Today is the birthday of my all-time favorite Amsterdam musician. Hands down, it’s my older brother, Matthew Cinquanti. When we were kids, we moved to a house that had an old, pretty banged up, out-of-tune piano. For my brother Jerry and me, that thing was just a pretty neat toy and we’d pound on it until our parents started screaming at us to stop. But to my brother Matt, that old upright was his passion. He’d sit at it for hours and teach himself how to make it work the way it was supposed to. Within months, he was playing complete songs. Finally, when he got to fifth grade in the old East Main Street School, a music teacher by the name of Mrs. Wilcox recognized his talent and began nurturing it. God Bless her soul.
I will never forget watching a TV show one night with just Matt and hearing a pianist play Rhapsody in Blue. I turned to him and said I wish you could play that and he went over to the piano and played the damn thing. I had to get him in the right mood, which was never easy (and still isn’t) but I would sing or hum him a song I happened to like at the time and within a few minutes he’d be playing it flawlessly, even if he himself had never heard it before. It’s almost as if he knew what the next note should be.
He usually hated playing for our Mom and me. I think it was because we’d always start singing along. So I’d have to sneak my listens when I was growing up, hiding in the bedroom or underneath the dining room table.
I’ve had the good fortune to see some of the greatest musicians in the World perform live and thanks to the Internet, I can watch and listen on demand to some of my favorite all-time artists perform my favorite all-time songs. But still, I can honestly say the favorite musical performances in my lifetime took place while I was lying under a dining room table. And if you happen to see my brother Matt, don’t tell him I wrote this because he will surely get as pissed at me as he used to get when he realized I was hiding under that table.
When Matt purchased a grand piano, I took his Young Chang upright and both my daughters learned to play on it. A few years ago, my youngest daughter and her husband told us she would take that piano for the new condo they had just purchased in Brooklyn. Ironically, September 16th just happens to also be the birthday of the guy I asked to move that piano to Brooklyn.