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.