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August 17, 2017

Alumni Interview: Pat DeRosa (BM ’54, MM ’54)

Manhattan School of Music alumnus Pat DeRosa, who will be 95 in December, was born in Brooklyn and took an interest in the saxophone at the age of 12. Pat has had an outstanding career, ranging from serving in the United States Army Air Forces to performing with jazz legend John Coltrane. Pat has also had a fulfilling family life, raising a musical daughter and recently performing with his family in his granddaughter Nicole’s senior recital at Long Island University. Here is what Pat had to say in an interview on March 24, 2016:

What was your life like before MSM?

Before the war [World War II], I worked for the Grumman Aircraft Engineering Corporation in Bethpage building aircraft parts. At 19 years old, I was drafted into the Army Air Forces in Greensboro, North Carolina, for basic training. The army needed me to be a radio operator because I was so good at Morse code dot and dash sequences. [Pat’s daughter chimed in and mentioned that this was likely due to his musical talents in dictation.] I wanted to be a musician and joined the concert band as well as the 20-piece dance band. I was transferred to San Antonio Air Base and after the war, on honorable discharge, I returned to Long Island and went on to attend MSM.

What do you remember about MSM?

I attended MSM when it was on the East Side; the people were very nice and very talented. I remember a lounge on the top of the roof that could hold 10 to 15 people. While I was a student, I played with Max Roach in Concert Band.

What did your performance career look like?

I gigged across the country, went to Hollywood with the Tommy Tucker Orchestra, and also appeared in a musical short film with the band. In Hollywood I was on the set with Abbott and Costello. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis took me to lunch one day. I also played with bandleaders Tex Beneke, Boyd Raeburn, Lionel Hampton, and Percy Faith. I performed in New York City at the Plaza Hotel, the Paramount Theater, and the Latin Quarter [the famed Times Square nightclub opened by Barbara Walter’s father, Lou Walters], and even performed at President Richard Nixon’s inaugural ball.

What impact did your education at MSM have on your life?

It was one of the best schools I could think of going to. With the Big Band era dying out, it helped me get a job at South Huntington School District [in 1954]. I became the head of the Music Department and led the Concert and Jazz Bands.

Who is the coolest artist you’ve worked with?

John Coltrane. We got along like brothers and I was very fortunate that John took me under his wing. We played together for a year or two until he passed at the premature age of 40 [in 1967].

What activities do you enjoy outside of music?

I enjoy going to the beach and visiting Florida with my family and 7-pound Yorkie, Jakson.

As you think about all of your accomplishments, what are you most proud of achieving?

I’m most proud of having a beautiful daughter, Patricia, and a very loving family. As a musician, I’m most proud of playing at the Plaza and being face to face with many entertainment legends, including Lana Turner, Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Stanwyck, Tyrone Power, and Errol Flynn.

If you had any life advice, what would you tell others?

Work hard to reach your goals and practice, practice, practice.

Pat and his daughter, Patrica

Pat with his daughter, Patricia, and granddaughter, Nicole

Pat performing in the Paramount's Veteran's Day Concert in Huntington, New York, just this past year! 

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