Class of 1959 graduate reflects on his education and career as musician

Jan. 20, 2024

By Rayan Yamout
Staff Writer

LHS Class of 2022 graduate Isabella DiPisa was practicing her snare drum in August 2023 when she made a discovery. The book she had been using, which is titled “Portraits in Rhythm: 50 Studies for Snare Drum,” was written by Anthony J. Cirone, who grew up in Lyndhurst.

“I’ve been playing out of Cirone’s book since my first semester,” said DiPisa, who is a sophomore majoring in Music and Entertainment Industries and minoring in English/Literature at William Paterson University in Wayne. 

DiPisa said while she was taking a break from practicing, she read the back of Cirone’s book and realized his last name sounded familiar. 

“It wasn’t until I Googled him, curious to find more information, that I learned he went to LHS,” DiPisa said.

She then reached out to LHS music teacher and band director Mr. Chwalyk to share the news about Cirone. Chwalyk followed up by contacting Cirone via phone call to learn his story.

Cirone picked up percussion in his youth. He said his teachers saw potential in him and directed him to opportunities outside the classroom.

“My mother [had] a teacher come into my house who gave me a lesson on the snare drums,” Cirone said. “One thing led to another. Different teachers recommended that I pursue what I was passionate about from when I was a kid to when I was in LHS.”

Cirone honed his skills during his time at LHS, auditioning and making it into the New Jersey All-State Band during his junior and senior years of high school.

He said during his junior year, William Gee, LHS’ band director at the time, recommended that Cirone work with William Laverack, a graduate of the Juilliard School in New York City who had been a member of the U.S. Marine Band.

“[Laverack] taught me the technique to get into Juilliard,” Cirone said. “I took his advice and made it in, then stayed there for plenty of years.”

After his time at Juilliard, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees, Cirone spent decades playing the bass drum, bongos, concert toms, timbales and timpani in the San Francisco Symphony

Cirone said he is now enjoying retirement, traveling between properties he owns in California and South Carolina. He still writes rhythmic snippets and études, which are short compositions designed to practice a particular skill.

“Different teachers recommended that I pursue what I was passionate about from when I was a kid to when I was in LHS.”

Chwalyk said in his conversations with Cirone, he was especially interested in learning why Cirone decided to write his acclaimed book, which was published in 1966 and is still popular today.

“He felt that drummers were being too mechanical and robotic in their playing. It became all about playing the right rhythms at the right dynamic at the right time and less about expressing yourself on a line the way that a wind player would,” Chwalyk said.

He said Cirone’s professional path can serve as an example for students who aspire to have a career in music.

“It is very possible. You just have to work for it,” Chwalyk said.

Sophomore Lucas Guerrero said Cirone is an inspiration to him and his peers.

“No matter where you’re coming from, you have the same chances as anyone else,” Guerrero said.

He said Cirone’s experiences show LHS’ musicians they do not have to rule out a career in music.

“His story encourages us. If someone from our school did it, then any one of us can do it too,” said Guerrero.

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