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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

George Joseph Catandella


Mr. George Joseph Catandella died peacefully on February 9, 2015 in Saratoga Springs, New York at the age of 88.

George is survived by his wife Sandra of 52 years, and daughters Lisa and Shana.

George was a pianist and an educator.  He was born on September 27, 1926 to Mildred and George Catandella.  George’s musical career began in Bridgeport, Connecticut at the age of four as a violin and conducting student. Violin lessons gave way to piano and composition at the age of nine.  At thirteen he continued his studies at the summer session of the Juilliard School of Music and later that year conducted a premier performance of a youth orchestra in Bridgeport. At seventeen he debuted as a pianist with the Bridgeport Summer Pops Orchestra. George’s career was carefully guided by one person; his mother. However, his career choices were quite different. He was an avid sports participant…always outside playing some form of competitive sport and loved it. Every day he was sure to hear his mother calling him to come in and practice which caused him utter disappointment but he would reluctantly go in and sit at the piano. Thirty minutes of practice was required at each sitting and in order to quicken his time and return to sports, he would push the minute hand of the one clock in the house sitting atop of the piano, a minute or two every so often, and at least five times during the session. This attitude held true through high school but changed dramatically when while in the navy for two years, he realized how much he missed the piano and decided to get serious.

Following the navy service in WW II, George did get serious and practiced many hours a day under the tutelage of Joseph Battista in preparation for the Juilliard audition. He entered the Juilliard School as a piano major and student of Beveridge Webster and shortly after graduation auditioned and won the position of pianist with the USMA Band at West Point. His duties included performing piano recitals and piano concerti with the band. (His most prized review of one of his performances was a letter written to him by the famed composer and pianist: Percy Grainger.)

George was also the accompanist for the Cadet Glee Club and performed with them on national TV. In1952 he performed Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue with the band at Carnegie Hall. While at West Point he was a “GI” Bill and scholarship student, at Teachers College, Columbia University, majoring in music education and conducting. Since his retirement, he has returned to West Point to solo with the USMA Concert/Alumni Band on three occasions.

George taught elementary, junior & senior high school band, junior HS general music and high school chorus in Harborfields Schools. In Harborfields, he met his wife Sandra in 1961, (she was the orchestra and string teacher). In 1965 George was hired as the Coordinator of Music in Brentwood Schools where he remained until he retired in 1987. As a music administrator, he was known for the music education program in the Brentwood Schools. He made music curriculum development presentations on the local level, as well as the state and national levels.  After retiring, George re-started his pianistic career.

Since moving to Florida fifteen years ago, George has performed in piano recitals and in a chamber music concert with his wife Sandra and other musicians. He has twice performed with the Venice Symphony of Venice, Florida. He performed twice with the Charlotte Symphony Orchestra as well.

George and his wife Sandra recently celebrated their 52nd wedding anniversary. They both enjoyed a life of music and travel.  They performed together in recitals and with symphonies.  They lived in Centerport, with their daughters Lisa (currently the Coordinator of Instructional Media for Brentwood Schools) and Shana (currently a clarinetist with the United States Navy Band).  Additionally George and Sandra lived in East Quogue, NY, Punta Gorda, FL, and Saratoga Springs, NY. They enjoyed a life of music performance, education and appreciation. They traveled extensively including a nomadic life on their boat and in their RV.  

A Celebration of Life Memorial will be scheduled for a future time in Punta Gorda, FL.
In lieu of flowers, please consider a donation to the George Catandella Scholarship Fund.


  1. What a beautiful way to live your life, with music. I was a student in the Brentwood School District in the 60s and 70s, and I recall a Mr. Catandella as the music director for the district. There is no notation of this in his obituary. Is this the same Mr. Catandella? I have very fond memories of my music education there. So very sorry for your loss.

    Jayne McFadden Benner

  2. I am sorry to hear of George's loss. I was a student in his wife's high school orchestra program. I remember he always came to visit us for concerts and he and his wife took us out on their boat as a senior gift. My prayers are with the family.

    Paul Molnar

  3. Lew and I are saddened to learn of George's passing. I have such fond memories of my early days at Harborfields and the two of you. I loved to watch George conduct his bands. His groups were the finest! I was in awe of him as a young teacher. He came into one of my choral rehearsal one day and said he was glad to hear kids singing, not shouting. He made me feel that I had chosen the right field in education.
    Most of all it was so wonderful to have a staff that was supportive of each other and took pride in each other's programs.
    My last memory of you both was at a celebration. You had a motor home and a cute little dog that we called " Maggie in the Baggie".
    Our sympathy to you, Lisa and Shana. I will always think of George with that "impish" grin and "twinkling" eyes.

    Karen and Lew Miller

  4. We are very sorry to hear of George's passing, we have missed seeing you both here in Punta Gorda. Sandra you and your daughters are in our thoughts and prayers.
    Please let us know if there is anything we can do for you,
    Lance and Denise Craven

  5. Dear Mrs. Catandella, Shana & Lisa,

    I was so sorry to hear about Mr. Catandella. I hope that warm memories will comfort you at this time. You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers.

    Lynda (Thomas) Josenhans

  6. Dear Sandra,
    Please accept my deepest sympathy on your husband's passing. I remembered he was a music educator like you. How wonderful to have shared a life filled with music. May the memories of him give you and your daughters strength in this most difficult time in your life.
    Marilyn Guariglia

  7. Dear Mrs. Catandella,

    I am so sorry to hear of your loss. You both have touched so many people’s lives, sharing your gift of music. I hope that you and your family find comfort in the happiness that you and Mr. Catandella have brought to so many. You are all in my thoughts and prayers.

    Joseph Guariglia

  8. Dear Mrs. Catandella and Daughters

    Please accept my deepest sympathy on the passing of your husband and father. After reading George's Obituary in Newsday, Long Island, I just had to write this short note to you. I was a secretary assigned to the Coordinators of Art, Music, Physical Education and Science in the Brentwood Public Schools. So, when George came to work as the new Coordinator of Music, I was his first secretary. In time, George realized that he needed someone who could play the piano. I did not. He then brought in Betty Jane Pucci, who played beautifully. Shortly, thereafter, I became Secretary to the Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Services. All in all, it was a pleasure working and knowing George. His love of music, showed so much in his work. My thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.

    Toni Pressimone
    Oakdale, New York

  9. Dear Sandra,

    We are so sorry to learn of your loss. We met George in the Silver Sneakers class and he tried to get our instructor to appreciate classical music, instead of the pop music that is played in the class. To that end, he invited us to your home for a private performance; what a gifted pianist he was.

    We miss seeing (and hearing) you as part of the Charlotte Symphony and hope that you will return.

    Again, our sympathies to you and your daughters.

    Joyce & Richard Greenwald