Western Pennsylvania has a rich history of local community bands as many immigrants moved to this region to find work.
These hard workers brought with them not only their knowledge of mining and farming, but they also brought forth the traditions and talents from their homelands.
One such immigrant was a man named John Jannotta, who arrived in Monessen from his homeland of Italy.
He formed a band in the early 1900s and called it the Order of the Sons of Italy Band.
It was one of many ethnic bands at this time in the City of Monessen.
As time passed, this successful band became known as the Monessen Fireman’s Band.
John not only directed the band, but he also composed a number of the pieces they performed.
The band again changed names to the Monessen Civic Center Band; because the band was using the Civic Center as its practice space.
Sadly, when Mr. Jannotta died in the 1950s, so did the band.
Fortunately, the band was not to remain silent.
During the late 1960s, former members of the band, Adolph Jannotta and Henry Aloisi of Monessen resurrected the group.
Since Adolph (John’s son) was a retired steelworker, the group relocated and rehearsed in a building owned by retired steelworkers.
And therefore the band took on the name of M.A.R.S., which is an acronym for the Mon Valley Association of Retired Steelworkers.
Adolph was a special member and performed with the band for the remainder of his life.
Henry brought many new faces to the band.
Seeing as he was the high school band director for the Charleroi Area School District, Mr. Aloisi was asked to conduct the band.
And many of his students became band members so as to hone their skills and learn much from the veteran performers.
In addition, many other local high school students joined and gained a great deal of musical experience in this similar manner; by playing in the community band with those same seasoned veteran performers.
And some of those same students continue to be members of the community band today!
Years later, the community band once again relocated.
This time the move took the band to the V.F.W. Hall in Charleroi; where a new director, the legendary high school band director and composer, Sam Bill took over the baton from Mr. Aloisi.
And consequently, with this change of location, came another change in name; the present day - Mon Valley Community Band.
Sam sustained the success of the band and he brought with him many of his own musical compositions. The addition of vocalists to many popular and Broadway numbers gave the band’s audience an added treat!
These aspects of the band, including its traditional ones of excellent musicianship and lively arrangements, remain with the band today and its current director, Max Gonano.
The retired Director of Bands and Chairman of the Music Department at California University of Pennsylvania resumes the tradition of encouraging young musicians as he leads many of his college students to add their talents to the band’s presentations.
The Mon Valley Community Band endures today as it did over a hundred years ago; to provide its audiences with entertaining performances through a variety of music and to offer playing opportunities to musicians of all ages.
The Mon Valley Community Band currently resides in the Donora Public Library and has a tradition of performing concerts at many retirement communities, VA hospitals, community events (festivals & parks) and holiday events throughout Southwestern Pennsylvania.