All interviews were taped and documented.  They are available through the Reference Department of the Teaneck Public Library.  The Library is not responsible for the accuracy of the statements nor does it necessarily endorse the opinions expressed.

NARRATOR: Angelo Cafarelli
INTERVIEWER: Ann McGrath (Interview I), Helen Klein (Interview II)
DATE OF INTERVIEW:    November 28, 
TRANSCRIBER: Jackie Kinney (12/1985)

Interview I

This is Ann McGrath interviewing Angelo Cafarelli in his home on Frances Street on November 28th. Do we have your permission to use this tape in our training session?

(N) Yes you do.

(I) Angelo, where did you go to grammar school?

(N) I went to Longfellow and in the 1920's, Emerson was actually nearer but in the 1920's, the trains went right across Cedar Lane, there were gates and Cedar Lane was considered dangerous for walking but by going to Longfellow, I could get a bus to Queen Anne Road and my friends went to Emerson but I didn't.

(I) Where did you go to junior high and high school?

(N) Well the junior high was part of the Teaneck High which had just been opened a few years and so I was very pleased to go there. It was, they said, a $1,000,000 school which was a large figure in those days and everything was brand new. In addition, I liked the idea of walking to school. The high school was nearer than Longfellow.

(I) So you went there how many years? 

(N) Six years.

(r) Where did you go to college?

(N) I went to what is now the Mannis College of Music and at the time, it was the Mannis Music School and I was very fortunate because the Depression was still on and one year after graduating from high school, they offered me a scholarship and said I would continue if I was diligent.

(I) Why did you decide to stay and work in Teaneck?

(N) Well one reason was that while I was still in my late teens, I began to teach in my home and therefore I developed a music studio with students in this area and then in my 20's, since I had not married, there was no reason to move and locate in another town and that combined with the artistic idea of the studio, all my father's paintings were around, it was a nice setting and maybe I took too much advantage of it but I went, did continue.

(I) Tell me about your father. How did your father end up in Teaneck?

(N) Well my father and mother were both artists in New York but to earn a living, my father took up lithography and when I came along, they decided that it would be much better to have a not be in the urban area but to be in more rural surroundings, it would be a better place for a young person to grow up in than in the city. And so they looked around and found the house in Teaneck and my mother had sort of a little nest egg at that time which was very helpful in purchasing the house since my father really hadn't expected to marry at the time when he did but he liked it too. He liked being out here and he soon discovered a friend who had just moved out from New York.

(I) That's what I was going to ask you. Was there any kind of Italian community here in Teaneck at that time?

(N) I don't know that there was a large community but there were people who were doing the farming on what is now Palisade Avenue which was called Heasley Avenue then.

(I) I know you married an Italian woman. Do you have any kind of Italian community now? What kind of a group is there now in Teaneck?

(N) No, I don't think there is a large Italian group. My wife was a member of, I can't think of the name of the organization now, and she has sung for them but I don't know whether they are even in Teaneck but she knows the lady who asked her to sing is in that group in Teaneck.

(I) In what ways can you compare the children you teach now with the children that you taught 30 years ago? Is there any difference in children nowadays?

(N) Yes. I think that they ask more questions and they are more I guess you could say that they act a little more worldly for their age. They are also, in some ways, well I would say a few o£ them seemed a little more spoiled transportation-wise. They have to be taken everywhere. I'd say the biggest difference is that they have their time filled, so many of them, with very many activities.

(I) Looking back on your education, what kind of an education did you get in Teaneck?

(N) Well I think it was balanced. I think in my case, I knew that I was not going to academic college and therefore I took a mixed course and I think that I enjoyed the language, I enjoyed most the American History and English and part of that was due to the high quality, I think of the teaching at that time and the rapport between myself and the teachers in those courses, especially History and English. I did spend a lot of time with my own music in high school so I would not say I was ...

(I) Did you take any music courses at the high school?

(N) Well I was in the orchestra in the capacity of playing percussion for a while and then I would play the piano if they had a harp part and for a performance, they had a professional harpist come in for the performance but I did the rehearsals, piano.

(I) Do you remember any of your teachers' names in grammar school or in high school?

