By Iryna Shkurhan | [email protected]
Walking inside Joe Fuoco’s Music Center is asking to be transported back in time to the days when music was tangible.
Underneath hanging guitars, the walls are packed with grateful letters from past students and yellowing newspaper clips from the days before the internet, when listening to music took more than turning on your phone.
This year, Joe and Jeanette Fuoco marked 50 years of providing the community with a space to take music lessons and acquire instruments. The duo has also been a well-known staple in the community for live performances, ranging from weddings to street festivals and philanthropic events.
“People say to me, did you ever think you’d go 50 years with the business, I say, I didn’t think I’d go 50 years, but I did,” said Joe Fuoco in an interview with the Queens Ledger.
To celebrate the anniversary, they are holding a concert on Saturday, June 10 at 6 p.m outside at Glendale United Methodist Church where old and new students, ranging from eight-years old to 75 will perform. The music will range from jazz to country, and include oldies from the 1950s and 1960s, as well as some originals written by Joe and Jeanette. Proceeds from the event will go to organizations that benefit children with cancer.
“Music has no age. You can learn at any age,” said Joe, who has taught students in their 60s and 70s.
Joe started playing the accordion at four years old, and by 15 he was also playing guitar, the piano and was well versed in music theory and composition. His parents encouraged him to start giving out music lessons out of their home at the time, and he says there was no shortage of students who lined up.
The doors to the original Fuoco Music Center on 71st Avenue and 60th Lane in Ridgewood opened on March 1, 1973. And after a brief stint on Cooper Ave, they bought the building they currently teach out of on Myrtle Ave. in Glendale and have played there ever since.
Since then, Joe says thousands of students have come through their door for music lessons. Today the center has a packed enrollment of about 60-100 students per week, as well as a waiting list. Joe and Jeanette both teach the keyboard, guitar, drums, bass, violin, saxophone and vocals those interested in learning.
“It’s as strong as it ever was,” said Joe on the business. “We do teach just about all the instruments and you know, because, I mean it’s only 12 notes, just a question of finding them on the instrument that you have. That’s all it really is. That simple.”
For the past 50 years, Joe and Jeanette have held down the fort largely on their own. The couple balances running the business side of things, teaching students five days a week and performing live gigs in the community. But to them, it doesn’t feel like work.
In a way, Joe and Jeanette met through music. The two were students at Christ The King High School in Middle Village when they came across each other in the library and began talking about music.
“I really couldn’t do it without her because you just gotta have somebody with you,” said Joe, who will perform alongside Jeanette at the concert.
Around that time, he spent days and nights playing in more bands than he can recall at weddings, parties, clubs and on the radio. The same versatility that allowed him to play in a jazz club one night and in a wedding band the next, showed up as a music teacher that can teach just about anything.
He recalls that some of his students from decades past are now grandparents who bring their grandkids in for music lessons. And many of his former students are in the music business in some way. Whether as recording engineers, songwriters or playing weddings in a band. One of his former students is even traveling from Florida to perform at the anniversary concert.
“They were young kids at the time. And it just meant a lot to them. And in many ways, that’s, that’s better than a hit record, the fact that it made their lives better, you know, that’s certainly something that I felt really good about,” said Joe, who received an outpouring of support when he announced the anniversary on his Facebook page.
According to the couple, they have no plans to stop teaching music and playing in the community any time soon.
Joe says that getting good at playing all comes down to practice, how much you love it, your passion and ultimately some degree of talent. Though, he says that persistence is key.
“I want to make you good,” he said. “I want to make you feel as good as I do when I play.”