Frank Scafuri was always a singer.
He recalled that one of his earliest memories was when he watched television and sang along to Johnny Ray’s “Cry (If Your Sweetheart Sends a Letter of Goodbye).” He then sang in the junior varsity, varsity and general chorus at Lynbrook High School, before he attended the Juilliard School for performing arts in Manhattan from 1969 to 1973. After school, Frank had a chance to record a song with Gary Lawrence and his Sizzling Synchopaters in the early 1970s. By the 1980s, he was a music director at Our Lady of Peace Church, and he now works as a music director at the Sandel Senior Center in Rockville Centre.
But, the now 68-year-old never had an opportunity to record his own song. That is, until earlier this year, when his wife, MaryAnn, told him to enter a silent auction for the chance to win a one-hour recording session with internationally renowned guitarist John Pizzarelli. She told him it would be the perfect opportunity to record a Christmas song he wrote in 1973.
“I really believe in that song,” she said.
So, on Feb. 10, Frank hunched over his computer until three minutes before 2 p.m., when he placed his bid for $350. When the clock ticked 2 p.m., Frank received a text message saying he won.
Frank then made some edits to “A Small Town Christmas,” and recorded a demo with Pizzarelli a week later. After the seventh take, Frank asked if he could use Pizzarelli’s name on the demo tape, to which Pizzarelli replied, “Go out and make lots of money.”
That just made Frank more determined to get the song produced. He handed out cards asking people to listen to the song, and asked other artists for advice.
“Frank is a person who says, ‘I’ve got an idea,’ and he never stops,” MaryAnn said. “He follows through as far as the path takes him.”
Eventually, Bob Shusterman, the leader of the Dwight Howard Orchestra who worked with Frank in the 1970s, told him to contact John Oddo, who agreed to professionally arrange the song. At the same time, Frank contacted Steve Epstein, who played Frank’s music over the Hofstra radio station in the 1970s and then recorded the Sizzling Synchopaters in the 1970s. Epstein has since won 17 Grammy Awards and produced the cast album for “Hello Dolly” and for the revival of “Carousel” on Broadway. Epstein said he agreed to “check out” Frank’s song, and “thought it was really good.”
“I thought it was very melodic and very Christmassy,” he said.
Epstein then made some suggestions, and Frank finally produced his song on June 25. “The dream took over 50 years to reach this point,” he said. “I’m not crazy to keep on dreaming even at 68. I just don’t know anything else, but being positive and persistent about everything I do.”
MaryAnn added that she enjoyed listening to the performance. “I was in the recording studio and I almost dropped,” she said. “I couldn’t believe how good it sounded.”
“A Small Town Christmas” was released on Nov. 1. It is now available for purchase on Amazon Prime, iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, TIDAL, iHeartRadio, Google Play and Napster.