Classified

Originally assembled in the early 1990’s, the band, Classified was the concept of Freddie Faccioli.  A former organist and vocalist with the legendary group Eric & the Chessmen during the 1960’s, Facciolli was also leader of Ascension, the area’s premier horn band, throughout most of the 1970’s. In addition to Freddie Faccioli and Greeley Ford from Ascension on bass, the original Classified lineup featured Ascension veteran Pat Putrello on trumpet and providing vocals. While it truly was “getting the band back together,” it also featured the top musicians from other groups in the area, such as Larry Desiato, Danny Brisson, Michael DiMeo, Darryl Sleszynski, Freddie Zimmerman, Dinger, Johnny Piazza and later Scott Rutledge. Gary Colmey was added to the original lineup several months later. Their collective resume was so long, it was said that it looked like a “Classified” ad.  Thus, the name was created and so was the mission of the band…. EOE–“equal opportunity entertainment” for all!
Classified was voted number one group in the area by the readers of the Utica Observer Dispatch in their “Readers Choice” poll for two years in a row.  The band has performed with, or shared the bill with, many international artists, including Maynard Ferguson, Benny Mardonis, Rare Earth, Eddie Money, KC & the Sunshine Band, Jason Masalis, Gap Mangione, The Commodores, The Pointer Sisters and Earth, Wind & Fire. The abilities of the members of Classified encompassed all styles of music. An amazingly versatile group, they performed a wide variety of music.  Their founding mission was to represent Utica as best as it could be done.
Over the years many talented artists played with Classified including Rick Zuccaro and Victor Toco (keyboards); Daryl Hunt, Lenny Milano and Karl Sterling (drums); Joe Ferlo, Stu Heinrich, Kris Heels, and Tommy Hillenbrand (guitars); Johnny Piazza, Jeff Stockham, Dave Blask, Pat Carney, Steve Carney, Tim Fergusen, and Jimmy Demauro (trumpets); Wayne Davison, Rocky Barbado, Bob Cesari, Devin Garramone, Don Williams and John Rohde (saxophones); Jimmy Camardello and Joe Colombo (trombones);  Ronnie Leigh, Ricky Chisolm, Vinnie Esposito, Michelle Rushford and Eddie Riley (vocals).
Classified gave their final performance on January 1, 2013 at the Delta Lake Inn in Rome.  The last list of band members (2012) included: Greeley Ford (bass guitar, vocals and band leader), Larry Desiato (lead vocals, percussion, drums); Michael J. DiMeo (trumpet and vocals); Carl Goodhines (keyboards); John Dugan (drums); Bill Mirgo (guitars); Marty Hollister (trombone and vocals); Scott Rutledge (lead vocals and trumpet); Joe Zarr (saxophones, flutes and vocals); John Short (keyboards and vocals); and Caitlin Henry (vocals).

Tony Lanzi

Anthony (Tony) Lanzi was born in Syracuse, New York on May 30, 1947.  He grew up in Rome and graduated from Rome Free Academy in 1965.  Four years later he received a Bachelors Degree in Business Administration from Kent State University.  He did graduate work at Utica College and Syracuse University.  

He walked into his first classroom as a substitute English teacher in September of 1969 at Strough Junior High School and it changed his life!  He later taught at Gansevoort Elementary, Lake Delta Elementary, DeWitt Clinton Elementary (where he stayed for 31 years until its closing), Francis Bellamy Elementary, and Staley Middle School. After a career of 40 years, he retired in June 2009.  Tony’s motto for his students was: “YES, I CAN!”

Teaching and directing students in two centuries, he used the performing arts and theater in the classroom.  He produced 36 plays and over 30 Medieval Fairs with his 6th grade students.

Known for his over the top “Theme Days,” including activities such “Emailing Monks Around the World,” learning always included performing, decorating and an amazing number of balloons!  Dress-Up Days and making life-sized Egyptian mummies were memorable annual events.  In 1982 he began taking his classes to Broadway, where his students not only saw musicals, but also met cast members after the shows. 

