[Dixielandjazz] Synergy among Immigrants (Italians & Jews)

Steve barbone barbonestreet at earthlink.net
Thu Oct 6 20:22:46 PDT 2005

Jim Branson @ JimSox at aol.com wrote (polite snip)
> In my parents' generation, this was not so.   They were second generation
> American Jews, the generation that felt it had to prove itself as truly
> American, 
> different from their foreign (and therefore inferior in the eyes of American
> society) parents.   So they fiercely adopted all things American-- music,
> politics, business sports-- as their own.   It took me a long time to realize
> why 
> my dad was such a big sports fan and passed that on to me.   (I'm pulling hard
> for the White Sox right now, partly in honor of his memory.)
> But they also fiercely retained their Jewish identity.   And so they were
> very proud of any contributions of Jews to things American.   My generation
> has 
> so thoroughly assimilated that the Jewish identity factor is much diminished.
> But I still perk up when topics such as Jews in Jazz pop up.

> P.S.   I think this may also be true of Italians, whose major immigration to
> the U.S. occurred about the same time as that of the Jews.   DiMaggio and
> Venuti.

Yes, Jim. My dad was an immigrant Italian. Proud of his heritage, but
prouder still that he came to this country at age 14 to seek his fortune and
proudest of his obtaining Citizenship in the minimum time, while working and
attending high school and college here.

He used to rag me about long hair when I was a kid saying;" Hey, get a
haircut, you look like an immigrant." And though he and Mom were fluent in
Italian, they would not speak it in front of the kids at home, and he
discouraged our efforts to learn it from him. He wanted us to be 100%

Yet he was fiercely proud of Toscanini and the NBC Symphony. Listening every
week and "conducting" from his chair in front of the radio. Or of Italian
American performers in Opera etc.

Interesting man who hated the thought that I wanted, perhaps, to be a jazz
musician. Yet he never discouraged me from going to NYC clubs and getting to
know all of those Low life jazz musicians who drank, smoked dope (and more)
while chasing women of dubious character. Even took me to see/hear Artie
Shaw which event switched my musical instrument from piano to clarinet. As
long as I got my education, including college, he did not interfere.

On the bottom line, he encouraged my sister and I to be our own persons and
follow our dreams, as he had done. Like Nike, his motto was: "Just do it".

DiMaggio, and the sports guys were heroes, but the classical music Italians
and Ship Captains of the Italian Line (for whom he worked in the NY office)
who relocated here were his special heroes.

The musical interest passed on to me, but mostly in the form of jazz.



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