Music Express Notably Changes Hands
November 9, 2001
The Windsor Star
By John Laycock
The Music Express is picking up steam in LaSalle with a new hand at the controls.
Nino Palazzolo is only the second managing director in the big showband’s 22 years of making music at home and on the road.
He succeeded the founder, Ernie Gerenda, earlier this year when that redoubtable music man retired and moved to Mexico.
After a dozen years leading the vocal side of Music Express, Palazzolo hopes to expand that established stage presences.
“I’d like to make it more of a whole show,” he said this week, preparing for a benefit performances tonight. He’d like more singing and perhaps the addition of some dance.
Music Express grew out of a community band and now has about 50 members ranging from teen players to middle-agers, some with professional experience. Although not part of the school system, it is based at Villanova high school. After 16 years teaching (Catholic Central, Kenndy, Cardinal Carter), Palazzolo joined Villanova this fall, partly for the band, and it’s close to his home in Leamington.
The Palazzolos may be this area’s leading musical family. Nino could probably put Music Express together just with his siblings and cousins and the next generation of kids in the family. Two sisters, Tina Fabischedk and Joanne Fletcher, actually are in the Express. His cousin Peter runs a music school and recording label, another sister, Maria Connel, and a niece Christina Fabischek, sing on the bar circuit, and Nino’s own son is, he says, a fine pianist and sax player at 14.
Nino has been through all those experiences himself. In the 1970’s when live rock was the heart of club activity, he played bass guitar and sang in a string of bands-Albatross, Tin Pan Alley, Soldier, the Showmen, and perhaps most notably Fiesta. He spent a couple of years touring with a lounge act from Vancouver, Cherill and Robbie Rae, wrote music for CBC radio and other outlets and produced records.
He also learned stage-band music as part of the Forster secondary school band run by Ernie Gerenda. In those days, Gerenda shepherded his students on tours to Europe and Asia, so when they weren’t rehearsing music, they were raising money.
“Man we were selling everything,” Palazzolo says, laughing now about the light bulb and chocolate bar sales that added up to trips abroad.
That experience continues with Music Express, which depends on corporate sponsors, box office income from performances, and, to a limited extent, bingo revenues for its own trips, which have included Mexico, Britain-they played for Queen Elizabeth-Continental Europe and China.
“We like to have a purpose beyond playing” Palazzolo said, mentioning hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations made by Music Express. Some of those funds have gone to local projects such as church restoration while the tours have led to support for good causes along the route, especially in Mexico.
He is interested in how Gospel music creates a new era for the band’s repertoire, which ranges from big-band swing and Broadway to current hits.
He also, modestly, hopes to introduce some of his own songs and arrangements. “I want to create a comfortable environment for the musicians to perform,” he said. “And I’d like to be self-indulgent and throw music I’ve written to the band.”
The family was brought up according to strict standards, and doing good while doing something enjoyable is how Nino Palazzolo looks at Music Express. “That’s been my philosophy of why God’s given me this talent,” he said.