He became the Rome Rotary Club’s first “Teacher of the Year” in 1987.  He was in Who’s Who Among Young American Professionals in 1988 and in Who’s Who Among American Teachers in 1989.  He received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Humanitarian Award from Staley Middle School in 2005 for “exemplifying the teachings of Dr. King.”  Tony’s served as the first Public Relations Director of the Rome Teachers Association in the 1980’s, and is also a member of the New York State United Teachers and the Roswell Park Cancer Institute– celebrating his 10th year as a cancer survivor.
Tony is proud of the accomplishments and successes of ALL his students.  Former students include Mark Hapka, a movie and television actor/director, opera singer Victoria Vargas, Kevin Torres, an Emmy Award winning television reporter, and Frank Page, a cartoonist and graphic author currently working at the Rome Daily Sentinel.

Else Holmelund Minarik

Else Holmelund Minarik was born on September 13, 1920 in Denmark.  She immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 4 years old.  Her mother helped her learn English by taking her to the playground and translating what the children were saying.

She married Walter Minarik in 1940 and graduated from Queens College, City University of New York with a B.A. in 1942.  She became a journalist for the Rome Daily Sentinel in the early 1940’s.  Then she moved to Commack, Long Island where she began teaching first grade in a public school, responding to a shortage of teachers created by World War II.

After her daughter, Brooke was born in 1947, Minarik was inspired to write the Little Bear books for young readers who could barely manage to sound their way through syllables.  Minarik drew on her memories of her mother reading Hans Christian Andersen to her. “Little Bear is me in Denmark where I was cuddled and loved,” she said.  She mimeographed her book and shared it with her pupils, hoping to sustain their interest in reading during the summer vacation before entering the second grade.  The story was so well liked she took it to a publisher in New York.  The editor liked it, but asked that the bears in the book replaced by children.  Minarik was strong in her belief that universal appeal was more important than realism.  Describing the stories in an interview in 2006, she said: “I thought to myself, all children of all colors would be reading the stories.  All children love animals.  The bear is fine.  I love them because Mother took me to the Bronx Zoo every day, and I fell in love with the cubs.  My bears were a family.”

Another publisher, Harper and Row, agreed and commissioned Maurice Sendak to do the illustrations.  Ursula Nordstrom, children’s editor for Harper and Row, published Little Bear, the first in the series, in the United States in 1957 as the first book in the “I Can Read” series.  The Little Bear stories were turned into a successful animated television series for Nickelodeon in 1995.  Minarik authored more than 40 books, always writing her manuscripts in longhand, as she never learned to type.

Else Holmelund Minarik passed away at the age of 91 on July 12, 2012

Catherine O’Neill

Catherine P. O’Neill is a native of Rome, New York, and is a 1980 graduate of Rome Catholic High School.  She attended LeMoyne College and SUNY Upstate Medical School in Syracuse, and completed her residency in Internal Medicine in Buffalo, NY.  

Catherine Powers O’Neill began painting in the late 1990’s, after taking a beginner watercolor class at the local art center. A busy physician and the mother of four young children, she thought it would be a good chance for a weekly night out, but it proved to be much more, noting, “Watercolor painting has changed the way I see.  I find myself noticing my surroundings in a whole new way.”

She has won numerous awards in local and national art shows, including two consecutive Best of Show awards from the North East Watercolor Society International Exhibition, and the W. D. Gorman Memorial Award from the American Watercolor Society’s 143rd International Exhibition.  O’Neill holds signature membership in a number of watercolor societies, including the American Watercolor Society, the National Watercolor Society, the Transparent Watercolor Society of America, the North East Watercolor Society, the Rocky Mountain National Watermedia Society, the Watercolor USA Honor Society, and the Pennsylvania Watercolor Society, among others. She is an exhibiting member of the Buffalo Society of Artists and the Buffalo Niagara Arts Association, and serves on the Board of Directors at the Centennial Art Center of Hamburg. She has had paintings published in Splash 9, Splash 10 and Splash 11: The Best of Watercolor, North Light Books.  She has written a chapter in the 2009 book Watercolor Secrets: An Inside Look at the Techniques of Award-Winning Splash Artists.  Her work is featured on the cover and in an article in the Spring 2010 edition of Watercolor Magazine. O’Neill has participated in juried exhibitions across the country and has exhibited locally as a signature member of the Central New York Watercolor Society and the Niagara Frontier Watercolor Society.  She has been a frequent participant in the annual Adirondack National Exhibition of American Watercolors and has had solo exhibitions in Hamburg, Syracuse and Rome, N.Y.

