Music teacher gets the surprise of his lifetime when he witnesses 300 of his former students all in one place to honor him.
Having a great teacher goes a long way when it comes to building a great life. Mr. Joe Ciccimaro or "Mr. C's" students would proudly call themselves the best example of this assertion. Their love for the beloved music teacher was evident in the beautiful send-off concert, as reported by Inside Edition. Mr. C has called the all-boys La Salle College High School his second home for 5 long decades. During this time, he fostered the talent of people like Hugh Panaro, best known for his role as the Phantom in "Phantom of the Opera" on Broadway and Frank DiLella, an 11-time Emmy Award-winning entertainment journalist and on-air personality for NY1 News. He completely transformed the program and made it the best in Philadelphia. His impact on students was so lasting that many decided to return and be a part of his farewell event.
The concert was narrated by DiLella and had 11 stunning pieces. The opening number was a medley of songs from Bernstein's "West Side Story," which featured Steven Lyons, a sought-after musician on Broadway. This rendition holds a special place in Ciccimaro's heart as it was Bernstein's reference letter that started his career. Hugh Panaro also took the stage to perform "Bring Him Home and Music Of The Night." Former students who participated in the event included Fran Prisco, Michael Scarcelle, Nick Owsik, John Meko, Patrick Tice-Carroll and others. The most touching moment came during the time of "Alma Mater" when Mr. C stood up and conducted the orchestra. The event was organized by Chris Mele, who succeeded Ciccimaro as the school's music director.
After 53 years and a countless number of students impacted by his commitment to the fine arts, Mr. Joe Ciccimaro '57 has taught his last lesson at La Salle College High School.— La Salle College High School (@lschs) May 10, 2023
Thanks to Mr. C for his lifelong dedication to his alma mater - the longest tenured faculty member in… pic.twitter.com/2AGksqdZIM
The whole thing was kept a surprise from Mr. C, who entered the auditorium of La Salle thinking he was attending the "Together As Brothers" capital campaign. It was after seeing the audience and the musicians on the stage that he began figuring it all out. More than 300 of his past and present students had gathered for the special day. The event included a sweet dedication by Panaro and DiLella. DiLella expressed gratitude to his former teacher for "bringing light into the life of thousands of students with the joy of music." They inaugurated the plaque The Forrest Theatre wanted to gift Mr. C for his countless hours of hard work towards musicals that played in that very hall on their way to Broadway. Panaro ended the dedication with heartfelt words for his former instructor, "May he continue to be an inspiration to future students and a beacon of light in Philadelphia's theatre community."
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Mr. C also took the stage and was visibly emotional. He could not believe that so many of his students came to honor him. The teacher expressed his love for the job, "I never felt like I worked a day in my life." He added that the one thing he would miss the most about his work would be the students. Just like he had a profound impact on the students, they also made his life better by being in it.
The moving speech must have left no dry eye in the hall. Taking the program from 12 to 400 musicians was no easy feat, but he did so with his dedication to students and devotion to the craft. DiLella shared with the outlet how Mr.C created a sense of belongingness in the class, "When we walked into his band room, it didn't matter if you were a star on the football field, a star on the basketball court, we walked in, picked up our instruments, sat down at the piano and we were all one."