For many, enjoying a night of music with the Pittsburgh Symphony is a treat only experienced during the musical season. But, for Noel Squitieri, it was life.
“Most of our friends were Dad’s colleagues and we were often at each other’s houses to socialize. During the off-season, friends would come over to play quartets in our living room, or next door where there was a grand piano. Those times were magical. The soundscape of our house was the symphony, opera, and ballet.” His father, Henry Squitieri, joined the Pittsburgh Symphony in 1931, playing second violin for 46 years.
During that time, Noel remembers seeing many of his father’s concerts at the Syria Mosque. “I loved that music hall, for it was where I saw Dad play most often.” He also had the opportunity to see William Steinberg conduct. “The love and respect between Maestro Steinberg and the musicians of the orchestra could be seen and heard as I watched and listened from my seat.”
But concerts are only one of the many wonderful memories. “Dad and his friends coming to school to give short concerts promoting the Young People’s Concerts series. Mordecai Applebaum’s Sears scooter, which he rode wearing a black beret and cape with bright scarlet lining. The tour bus Dad rode in named, ‘Have Cards Will Travel’. Going along with Dad to a house party for Yehudi Menuhin, which was so beat I’ve never forgotten the sights and sounds. Having my photograph taken backstage with Jack Benny after a rehearsal. Helping Mark Pancerev move. Learning backgammon at Dick Holland’s house. Going to the 202 Diner at 2:00 AM for eggs after a concert at the Temple Music Festival.”
What’s one memory that is unexpected? Noel was an honorary member of the unofficial Pittsburgh Symphony Motorcycle Club. “That was another experience altogether!”
Even with all of the musical experiences growing up, Noel didn’t pick up the violin. “Dad tried to teach me, but I was a poor student. Rather, growing up listening to Dad play at home and on stage, I simply couldn’t stand the horrible noises I made, so I avoided making them by never practicing.” He did, however, made it to the stage as a guitarist. “It’s surf music…but I think Dad’s pleased. He always told me I could…and I did! I owe it to Dad because he inspired me to play music after all.”
“When Dad passed away a few years after retiring, the Pittsburgh Symphony hosted a memorial tribute in the Heinz Hall lobby. Many of Dad’s friends played chamber music. The room was jammed, and the feelings of love shown to Dad that day are indelible and will never leave me.”
After being away from Pittsburgh for thirty-two years, one of the first things Noel did after returning was reconnect with the orchestra.
“A number of Dad’s colleagues are still performing, or still live in the area…and I’ve managed to get in touch with many of them to talk about the good old days.”
Now, Noel has a daughter of his own to pass on the Squitieri musical legacy. “My daughter Corradina was born after Dad passed away, but she knows him through my stories and the records I play. She loves everyone in the orchestra, who are all so kind to her. Cory excitedly looks forward to every performance, and always makes sure to greet everyone she can before or after a concert. I’m building a collection for her of photographs with everyone.”
“The Pittsburgh Symphony has been an essential part of my life from the beginning and remains so today.
Sharing the orchestra and musicians with my daughter is one of the great highlights of my life.”