Mr. C / Cappy


50th Alumni Weekend Banquet - April 21, 2001
Knights of Columbus Hall, Hornell


Reprint of article that appeared in Transitions newsletter for Alumni, Families of Students, and Friends of Alfred State College, Volume 54 Number 2, Late Winter 2001. Reprinted by permission from the office of Publications and the Alumni Association of Alfred State College.

Anthony “Cappy” Cappadonia Celebrates 50 Years at Alfred State College
by Cynthia Santora, Associate Director, Community Relations

Talent, dedication, commitment, loyalty, joy. When these characteristics meet and meld, the result yields one Anthony “Cappy” Cappadonia, a blessed fixture on the Alfred State College campus for the past 50 years. 50 years! In 1951, one Tony Cappadonia arrived on the Alfred State College campus and brought joy to the hills of Alfred, infusing them with the sound of music—both instrumental and vocal. Cappy’s story begins in Mt. Morris, where he was raised in a largely Italian neighborhood by loving and religious parents. What better start in life for a future teacher? After serving his country overseas for three years during World War II, Cappy returned to New York State where he determined he wanted to study music (having been a trombone player at Mt. Morris High School) at Ithaca College—and study he did! By attending classes straight through, including summers, he finished his bachelor’s degree in three years and a master’s degree in music at the same institution just three years after that. But while teaching music in Savannah (NY ) High School, Cappy harbored a desire to teach at the college level. “I remember vividly how I heard about the ‘Ag-Tech’ job,” he recounts with a smile. “While I was doing my graduate work, I asked the dean if he knew of any college-level teaching jobs. “’I just heard about one at the Alfred Agricultural and Technical Institute,’ he told me. He arranged for an interview, and I met with Paul B. Orvis, ASC’s fifth president, and Warren Bouck, then-chairman, General Studies Division. They told me I’d be notified by telegram in a day or two. And sure enough, a couple of days later, I got the word that I had the job as instructor in the Music Department and director of the choral and instrumental groups.” And the rest, as they say, is history! It’s a history made up of hard work, success, and 50 years of memories. The College had hired, the year prior to Cappy’s joining the faculty, a music teacher who helped start the music program at the College, worked at Alfred for a year, and then resigned his position. So the search began for a teacher of instrumental and vocal music. Luckily, Cappy had earned a double major in college! For the next 15 years or so, Cappy had command of all the musical groups at the College—instrumental as well as vocal— sometimes adding up to as many as nine different musical entities. Finally, in the mid-1960s, Cappy requested the addition of another “music person” and was allowed to search for help. Enter Joe Canale, another familiar name in the annals of Alfred State College musical history. Canale and Cappy had attended Ithaca College together in the ’40s, and so Cappy retained directorship of vocal music while Canale assumed leadership of instrumental music. Throughout the years, Cappy has not only taught and directed the music he loves, but has also served as an adjudicator for choral competitions, written articles and been a reviewer for the Choral Journal, and conducted choral festivals for high school students each spring for about 16 years. And never, in all these years, has Cappy not found joy in what he does. “I’ve never burned out at all,” Cappy boasts, despite a quadruple by-pass surgery five years ago. “I look forward to each rehearsal and each performance.” Cappy, who admits to having mellowed over the years, holds a philosophy which reflects his evolution. “I never call an audition an audition anymore,” he laughs; “it makes students too nervous. I call it voice classification. I put students through a series of exercises to determine their range. But most importantly, I try to determine if they have an ‘ear’ for music. Students can be taught to sing if they have pitch recognition.

“I was firmer in my youth. I looked for perfection. I’m a little softer now. I still strive for the best—the best the students and I can do together, but perfectionists are not happy people, so I’ve given up that quest,” he says with a laugh. “I realize that the students are here, first and foremost, for an education. After that, I ask for dedication and commitment to the choir. And I expect responsibility. “I am a strong believer in student officers; they help determine the calendar of concerts, compile the programs, create reports, etc. This, I believe, helps them in more than just their music—it prepares them for life.” And most of them have turned out pretty well! The joy Cappy experiences when he sees his students grow— not only in their musical abilities, but also in their handling of responsibility, is nearly palpable. “It’s always such a joy when the alums come back—and there are so many that make it a point to return frequently and those who come every month to practice for the annual alumni choir concert held each spring. I always ask—first about their families and then about their careers. Many of them remark on how the requirements of the choir (e.g. attendance policy, deadlines) have helped them in their jobs. And many of them are very successful!” he crows like a proud papa. And like the father figure he is to many of his students, Cappy hosts get-togethers at his home ranging from Christmas parties to chicken barbecues, engendering not only a feeling of camaraderie among choir members, but also a sense of family. No wonder they keep returning! This father to all choir alumni is also the father of 11 children—nine with his first wife, Zora, whom he lost to cancer in 1973, and two with his wife Ruth (“Bebe”), an ASC choir alumna! What keeps Cappy going? “Family is number one,” he says, true pride and love emanating from him when he speaks of any member of his family. “The alumni and students are second; my job is third.” With such “sound” values it’s no wonder that Cappy hits the right note all the time!

