In tune with the Nassau Pops

Tony Danza stars in a return of the orchestra's gala benefit concert

Maestro Louis Panacciulli conducts the Nassau Pops Symphony Orchestra, which he refers to as his “family.”
Maestro Louis Panacciulli conducts the Nassau Pops Symphony Orchestra, which he refers to as his “family.”
Courtesy Nassau Pops

Their absence has been sorely missed by Nassau Pops fans, CP Nassau, the concert’s beneficiary, and orchestra members. Now, after a three-year pandemic-imposed absence, Maestro Louis Panacciulli and his orchestra are back on the Tilles Center stage with their popular gala concert in support of the Cerebral Palsy Association of Nassau County, next Sunday, Oct. 15. This year the orchestra welcomes Tony Danza and his band as their special guests.

The concert continues to feature the Nassau Pops signature blend of popular and classical music as well as an inspiring moment with Creation, the CP Nassau vocal team that has made their annual appearance a heartwarming tradition since 2004.

“I’ve truly missed this concert,” says Panacciulli, the orchestra’s longtime musical director. “The orchestra is family, and this is one big lovefest. I’m so glad to be back at Tilles Center during our 40th season. It’s always exciting to be here. So many wonderful people have crossed this stage.”

The collaboration between the Nassau Pops and CP Nassau goes back to his mother, who was a member of the CP auxiliary in Valley Stream.

“In the past, we had done benefits for Special Olympics, pop concerts for hospitals,” he recalls. “But the idea for doing this came one day when I was discussing with her the idea of doing a benefit concert for CP Nassau. I’m thrilled to carry on her legacy.”

And he’s delighted to return to Tilles Center.

“We knew it had to be special and are so fortunate to get Tony Danza to participate,” Panacciulli says. “He was very interested in working with a symphonic band.”

This collaboration brings a unique twist to Danza’s acclaimed cabaret show, “Songs and Stories.” Combining Danza’s wit, charm, storytelling — with a dash of soft shoe and even Danza on the ukulele — the “Taxi” and “Who’s the Boss” actor sings his favorite standards from the Great American Songbook while he interweaves stories about his life and personal connection to the music.

Some might not realize that Danza, who grew up on Long Island and attended Malverne High School, is a well-established song and dance man, in addition to his acting chops in television, film and on stage.

  “He brings a lot of different things to the show,” Panacciulli says. “He draws in the crowd with ‘Angel Eyes,’ the big Frank Sinatra tune.”

And throughout his 70-minute set, Danza is thoroughly enjoying himself.

“He always has a big smile on his face,” Panacciulli says. “He’s certainly having a good time. And I guarantee the audience will as well.”

The language of music is clearly special to Panacciulli.

“Music crosses over all lines, whether you’re young or old, no matter if you’re on the right side of the aisle or the left. The Nassau Pops is back at full strength, doing what we set out to do — not only to make music, but to make a difference.”

That’s where Creation comes in, the singers who participate in CP Nassau’s Adult Day Treatment Program. As part of the opening segment, they’ll perform “Sweet Caroline,” “Georgia on My Mind” and “God Bless the USA.”

Singers David Tindal and Chris Wawrzonek have “grown up” with the orchestra.

“I’m filled with such a sense of gratitude that I can affect two lives by giving them a chance to perform in front of a full orchestra and a large audience,” Panacciulli says. “We share something special when we share music together. The audience gives them standing ovations every time. It’s so amazing to see what they can do.”

And for Panacciulli — a Franklin Square resident, who has been at the helm of the Nassau Pops since 1984 (and also serves as band director at Nassau Community College) — that moment defines this concert.

“We always want to leave something behind after the notes have faded away,” he adds. “Creation is a by-product the wonderful work that CP Nassau does. It does my heart good to help them and give back to the community through the gift of music.”

Panacciulli gratefully acknowledges Long Island-based credit union Jovia, which has been the gala’s title sponsor since 2012. Proceeds from every ticket sold are donated directly to CP Nassau.