The holidays are traditionally a time to spread messages of peace and goodwill, a time to celebrate with friends and family and a time of magic and joy. Singer/songwriter Frank Scafuri, the former music director of St. Rocco’s Church in Glen Cove, has attempted to evoke these feelings with his recently released original Christmas song, “A Small Town Christmas,” the recording of which allowed him to realize a 50-year-long dream.
“This is my dream come true,” said Scafuri.
Scafuri was born in Brooklyn and moved to Lynbrook in 1958, at the age of 8. He always loved to sing and joined the middle school and high school choirs. In high school, he began taking private voice lessons and paid for them by pumping gas and polishing cars on weekends in a local service station. After graduating high school in 1968, Scafuri was encouraged by his voice teacher Jane Robin Longo to audition for The Juilliard School, newly founded at Lincoln Center.
“I was accepted and attended from 1969 to 1973. To help pay for the cost of my education, I got work singing for weddings and funerals in churches. Something that was not in my plan since I wanted to sing with a band in hopes of getting a recording contract,” he said.
However, he said church work was becoming abundant and over the next 40 years, he worked as a church organist, cantor and minister of music in the Dioceses of Rockville Centre and Brooklyn. He also sang at wedding and bar mitzva receptions with club date bands.
“The dream of a recording contract was still in the back of my mind,” he said.
While still attending Juilliard, Scafuri would visit his parents at their home upstate, in Windham—long before the ski slope was built—and take long walks in the woods. During these walks, he would sing.
“This was the inspiration for my song,” he said. “It was so quiet and I would sing and then come home and write it down.”
He wrote “A Small Town Christmas” in 1973; the song took about 20 hours to write and was something he had put away for a number of years before pulling out the file last February, when he learned about a silent auction being held at Molloy College in Rockville Centre to win a one-hour recording session with internationally renowned guitarist John Pizzarelli.
“The opening bid had to start at $250,” said Scafuri. “About five days before the bidding would be over, someone bid $300. I couldn’t let this opportunity pass me by. At the minutes to the 2 p.m. deadline, I placed my bid for $350. No one else challenged it. At 2 p.m. I got a text message. I was the winner.”
He then dug up his Christmas song, made some changes on the lead sheet, filed a revised copyright and sent it to the artistic director of Molloy College, who forwarded it to Pizzarelli.
He recorded the song on Feb. 17, then placed the recording on social media hoping that it would find its way to become a Christmas classic. However, he still had larger dreams of either having the song recorded by a major artist or turning it into a larger production.
Through an old friend, he connected with John Oddo, a pianist/arranger who was Rosemary Clooney’s pianist and conductor for 19 years, and found multi-Grammy Award winning producer Steve Epstein online, a friend who produced a Columbia Masterworks album 40 years ago. After hiring them both to come on board, Scafuri booked recording time at Cove City Studios in Glen Cove in late June, transforming the duet into a 10-piece orchestration.
“This dream took over 50 years to reach this point,” said Scafuri. “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.”
The song is available on Amazon Prime Digital Music, iTunes, Apple, Tidal, Deezer, Spotify, iHeartradio, Napster and Google play.
In a world that’s becoming increasingly more rushed and materialistic, his song conveys the enjoyment of the basics of life and knowing it’s out there, if you search for them.
“This song is about the joy of simple things in a greedy world,” he said. “For me, it’s not about earning a buck, it’s trying to show what simplicity can bring into a person’s life.”