(N) Yes, as a matter of fact, I remember my kindergarten teacher was Mrs. Duryea.

(I) Any others?

(N) In the grammar school, there was a Miss Hankie who was here for many years and in high school, I remember many of them. Most notably was a Miss Malison for twelfth grade English and Mr. Robert Greem who was a brilliant teacher of American History for my junior year and oh many others.

(I) Describe your hectic schedule now to me that you were describing the other day. How do you spend your week?

(N) Well I am teaching young people from about 3:15 to about 9:15 five days a week and all day Saturday. In addition to that, I have adult lessons three mornings a week say from about 7:30 or 8:00 until about noon and also I have a few late nighters also and one or two after lunch so it is a pretty filling week and with all the related activities, what to prepare for each student, and I am attending about three meetings a month for music organizations both in Hackensack and New York and also we try to be part of a performers group from our Professional Music Teachers Guild of New Jersey. Both my wife and I have performed on their programs.

(I) How many other Teaneck music teachers do you know, ones that you get together with. Is there any mutual support for these teachers in Teaneck?

(N) Well there had been three or four of the teachers in our Guild, I think most of them are still in it, in piano and I am not sure what other instruments are, the teachers are from Teaneck but they, do you mean the, what kind of rapport we have?

(I) Yes.

(N) Well they meet once a month and not all the teachers always attend the meetings but

(I) Is this just Teaneck teachers?

(N) Oh no, it is a Professional Music Teachers Guild of New Jersey. It started by the way in 1953 as the Bergen County Music Teachers Guild but even then, it was probably not appropriately named since I believe two of the charter members were from Union City, West New York so they were from Hudson County and soon after that, they had a person from Nyack, New York but

(I) What are some of the headaches of teaching piano in Teaneck?

(N) Well one of the headaches very often is getting to some of the students when they are not up to par. They are tired for instance. They are coming in after a long school day. They are coming in in the evening. They may have been to an activity after school. They may have been to a religious school or they may have been to a sport activity and we certainly don't get them when they are fresh.

(I) Why do you think you have so many adult pupils. Why do you think your adult pupils are increasing so rapidly?

(N) Well I think there has been a renaissance in music study and I think that also some of the parents are very close to the children and they want to take lessons to study at the same time. I found this to be true a lot. But there is no doubt that there has been a large interest in the arts and I think in adult education allover. It is the going back to college idea.

(I) Tell me some of your favorite reminiscences about growing up in Teaneck. What do you think of first when I say growing up in Teaneck?

(N) (gap in tape) West Englewood and the whole section from where Route 4 up to West Englewood Avenue was undeveloped and of going there. I think of even going fishing once down where the golf course is. I remember in my early teens of raising homing pigeons and going into a club and having contact with people who sent their pigeons to races and raising them for several years until I was no longer permitted to have them.

(I) Who told you you couldn't have them?

(N) Well no, I was outgrowing them, you know, I was getting to be sixteen and ready for college.

(I) Family situation. No one else wanted to take care of them.

(N) Yeah, well they were not that clean in a way although I had a large loft for them. That was one thing. I recall also speaking of music lessons of going, walking to a music lesson on Teaneck Road across fields, what is now many streets and developments and homes. I just walked across. And I watched that house change throughout the years, a large house on Teaneck Road.

(I) Do you remember the name of it?

(N) Well I remember the name, not of the house, the lady who taught me music was not a music teacher. She was the first president of the Teaneck Women's Club.

(I) Great. What was her name?

(N) Mrs. Walter Lipman. And she had heard me play on a small organ in my home that my father had taught me to play by ear. She said, oh, that's very good. If you had a piano, I would teach you. And my father said, then we will get a piano.

(I) She was your first real teacher?

(N) Yes, she was my teacher for a year and a half and then she said, I've done all I can do for you.

(I) And then who did you take from?

(N) I took from a very kind woman in New York, a Mrs. Wyckoff spelled like the town and Mrs. Wyckoff was a teacher of adults and a coach accompanist for singers. She was not a children's teacher. But my father knew her through art galleries and he really wanted just to get her to recommend someone and she heard me play and said I'd like to try him.

(I) What was it like living with an artist? Did your father spend hours painting?

