Who was Frank Lisanti?
Frank Lisanti was a much-loved teacher and freelance player in the Chicago area. I studied with him briefly in the mid 70's. He passed away in 1978 or 79. He had been a student of Eldon Benge at DePaul Univ. when Benge was with the CSO (1930's I believe). Older Chicago players can probably give more background. He was a real "character;" a beautiful "cat" (as he would say of others) and an inspiring teacher. In about 3 months' study with him, I met Warren Kime, Johnny Howell, Clark Terry, and Maurice Andre among others. He seemed to know everybody, and they knew and loved him.
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
New York City
May 4, 2002
Frank was a short time friend of mine. I went to McKinley High School in Chicago the same time he did. Frank was always in the plays at the High School. My greatest pleasure was to be in the study hall when the plays were being rehearsed and hear Frank play. In 1938 Frank, a friend of his, and I took a trip to California from Chicago on old Route 66 in my 1930 Business Coupe. It was a two week trip which it seems we spent most of the time in the car driving as the car was not too fast. I'll never forget the orange stands we stopped at where they were offering all the orange juice you could drink for 10¢. We thought we were going to guzzle down at least three glasses each but eventually only had one because we were not used to orange juice as thick as it was with pulp. It was delicious but filling. We stopped at Grand Canyon and decided to walk to the bottom. The trail zigzagged down to the bottom so we like dumb teenagers from Chicago decided we would leave the trail and cut down to the next level. We almost started an avalanche and it wasn't long before park rangers stopped us and informed us that if we did it again we would be banished from the park. We immediately saw the error of our way and promised to stay on the trail. We reached the bottom and decided to go no further as it was getting late. We started back up the trail and Frank who was a little overweight had a tough time. When his face got real red we either stopped or his friend and I would walk behind and push him. Frank's desire to come to California was to see the world's premier trumpeter who gave lessons to Eldon Benge. We traveled to Long Beach to see Benge's teacher who's name I believe was Herbert. Frank rang his door bell and was invited in. Frank's friend and I sat in the car and waited probably an hour for Frank to return. When he came out his face glowed like he had seen God! He talked about that meeting all the way home which pleased me no end because he was so happy that he had seen this great trumpeter, teacher. I don't believe I saw Frank after we returned from that trip but he made a deep impression on me because of his kindness, sweet spirit and enthusiasm for life and good things.Frank's family had some kind of bakery, I guess you'd call it, where they made cones for ice cream. I frequented his neighborhood often because it was a wonderful place to get Italian Sausage sandwiches with green peppers topped with spaghetti sauce. I thought that Frank was one of the finest persons I ever met in my life. I believe I still have some mouth pieces that he gave me.
I will never forget the two or three lessons he gave me, when he lived on Grand Avenue just east of Western Avenue. He was so patient and always with exuberance made me feel like I was doing the right thing with the horn. I loved to hear Frank play and I gather by the testimonials about mouth pieces, "used by Frank Lisanti" that he must have been well known and thought a lot of.
September 26, 2002
Frank Lisanti also worked as a bookkeeper for Elden Benge. He signed a receipt dated May 20, 1946, shown here.
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