January 26, 2016
Earlier this year I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Portland, Oregon where my cousin Lorie lives. Lorie’s maiden name was Loretta Del Fiacco and she was born in St. Paul, MN to Frank Del Fiacco and Frances Damiani Del Fiacco. Auntie Fran has always been one of my favorites.
Because of Lorie, I made my first trip to Los Angeles and I fell in love with travel and adventures. I was her flower girl.
It was an eye-opening experience for me and really changed my life. Lorie’s family in Los Angeles mingled with the rich and famous, lived in the sun and by the sea and always, always had music on the mind. They stole my heart. And here’s why.
Auntie Fran had always been a strong, generous person. She played the piano and, since I love music and sing, we were kindred spirits.
Fran was my great aunt and quite a bit older than I was. She was a maverick, especially for the era in which she was raised. She, like me, was surrounded by Scandinavians growing up. Although she lived in a very strong Italian community she could see how the others were more accepted in society and she wished she could be more like them(as did I). She was also a musician who, somehow, convinced her parents to allow her to have her own BAND in the early 1920’s!!! However did she do that? According to her daughter, Fran’s mother Mary Damiani insisted that her brother Leo Damiani accompany her on her gigs. He was younger but a Man of the Family and he was her chaperone.
I find this amazing for an Italian-American woman in the 20’s. I was in a band in the 70’s and 80’s and the Italian-American community did NOT accept my choice. Fran is my hero.
Lorie and I also spoke a great deal about her uncle Leo, Fran’s brother. Uncle Leo was such a vibrant and brilliant character. I remember him from my visit as a 5 year old, playing his instruments for me and performing accompaniment for my singing. He made me laugh and feel so accepted. He loved my voice even as a child.
Receiving support from Leo was something to treasure. Leo studied music at Julliard School of Music and was destined to be a great violinist. When he was injured and no longer able to perform consistently he became a concert Maestro (conductor of the orchestra). He also worked for Walt Disney transposing music for his movies and more. He worked for Warner Brothers where he once taught Charlton Heston the basics of Conducting an orchestra for a Movie he performed in. He also assisted another actor to “Play” the violin in a movie.
One of his biggest successes in life concerned the Starlight Bowl in Burbank and the Burbank Symphony Orchestras. This grassy area in the hills of Burbank became a smaller version of the Hollywood Bowl because of the efforts of Uncle Leo Damiani. Leo used the area for rehearsals because of the wonderful, natural acoustics. He convinced the city council to build the stage and through his connections to the entertainment industry he helped launch the Starlight bowl in several ways.
Because of these people and other brave and talented souls in my Italian family, I had the courage to pursue a career in Music, to travel the world and to start my own business Take Me Home Italy. In the Italian culture when I was growing up these things were not done by girls. But Fran did it. Uncle Leo accepted and supported it and we all had the strength. Grazie mille mia famiglia. Because of you I am ME. And by being myself I can help others to find themselves in Italy. It’s what I do. And the spirits of my ancestors are right here with me. Let me help you find your Italian soul. I promise it will be a life changing experience
Ciao for now!
Ciao for now!
Thank you for following!
Ciao for Now!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form