She now paints a wide variety of subject matter using transparent watercolor, but her favorite images often include Adirondack landscapes and scenes from her family life.  
Catherine Powers O’Neill  is currently an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of Buffalo, where she teaches and practices medicine. She lives in Hamburg, N.Y. with her husband and four children.

Leonard Urso

Leonard Urso was born in 1953 and grew up in Rome, NY, graduating from RFA in 1971.  His pursuit of art began when he was a young man and led him to study at the SUNY New Paltz.  After graduating with a Master of Fine Arts degree he began his professional career as a designer and silversmith for Oneida Ltd. Silversmiths.  Leonard holds an endowed chair as the Ann Mulligan Distinguished Professor in the School for American Crafts at RIT.

His passion for his craft is explained by the following artist’s statement: “Human beings are what interest me most, both as a person and as an artist.  Our story began more than one hundred and fifty thousand years ago; as primal creatures we human beings emerged to begin our epic journey.  Over the course of this time humans have evolved, migrated, cultivated, propagated and explored vast stretches of this planet earth.  Acknowledging the full history of human existence has helped to shape my vision as a contemporary person.  My role as an artist is to capture human activity as it takes place in the moment, intimately revealing humanities most intrinsic qualities.  This artwork of mine should bear witness to the stories of our lives and at the same time reflect the depth of our past.  Though personal, these stories are not about me, they are shared experiences that reflect our collective self’s.  Human beings are all innocently linked; we are singularly unique though not so different from each other.  What may be viewed as our imperfections often reveal the truths that distinguish us as primal human creatures.  We carry on a most fascinating, somewhat tragic romantic life, and thus bearing the fruit for relevant interpretive art forms.”

The Leonard Urso Art Studio is located in Rochester, N.Y., where Leonard is actively involved in creating large and small-scale sculptures and paintings.  Leonard’s art is exhibited nationally and internationally, represented in collections such as the Gyeongnam Art Museum South Korea, Art Institute of Chicago, Shanghai University, Kanazawa University of Japan, The New York Times, Bucknell University, Times Mirror Company, Bausch & Lomb World Headquarters, Garth Fagan, Colgate University, RIT and The Washington Post.

Valerie Wood

Valerie Wood was born on Christmas Day in Brooklyn, N.Y. in 1950.  She was raised in Thornwood, N.Y., a small town north of New York City.  She graduated from Crane School of Music at SUNY Potsdam in 1972 with a B.A. in Music Education and a performance certificate in voice and a minor in piano.  She completed graduate studies at the Saratoga-Potsdam Choral Institute, Setnor School of Music at Syracuse University, and the Eastman School of Music.

Val began her teaching career in 1972 as an elementary vocal music teacher at Bellamy School.  During her 13 years teaching at the elementary level she also taught at Ridge Mills, Clough, DeWitt Clinton, Denti, and Stokes.  After a sabbatical leave to study at Syracuse University, she transferred to RFA in 1985 to teach vocal music, guitar, music history and literature, and music theory as well, and served as music director for many spring musicals until her retirement in 2006.  She founded the RFA Select Choir in 1986 and served on the planning committee for the design of the new RFA building, specifically the music wing, the music lab, and the critically acclaimed auditorium.  She maintained a studio of private voice and piano students for many years.

