This article was published in SmyrnaLife Magazine 2014 July/Aug Vol. 1 – Issue 4
article and photographs by Robin G. Coles
For Michigan born Richard (Dick) and Lillian Cuchetti, music is still a big way of life. They’ve carved a brilliant niche right here in New Smyrna with it. Prior to making their home in New Smyrna, the Cuchetti family spent 15 years on the road as singers; called The Conti Family Singers. They met Danny Thomas, Lola Falana and other musicians while on stage for St. Jude’s Research Hospital. Danny Thomas took them on the road where the Cuchetti’s spent three seasons living in a Greyhound bus; similar to the old TV show Partridge Family. Winters were in New Smyrna. Today, their role is to pay it forward with their music to help gifted children.
Two hours before the recital began; Dick and I met at Cuchetti Family School of Music. As he talked about the past, the school, his students, and notably his family you could sense his passion.
“My daughter, Gina, was a scholarship winner to Berklee in Boston as a vocal major,” says Dick. “In fact she set the record for the most times doing the singer showcase at Berklee. My daughter Mary studied musical theatre at Cincinnati Conservatory. It’s her recital tonight. I’m going to be doing a trumpet duet with one of my students, Gerrit Bosma. He’s All-State in all counties; an 8th grader going into the 9th. Another student, Amaya Stamm (6th grader) and I will be also doing a duet. Amaya plays the flute and has won a national flute competition. ”
“My wife Lillian has some students that are performing at this recital as well. The reason I do that is because so many of my kids are in high school,” Dick comments. He also works with homeschooled children who don’t have band or chorus. “That’s the part we play in the community,” says Dick. “A lot of children don’t have as much balance as you would find in schools with a marching band. They also don’t get any concert music.” Lillian and Dick did not grow up that way. They went to a gifted school in Detroit. It’s totally different in New Smyrna with the choice of music. “It’s sad how many of our students come to the studio culturally starved,” Dick says.
In May they had their first fund raiser at the Atlantic Center for the Arts. Gina and her brother, Chris’, group performed. The money raised goes to the Indian River Institute for Creative Arts (IRICA); a non-profit setup by Dick Cuchetti. The IRICA provides scholarships to both talented and gifted music students locally. Both music and church directors help identify the children who qualify; for the Indian River program. According to Dick, schools do not recognize the unusual talent of these kids. The high school lacks a chorus and musical theatre. “So we really play a role,” says Dick “with gifted children who want to continue on.”
“We’re close to Stetson University,” says Dick “many of those first year players teach here.” “Then again, our backgrounds are pretty extensive. Lillian was in the Michigan opera company. We try to do the best we can to fill in the gap and we really do. What I’m going to say to you right now is not because we’re such genius teachers or anything but it’s just that the other schools are not doing it. And that is our kids are winning the all county and the all state. When you win an all state and you’re in the all state band there’s 26 trumpet players from the entire state of Florida. You’re going up against Miami, Tampa; well Gerrit is one of those trumpet players at the middle school level. Now, how do you get somebody from a little town like this – it’s because we follow the instructions. They learn to do the scales like Lillian and I did in Detroit. They learn to do all this stuff. ”
Just before the recital began I had a chance to meet Dick’s 2 students and their mothers. Gerrit Bosma and Amaya accredit Cuchetti School of Music in the many changes in their life; for the better.
It’s not only made me good at music,” Gerrit says “it also helps me have a better understanding in the world around me. Music makes you so much deeper of a person. There’s so much to it and that ambulance driving by is no longer just a noise – it’s a pitch.”
“I’ve had great experience learning with Mr. Cuchetti,” says Amaya. “I really enjoy playing duets with him. It’s nice being able to play with other achievers. Like the way he plays the trumpet. Mr. Cuchetti has taught me a lot about playing music with other people; different rhythms, time and key signatures. It’s been a real help. I just really enjoy my time here.”
One thing I learned during my visit is any child who wants to get involved in music should. It will give their life a whole new perspective. “Music always helps clear the air,” agrees Gerrit and Amaya. I agree too.
Photos and Story by Robin G Coles