Niagara Gazette — Bobby Militello has enjoyed a career as a jazz musician for decades now.
The Buffalo native, who served as a headlining act at this past weekend’s Lewiston Jazz Festival, credits much of his success to his early days at School 77 and LaFayette High School where he first learned to hone his craft.
He remembers former teachers like John Sedola and Paul Chekula who devoted much of their time, including many hours after school, to help him learn the finer points of being a fine musician.
Which is why when he’s not busy playing at the jazz festival or other venues with his new quartet, Militello does what he can to support the continued presence of music and art in public schools, including those in Buffalo. After all, he said, very often school is the first place young people, and more importantly young people in music classes, receive their introduction to the truly American art form known as jazz.
“There’s always a younger base to jazz because of the school system,” he said. “The kids get exposed to jazz and they say ‘hey, wait a minute, this is kind of cool. I like this.’ It’s always been that way.”
In recent years, however, priorities inside many local school districts have changed amid funding constraints and budget cuts. Militello has been an advocate for maintaining arts and music programs in area schools. He’s also been a “one-man-band” so to speak in helping to connect aspiring young musicians with instruments to play. His Italian restaurant, Bob and Lisa’s Citta di Militello in Buffalo as a drop-off site for gently used instruments that can be distributed to needy school children.
“The heart of it is that you are taking the soul of your children,” Militello said, referring to cuts in funding for arts and music programs in schools. “They should dance and they should sing and they should play. Some of these people will become phenomenally good artists we need them.”