Some are likening it to “the day the music died.”
Joe Cuscianna, the owner of the Schuylerville Music Center, a legendary store where thousands of young people developed their love of music, will be sorely missed.
He passed away at the age of 67 on Wednesday, September 15. Schuylerville Music Center, formally located at 3637 E. Tremont Avenue across the street from the Throggs Neck Post Office, was in business from 1970 until the end of 2009.
During that time, Cuscianna had a team of instructors teaching lessons on piano, drums, and guitar, as well as other instruments. He sold instruments, sheet music, and in the early years, records.
Friends remembered Cuscianna as someone who was never seen in a bad mood, and was known to help out area musicians by doing everything from loaning them instruments to building P.A. systems. His store became a gathering place for several generations of young people from the area, some of whom went onto become accomplished musicians.
“The store was the epicenter of the music scene in this community,” said Alex Chillak. “Every musician in the area was touched by this man in a profound way. His store was a social gathering place for a whole group of people, many of whom went on to teach music lessons at the store. Years ago, instead of meeting at the barber shop, we would meet at Schuylerville Music.”
Joe Quirolo, whose family owned a funeral parlor across the street from Schuylerville, said that he donated equipment for benefit shows around the area. Quirolo recalled that for a time when he was young, he saved up to buy a special instrument, a Guild D35 guitar.
“I went into the shop to look at the guitar,” Quirolo said. “I didn’t have enough saved to buy it yet, but Joe asked me how much I had. When I told him, he sold it to me for that price. That was the kind of man Joe was. I never heard him say anything bad about anyone in those 40 years.”
Quirolo said that as he began to grow up, Schuylerville Music replaced Roy’s Toyland as his favorite place to go on East Tremont Avenue. Many people had similar experiences, remembering his generosity and his trusting nature, which turned him into a community icon.
“When I first started teaching guitar lessons, I really needed ten acoustic guitars, but I did not have money to buy them,” said Will Genovese, who taught guitar lessons at Schuylerville from 1982 to 2005. “He knew me, so he gave me the guitars. A few days later, I gave him the money.”
Cuscianna was an accomplished accordion player. He would play many senior centers and other venues in the Bronx.
Viny Glyes, an instructor at Schuylerville and Cuscianna’s partner in the accordion business, said he was one of the few people in America that Italian accordion manufacturers would happily deal with. He is planning to send an accordion in Cuscianna’s honor to an accordion museum in Castelfidardo, Italy.
But Cuscianna’s greatest lasting legacy may have been his ability to bring people together through song.
“Joe’s store was our boy’s club,” Quirolo said. “We all became friends because of him.”