Mineola honor music to Lou Panacciulli’s ears

Mineola honor music to Lou Panacciulli’s ears

The Nassau Pops Symphony Orchestra got its first big break in Mineola, said Lou Panacciulli, its music director.

The orchestra gave its first summer concert in the village’s Memorial Park in 1985 and has since played across Long Island, growing its ranks from 35 musicians to more than 60, said Panacciulli, a Valley Stream resident and retired music teacher.

“We’ve always had a warm spot for that village,” Panacciulli said. “They’ve always been very kind to us and, really, that was our jumping point.”

Under Panacciulli’s direction, the Nassau Pops summer concerts have become a cultural staple in Mineola. Panacciuli has also given back to the village through his service to the Mineola Chamber of Commerce and with his annual charity concerts, leading the chamber to name him its 2016 Small Businessperson of the Year, said Tony Lubrano, the chamber president.

“He’s just a person that’s always giving of himself,” said Lubrano, owner of Piccola Bussola Restaurant. “He performs at every opportunity that he can and we’re just proud to have him as part of our community.”

While he’s no longer a businessman, Panacciulli spent 15 years as a commodities trader, eventually forming his own sugar-trading company that operated in the U.S. and Canada, he said.

Music remained a part of Panacciulli’s life throughout his business career, he said, and his business experience has helped keep the orchestra running smoothly.

“I never really strayed from it,” Panacciulli said.

He started directing ensembles at Nassau Community College before he left the commodities industry in 1996, when he took a job teaching in Valley Stream. He retired from that two years ago, but still teaches and conducts at the college, he said.

Panacciulli founded the Nassau Pops Symphony Orchestra in 1984 with Dawn Manuel, now the orchestra’s president, after becoming enamored with show tunes while doing community theater, he said.

The ensemble, largely composed of music teachers, plays its repertoire of hits from Broadway, TV and movies at about 10 shows each year, ending with a Christmas concert at Chaminade High School that draws more than 1,000 people, Panacciulli said.

Then-Mineola Mayor Ann Galanty’s invitation to perform in Memorial Park in the summer of 1985 gave the group a strong footing and started a summer tradition in Mineola, Panacciulli said. The Chamber of Commerce has also greatly helped support and promote the orchestra, he said.

“It was really through the relationships in Mineola that the orchestra really started to grow,” Panacciulli said.

The Nassau Pops gives several charity concerts supporting cerebral palsy research and groups such as the Independence Fund, which supports severely wounded veterans. Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, a Manhasset resident, was the guest at one concert that raised $23,000 for the organization, Panacciulli said.

A special moment for the Nassau Pops came this summer, when the orchestra played its first concert in the new amphitheater the village opened at Memorial Park this spring, he said.

Panacciulli started pushing for a stage there in the 1990s, and the feeling of playing on one for a crowd of more than 1,000 people was hard to describe, he said.

“It’s wonderful and we’re very appreciative, and we love playing there and hope to be playing for a lot more years,” Panacciulli said.

By Noah Manskar

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