Val is active in the local music scene as guest conductor for All-County and Area All-State Choirs.  She is also a frequent soloist and accompanist in area churches and civic groups and is a member of the Senior Choir and Joyful Ringers Bell Choir at the First Presbyterian Church in Rome.  Other groups of which Val is a member include the New York State United Teachers, American Federation of Teachers, Rome Teachers Association, Retired Teachers Association, New York State School Music Association, NYSSMA Technology Committee, Wednesday Morning Club, and the Oneida Area Civic Chorale.

Valerie Wood has a published article about the new RFA music lab in the magazine Music Education Technology, and was recognized by the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra as an  “Outstanding Central New York Music Educator,” with a special award for “Use of Technology in Education.”  In retirement she enjoys all kinds of music (both making it and listening to it), reading, gardening, and golf.

Billie Worth

Billie Worth was born Wilhelmina “Billie” Rothmund in Rome, NY (at Rome Hospital) on October 20, 1916. 

She began her performing career at the age of six, making her initial appearance at a local talent show at the Strand Theatre in Rome on March 26, 1923, with brother Coley and sister Grace.  She began her performance career in earnest that summer, touring with her siblings (billed as “Grace, Coley, and Billie Worth”).  An expert tennis player, the 14-year-old Rome Free Academy student became City Wide Woman’s Tennis Champion in 1931 and repeated her triumph in 1932.  

After contemplating a career as tennis pro, Miss Worth chose the stage, and made her Broadway debut in the last performance of the Gershwins’ Let ‘em Eat Cake in 1934, before embarking on the show’s national tour.  Her subsequent Broadway appearances include 1934’s Thumbs Up!, Higher and Higher in 1940, Bright Lights of 1944 and Cole Porter’s Seven Lively Arts in 1944, and Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific in 1949, where she understudied Mary Martin.  (She performed the lead role in South Pacific 24 times on Broadway in Martin’s absence.)  Billie had been taught to dance by her brother, Coley, and often earned critical raves for her dancing.  In 1935 she married fellow actor Donald Burr, and two weeks later began her international career when the couple began appearances at the Grosvenor House in London. 
Billie Worth made her network television debut in 1951 in General Electric Guest House. She later guest starred in two episodes of The United States Steel Hour. In 1953 she starred in Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam in London.  She retired from the professional stage in the late 1950s, but directed several productions with the community theater group the Chester (NJ) Players in the 1970s.  She presently resides in Florida and Connecticut and remains an avid tennis player.

Billie Worth

Billie Worth was born Wilhelmina “Billie” Rothmund in Rome, NY (at Rome Hospital) on October 20, 1916. 

She began her performing career at the age of six, making her initial appearance at a local talent show at the Strand Theatre in Rome on March 26, 1923, with brother Coley and sister Grace.  She began her performance career in earnest that summer, touring with her siblings (billed as “Grace, Coley, and Billie Worth”).  An expert tennis player, the 14-year-old Rome Free Academy student became City Wide Woman’s Tennis Champion in 1931 and repeated her triumph in 1932.  

After contemplating a career as tennis pro, Miss Worth chose the stage, and made her Broadway debut in the last performance of the Gershwins’ Let ‘em Eat Cake in 1934, before embarking on the show’s national tour.  Her subsequent Broadway appearances include 1934’s Thumbs Up!, Higher and Higher in 1940, Bright Lights of 1944 and Cole Porter’s Seven Lively Arts in 1944, and Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific in 1949, where she understudied Mary Martin.  (She performed the lead role in South Pacific 24 times on Broadway in Martin’s absence.)  Billie had been taught to dance by her brother, Coley, and often earned critical raves for her dancing.  In 1935 she married fellow actor Donald Burr, and two weeks later began her international career when the couple began appearances at the Grosvenor House in London. 
Billie Worth made her network television debut in 1951 in General Electric Guest House. She later guest starred in two episodes of The United States Steel Hour. In 1953 she starred in Irving Berlin’s Call Me Madam in London.  She retired from the professional stage in the late 1950s, but directed several productions with the community theater group the Chester (NJ) Players in the 1970s.  She presently resides in Florida and Connecticut and remains an avid tennis player.