HIGGS: A brother’s story of another local musician of merit

Norma Higgs

When I first stated I would be starting a series on local musicians “who made good” over the years, I did not know the extent of these talented persona. I received a few emails regarding some that were known and one from Louis Pullano, who introduced me via his email to his brother, Dr. Frank Pullano.

Louis told me he grew up on 22nd Street in Niagara Falls and Al Giambattista and Mario Centofanti lived across the street and down the block from his house, and he wanted to tell me about his brother “who was an excellent jazz piano player, who also sang opera with companies in the Western New York area as well.” I welcome these calls and emails as it opens the door to another talent that should be shared. I found out that the Pullano family father, another Frank, was a machine operator at Oldbury and he and his wife Genevieve lived at 614 22nd St. and raised three sons, Frank, Louis and Joseph. More on the father a little later.

Frank is two years older and Al knew Frank very well. He played with various groups around the Western New York area. He earned his Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the University of Illinois and was the chairman of the Voice and Opera faculty at Fredonia State University in Fredonia.

While still in Niagara Falls, Frank played gigs with Carl Stewart and Joe Tedesco, brother of well-known Tom Tedesco who also lived on 22nd Street. Both were known as outstanding musicians of the day. Frank left to attend college in 1952 at the State University of New York at Fredonia. He became interested in a career in music while attending South Junior High school. His music teacher, Mrs. Onnolee Knapp, a graduate of Fredonia, encouraged him and other students to develop their musical talents. He earned a Bachelor’s degree at Fredonia and began teaching music in the Niagara Falls school system. A few years later, he earned his Master’s degree and later, the Doctor of Musical Arts at the University of Illinois.

In 1960, Frank was hired as a member of the faculty at Fredonia, where he remained for 35 years. He continued to perform both as a jazz pianist and as an operatic soloist for many of those years with various opera companies in Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo. Frank was a frequent soloist with the Buffalo Philharmonic. He also arranged various styles of music and was a conductor. He never gave up his love of piano jazz and continued to play with his own band.

Frank met his wife Sallie Shapley while they were both students at Fredonia. After his 35 years at Fredonia, he and Sallie relocated to Rock Hill, South Carolina. He recently prepared a program for the Rock Hill Music Club featuring local female performers including his wife; Sallie. They raised a son, also Dr. Frank Pullano, who is a professor of mathematics at Winthrop University in Rock Hill. Their daughter Dr. Jennifer Pullano is a medical doctor and has a medical practice in Charleston, South Carolina.

Frank’s father, also Frank Pullano, was also a musician who played the tuba in the Niagara Falls Concert Band on Sunday nights at Hyde Park on Duck Island. I recall these concerts well as our family went almost every week in the nice weather. His dad also marched in parades on various holidays and young Frank often sang with this group. He also sang with a pop group called “The Professors.” Louis said, “All these guys had music degrees.

The following is a little background information on brothers Louis and Joseph. Louis earned his Bachelor’s degree as a Speech and Theater major from Fredonia in 1961. In 1964 he completed his Master’s Degree in Theater from the California State University, Los Angeles. Later he earned a Doctor of Education degree, Ed.D in communications from Syracuse University.

His career in higher education began at SUNY Plattsburgh in 1964 where he worked for seven years. Four of those years were spent as a television program/director for educational programs. In 1972 he was hired by Brookdale Community College in Lincroft, New Jersey to start a media/technology program. He stayed at Brookdale for twenty-eight and a half years until he retired.

His wife Loretta Lostracco Pullano also grew up in Niagara Falls. They were married in 1958 and have two daughters, Melinda and Melanie and six grandchildren.

Joseph Pullano, the youngest of the three brothers remained in Niagara Falls. He and his wife Petrina Magaddino (Patty) Pullano were married in 1963. Joe graduated from Trott Vocational HighSchool and he worked as a fork lift operator until he retired. They have three children Louis, Nancy and Kathy and seven grandchildren.

I find it very interesting to learn about former Niagara Falls residents who went on to become famous and it seems that many chose “music” as their lifetime career.

More to follow – “as the beat goes on”. Stay tuned.

Contact Norma Higgs by email at niahigg@aol.com.

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