(N) Well in those days, he spent the weekend painting and so that he was upset sometimes when relatives came for the weekend. My aunts and uncles sometimes, oh he liked a party and everything, he liked that, but once in a while, it was a little hectic. I liked the smell of the paint very much.

(I) Did he require silence? Did you have to be quiet? 

(N) No.

(I) You could run around.

(N) But he, what happened then of course, during the actual Depression, he was unable to get, no longer retain a job as a lithographer and it was the W.P.A. art project that enabled him to continue working and he produced a painting a month which the government took.

(I) You told me. Where did those paintings end up?

(N) Well all I know is that there are four paintings that were specially commissioned in the Paterson Court House and they are of three judges and a governor of New Jersey. I believe his name was Silzer. He had been governor in the twenties. And they were commissioned and he was allowed to take his time on those. He worked from photographs which was a little unusual for him.

(I) How did he learn the piano so that he could teach it to you?

(N) Well he was in a small town in Massachusetts and had been in America maybe about fifteen years and he took lessons for a short time on the piano. I have to correct that what I said. He took lessons around the age of eighteen and he had only been in America for six years. And he found that he could not be a pianist. His left wrist would not move due to a poor operation on an abscess in Italy, they had severed a nerve so he went into art. He said I've got to do something more than just have a store or work on a farm of be just a manual worker. He wanted to get into the arts so he found that his wrist didn't affect painting but it did affect ... so he learned to play for six months and he played by ear all his life. 

(I) And that's how he taught you?

(N) He taught me to play by ear and from about age five until about age seven, I somehow played on the harmonium which is an organ played with pedals. 

(I) And you never read a note?

(N) I never read a note for that two years and I knew about four or five pieces.

(I) Was your father able to support his family always in the arts? Did he ever have to leave the arts?

(N) Well as I said, he was really supporting in lithography. 

(I) And then he got commissioned?

(N) Yeah, well, I wouldn't say he got too many commissions. He didn't.

(I) Was life rough, would you say, for him?

(N) Very hard.

(I) Did he worry?

(N) Yes, I remember his big thing was that Prudential Insurance Company would foreclose the house.

(I) Now you've lived in this house since you came to Teaneck.

(N) That's right. That's unusual.

(I) What do you like most about living in Teaneck in 1983?

(N) In 1983, I do like the people I meet in Teaneck and I think there are a lot of cultural opportunities. Some of the opportunities for performing I haven't even taken advantage of. I have to get back to more performing. I have taken advantage of opportunities through our Guild. Well I like that most of the children, I should say all of the children that I meet in Teaneck and I still like walking around the town although it has changed an enormous amount.

(I) Do you think Teaneck is an unusually good spot to teach piano compared to other towns?

(N) Well I think it is. I think the people who have come in have been very, very musical and wanted their children to have that. I noticed it after the baby boom too that those people who were coming in then because actually what had happened was that I, after going back to a master class to study in the late 1940s, I had reduced my teaching somewhat and I remember teaching about eighteen or twenty people in the mid 1950s and all of a sudden, in four years, my teaching had tripled and I had joined the Teachers Guild but I got very few students from them but the influx of people was very large and I didn't do anything special but I did have to stop other activities when that occurred.

(I) Do you teach any black students?

(N) Yes, I have had a number of black students and I have about half a dozen or so at present.

(I) Do you have any students now that you think are really going to go places, that are unusually talented?

(N) Well I would say I have one that has a very fine ability with the piano and has a great flare for public playing. I don't know what she will do. She is one of two I have had in the last four or five years. The other one graduated last year. Her partner so to speak.

(I) From the high school?

(N) The second one, the one I am teaching now is from Teaneck High School and has another two years to go.

(I) Do you have any famous students that have gone on with piano?

(N) Well I guess you could say I had one but he is not a famous pianist but he is a famous, in the pops area, Randy Edelman, and he writes music, he has been on Johnny Carson many times and he is constantly traveling between Hollywood and London and he married a rock star but he was a good student in the serious field too. He went to Cincinnati Conservatory and he gave recitals after I had finished with him he still was giving recitals on piano and he writes very good songs.

(I) Well, that's very interesting. Thank you. 

(N) You're welcome.

(END OF TAPE)

 

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