Be the Change: Frank Strazzarino – Giving The Gift Of Music

art-0613-btc1Frank Strazzarino, founder and president of Redding Piano Angels and CEO of the Greater Redding Chamber of Commerce, believes that all children should have the opportunity to learn to play a musical instrument. His love for piano music served as the inspiration for starting Piano Angels in 2011.

When Redding’s last retail piano store, Piano Works, closed its doors, Frank recognized a need in the community for a place for young families to purchase a piano so their children could enhance their skills, musicianship, and enjoyment of music on the real instrument instead of a keyboard. Thus, Redding Piano Angels, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was born. “The purpose of our organization is to acquire used pianos for student use,” says Strazzarino. “And we want to make sure that we can give families a high level of certainty that the piano they receive is serviceable.”

As well as providing assistance with piano purchases for qualifying families, Piano Angels offers a sheet music library, piano and keyboard lending programs, piano-lesson scholarships, zero-interest short-term loans, and group and competitive performance opportunities.

Jennifer Dugan’s family is the recipient of a piano offered through Piano Angels. She learned about the organization from Zonia Warchala, her daughter Ellie’s piano teacher. As Ellie grew in musicianship, the keyboard she practiced on could no longer produce the quality of music she wanted or needed. Jennifer explains that they went through the research of trying to find a used piano, and discovered how difficult it was to know what was and wasn’t a good instrument. “It was always my dream to have a piano for my child,” she says, “but many pianos were very expensive, and we didn’t know what we might be getting.”

Following a referral from Warchala, Jennifer and her family went through Piano Angels’ qualifying process.  The perfect piano was found for them. “So many people came together to make the beautiful gift of music possible,” says Jennifer.

Educational research shows that children who study music often perform better academically. Strazzarino saw this first hand when he met a young boy who had disabilities on the autism spectrum. After receiving a piano with the help of Piano Angels, the boy bloomed into a first-rate musician and a more effective student. “When he sits at the piano and plays Mozart, he is masterful,” Strazzarino says. “We are changing children’s lives in a positive way and making a real difference in their development.”

Lillie, smiling after completing her first-ever piano recital.  Lillie received a piano with the assistance of Redding Piano Angels.

Lillie, smiling after completing her first-ever piano recital. Lillie received a piano with the assistance of Redding Piano Angels.

In 1993, Strazzarino and his wife Carol moved to Redding from Cupertino where he served as CEO of the Chamber of Commerce for five years. Prior to that he worked for three years at the South San Francisco Chamber. His professional history also includes 10 years as a bank vice president and several years as a middle and high school English and social science teacher. He and Carol have two adult children. Their son Robert has a software business in Chico, and their daughter Stephanie is getting her masters degree in child development from CSU, Chico.

When not doing Chamber business or working with Piano Angels, Strazzarino enjoys spending time with his family, swimming, traveling, and collecting Coca-Cola memorabilia and political buttons. He takes piano lessons. “In general, it’s hard for me to stick with one thing,” he says. “Studying piano makes me focus. That helps me in working with others because I can really pay attention to what they are telling me.”

The ability to pay attention to others is clear to those with whom he interacts. Valerie Washburn, board secretary of Piano Angels and operations manager of the Greater Redding Chamber of Commerce, says, “Frank is a great leader who is a caring individual and sensitive to other people’s needs.” Jennifer Dugan agrees, “He is terrific. He listens and really cares.”

Regardless of whether he’s doing chamber business or helping others through Redding Piano Angels, Strazzarino’s passion for life is evident. “At this stage of my life,” he says, “I’ve learned that if there is something you want to do, do it now.” It’s the philosophy that runs his life, and he encourages others to follow it too.

Contact Frank Strazzarino at frank@reddingpianoangels.com or visit http://www.reddingpianoangels.com.

[sws_blue_box box_size=”580″]The mission of our Be the Change column is to feature a community member from the North State who is actively making a difference in the lives of children and families. If you would like to nominate someone who is making a difference, please write to pn@northstateparent.com[/sws_blue_box]

Carolyn Warnemuende
About Carolyn Warnemuende

Author Carolyn Warnemuende has two daughters and five grandchildren, and lives with her husband in Redding. She writes parenting and educational articles, sponsors a school in Uganda, and visits Africa twice a year. She receives great joy in taking daily care of her four-year-old granddaughter who was adopted from Ethiopia.

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