition to his widow,  he left three children:  Frank, Liboria/Lea and Salvio/Sam Consentino.

Frank Consentino 1913-2009
in  his St. Alfio Band uniform
Son of Lucius Consentino and Maria Scandura

Frank was born 21 November 1912 in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  The eldest of the family and only seven when he lost his father.  His mother Maria Scandura Consentino then married Vincenzo Lacolla.  It seems that Vincenzo Lacolla was very good to the children Lucius left behind.  Nonetheless, Frank's uncle Phil would be like a second father to him and would in fact be his mentor.  Fillipo or Phil who had learned to design and handcraft custom made shoes from his father Francesco taught Frank the same trade his father Francesco had taught him and his brother Felix.  However, grandpa Francesco had passed on more than the trade of cobbler and shoemaker to his grandson - he had passed on his love of music.

Yes, Frank became a musician as so many were in the Consentino family.  His main instruments were the saxophone, clarinet and flute.  On his own he also learned to repair musical instruments.

At age 17, Frank's first band was the Villa Vista Virginians.  He later played with the St. Alfio Band of Lawrence.  His son Frank Jr. says "Dad played in so many bands and orchestras from Lawrence to Florida that I have lost count."

In 1933,  Frank married Concetta/Connie  Misserville who passed away 1 November 1942.  Issue from their marriage:  two sons named Frank, Jr. and Richard.

Frank held membership in American Federation of Musicians for 78 years.  He studied music with Joe Viola of the Boston School of Music; attended Jazz School with Stan Kenton; and studied with his cousins at the Consentino Music Studios in Lawrence where it all began.

After a lifetime of providing music to perhaps thousands of people, Frank passed away 31 March 2009 at the age of 97.  His son Frank says "he played his horns until six  months before his death.  Dementia caused him to lose his coordination but about a month before he died I heard him playing a few notes on his flute.  He would never give up."

Certainly Frank's passion for music and for that of musician remained with him to the end of his life.

Tomorrow:  Part IV - Felix Consentino fourth  son and seventh child of Francesco Consentino and Liboria Virgilio

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Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
Acadian  French-Canadian Ancestral Home Blog

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November 15, 2009

History of the Consentino Family Musicians

Part II
Gildo/Gil Consentino
son of Joseph Consentino and Grace Maglitta

From the above photo we realize how young Gil was when his career began as a musician in the Consentino family.  Born 06 October 1919 in Lawrence, Massachusetts, he was the eldest of three children to issue from the marriage of Joseph Consentino and his second wife Grace Maglitta.  Before his birth, Gil already had a great deal of music talent in his background he could draw from.  Not only was his father Joseph a very talented musician before his family even left Italy for America but his mother Grace also came from a line of musicians.  She played the mandolin.  Her siblings were all musicians in their own right.

Here is what Joe and Grace's daughter Dorothy shared with me:  "Mom used to play with her sisters and brothers when she was growing up.  her youngest sister played piano and her brother Al played trumpet.  They were a musical family long before she met my father. "

Gil married Blanche LaRosa on 22 August 1938 in Lawrence, Massachusetts.  Along with his brothers Frank (Frankie Kahn) and Albert he worked at his father Joseph's music store and studios as did his two brothers.

Gil Consentino

Around 1945-46, Gil and his wife moved to West Palm Beach, Florida.  An accomplished musician (piano and accordion were his main instruments though all Joe's sons played a variety of instruments)  Gil was soon playing with prominent bands and these bands played only for high society
and the wealthy.  His sister says some of the people and/or organizations they played for were Kimberly Clark (Kleenex fame), Morton Downey, Sr. at his home in West Palm Beach when he hosted parties; the Duke and Duchess of Windsor at their home in North Carolina; the famous Breakers in Palm Beach; Estee Lauder's home; the Mar-a-Lago that was the former Marjorie Merriweather Post estate (daughter of Post Cereal fame) now owned by Donald Trump.

One evening at the Downey home, at two o'clock in the morning, Mrs. Downey asked Gil if he could play for another hour.  He agreed and before he knew it someone was coming down the staircase - when Gil looked up it was none other than Frank Sinatra.  Frank was sleeping in the house but Gil had been unaware of it.  Of course the purpose of his appearance was to ask Gil to "keep it down" so he could sleep.

They also played many charity balls in Palm Beach as well as victory parties in Newport, Rhode Island for the U.S. hosted yacht races.  Neal Smith's Orchestra that Gil played with opened shows starring Mitzi Gaynor, Victor Borge, Tim Conway and many others.  These may well have been the charity balls according to Dorothy.

When Gil's father Joseph passed away in 1959, his brother Al who was now running the music store and studios phoned Gil to ask him to return to Lawrence to help him run the business.  By now their brother Frank (Frankie Kahn) had passed away and had long before left the business to open his own music store and studios (Metro Music in Lawrence, Ma).  Gil and his wife sold their home in West Palm Beach and returned to Lawrence.  Gil missed Florida and the work he was doing there so after five years he asked his cousin Anthony Consentino  if he would buy his share of the business  so he could return to Florida.  They sealed the deal and he and Blanche soon left Lawrence for a life they much preferred.

Gil and Blanche had no  children.  Blanche passed away 21 July 1992 in Palm Beach, Florida and Gil passed 16 May 2000 in Palm Beach.

Meanwhile Gil's brother Albert and his cousin Anth0ny Consentino continued on with the Consentino Music Store and Studios. Al retired in 1982 and Anthony continued as sole proprietor until 1992.

Albert A. Consentino
circa 1960s

Al was also an excellent musician.  He learned and taught piano, accordion and trumpet.  He played in local bands most of his life - the music store was really his life.  Many children are indebted to him for having taught so many of them over the years.  He was much loved by his students and all who knew him.       Al passed away in 2003.

Joseph Consentino saw to it that all his children could play an instrument giving them the opportunity to pursue a career in music if  they so chose just as he had.  His daughter Dorothy took piano as a child and though she loves music she was really not interested in pursuing a career in music as had her brothers.

Tomorrow:  Part III - Lucius Consentino and his son Frank Consentino.  Lucius was the second son of Francesco Consentino and Liboria Virgilio and brother of Joseph Consentino documented in Parts I & II.

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Lucie's Legacy
Lucie LeBlanc Consentino
Acadian  French-Canadian Ancestral Home Blog

No part of this family history may be copied
or posted anywhere without permission.