Cappy's first choir - 1951

Cappy's first band - 1951

“It’s Magic!” Although Cappy retired from full-time duties as choral director in 1985, he remains at the helm of the College’s choral groups in a part-time capacity. The Alfred Choir Alumni Association is a testimony to Cappy’s many years of service. There are approximately 350 active members, many of whom return to Alfred each spring to renew old friendships and sing together at the spring concert under the direction of their old taskmaster. In fact, the overriding sentiment from several of the Alumni Choir members is that not only is Cappy something special, he’s “magic!” To a person, interviewed alumni choir members mentioned Cappy’s exacting expectations, his excellent musical ability, his exceptional musical knowledge, and his exceed-ingly warm and caring nature. Here is a sampling of comments made by Alfred State College Alumni Choir members:

Nancy Rease Schrader, ’74, secretary/ treasurer, Alumni Choir:

“Cappy is an extremely gifted musician and a taskmaster when it comes to his work with the choirs. He really knows how to get the best out of each of the choir members. For many years the Alfred State Choir was noted as being one of the best in the country. So even though he worked us hard, we knew that it would pay off. Being a member of the Alfred State Concert Choir teaches you responsibility, teamwork, time management, presentation skills, dedication, and cooperation. However, when I was in choir I did not realize that I was learning all these skills or know how they would benefit me later in life. I simply enjoyed the musical experience and had fun. However, those skills, combined with a definite increase in confidence and self-esteem, helped me to be successful in my career in human resource administration. “I believe that we are each given a gift, and I am thankful for teachers like Cappy who dedicate their lives to helping students find and utilize their gifts. The musical skills I learned from Cappy have allowed me to participate in community music programs as both a choir member and soloist. I currently participate in three choirs and sub in a bell choir."

Merri-Lou McKeever, class of 1969:

In answer to the question: “Why do so many of us return to Alfred for Choir Alumni Weekend?” Merri-Lou McKeever says, “My first reaction was ‘magic.’ It was a flippant response then, but on second thought, I think first reactions sometime are best, so I will stick with it. “We return to feel the magic. If you like to sing and enjoy the camaraderie of others who share that interest, then returning to Alfred to sing with them, under the direction of Mr. C is nothing short of magic. Mr. C is a man who loves what he does so much that he has dedicated 50 years of his life to it. He directs with great passion and feeling, always striving for perfection. He expects a lot of his choirs, and I think most of us are inspired by the challenge. So, where does the magic come in? It happens when the concert risers fill with lots of old friends; there’s lots of chatting and laughing; chaos rules — and then, Mr. C raises his arms and asks us to sing. Sing in harmony. Yep. “It’s magic.”

Dave Nelson, class of 1967 and 1969

“Initially Cappy was my father figure. My own father had died a few months before I started at Alfred. He was an alcoholic and had little use for children. Here was a man who, from the very start, showed a high level of interest in young people and sweated bullets for them. Although I had little in common with the man, his drive and concern made me look for ways to please him. I knew he wasn’t perfect, but his love came strongly from deep inside. “He then taught me to sing. More than that, he showed me that I could project, more than just music, but a personality. Cappy gave me opportunities to do solos and to help manage choir projects, i.e. the Annual Chorale Festival. I became a leader because of his trust and guidance. I served as the first president of the Alfred Jazz Choir (now the Alumni Jazz Choir) and later the president of the full choir. This was absolutely the most influential contribution toward my becoming an IT manager; he gave me confidence and showed me how to effectively get the best out of people. “Cappy has the ability of blending, not just music, but people. He taught diversity. Although I’m way out in Phoenix, I have to come back every year to sing with him and my friends; I get to see my “family”. We are bound together with Cappadonia glue."

Annie Peiffer, ’73, president, Alumni Choir:

“Because of Cappy, I love music and love to sing. He is an expert at getting people to sing their best. He works us to death—he’s very exacting with choir. He expected us to be good, and we were. He gave us his all, so we willingly give him our all. “The experience [of returning to campus each year for the alumni choir concert] is like a family reunion, except we all get along. “Once you sing with Cappy, you’re spoiled. You know just what to do. He taught us all these nifty things, but he also taught us responsibility, loyalty, and commitment. It’s just magic!”


COLLEGE COUNCIL OUTSTANDING SERVICE AWARD 2000
Presented to Anthony C. Cappadonia
May 20, 2000!

TEXT OF THE AWARD...

For his almost 50 years of outstanding loyalty to Alfred State College, its students, and its music programs;

For his tireless dedication to directing the many Alfred State College concert choirs, stage band, dance band, Kingsmen, Christmas Chorales, Jazz Singers, and Alumni Concert Choir;

For his many years of classroom teaching, bringing the joy of music appreciation to countless students;

For serving as a constant recruiter through the Annual Choral Festivals and choir performances throughout the Northeast;

For never accepting less than the best that his students had to offer;

For serving as a surrogate parent, always willing to listen, offer advice, lend a helping hand or a shoulder to cry on;

For serving as the impetus for over 3,000 Alfred State College students to gain self-esteem, confidence, presentation, and team skills;

For inspiring many of those students to remain active in the Alfred State Choir Alumni Association, whose members return to campus annually to renew old friendships and to perform together; and

For his unfailing loyalty, his outstanding work ethic, and his big heart.

 


Updated 6/24/2002