Category Archives: classical musicians

The Autograph.

Mammy had an autographed photo of Billy Sunday’s wife.
She kept it in her Bible.
But, why?
According to Wikipedia, William Ashley Sunday was an American athlete who, after being a popular outfielder in baseball’s National League during the 1880s, became the most celebrated and influential American Christian evangelist during the first two decades of the 20th century. Helen Amelia Thompson Sunday was his wife, an indefatigable organizer of his huge evangelistic campaigns during the first decades of the twentieth century, and eventually, an evangelistic speaker in her own right.
Mammy was my grandmother. Born in 1890, she and Pappy moved to Erie from Scranton/Wilkes-Barre when Pappy was hired by BuCyrus-Erie to build cranes.
She used to tell me of the tent meetings down state which she had attended, where she met Pappy. These were huge gatherings of people, who came together from all points rural to hear the Gospel preached by Billy Sunday. I believe Mammy recounted that she was led to the Lord by Helen Sunday, after one of these meetings. I also remember that, while she used to enjoy playing Solitaire alone in her bedroom, Mammy gave up the deck of cards once she got saved. I often wonder if thereafter she stopped playing the Key Game, which celebrated psychic skill and at which she excelled, as well.
Mammy’s name was Mae Elisabeth Learn. She’d been second maid to a wealthy, Jewish brewer in the Poconos before meeting Henry. He courted her, to and from Sunday’s tent meetings, until the day he declared: “ You Mae Learn to be Sweet.”
Pappy’s name was Henry Thomas Sweet, and his parents had hailed from Cornwall, England. When he and Mammy married and traveled to Erie, Pappy carried on Billy Sunday’s evangelism by preaching on the street corners. His was a hellfire and brimstone, Bible brandishing English orator’s style; with his booming, a-tonal baritone, he’d hand down God’s order to the vagrants: get up from the gutter! repent! and, get a job.
When I look at images of Billy Sunday, I can’t help but note how much he resembled my grandfather. They shared cut features and a strong jaw and the same, resolute expression. Mammy did not resemble Helen Sunday; she had a softer countenance, and always bore a sweet smile.
But, together, they had both responded to the call of evangelism proposed by Billy and Helen Sunday. They’d pulled up stakes and moved all the way across the Commonwealth to carry it forward. And, Mammy, who spent the rest of her days raising their four daughters, tending two flower and vegetable gardens and, together with Pappy baking hundreds of loaves of bread and both hooking and braiding rugs, sat in her rocking chair when day was done, Bible in hand, praying for everyone who came to mind, with Helen Sunday’s photograph just inside the cover of her Bible.
I remember the year I met my husband. We’d been introduced through a mutual friend, whom we both respected greatly. Our friend, and his private teacher, was the principal oboeist of the Erie Philharmonic during the years when Maestro Eiji Oue held the baton.
I had developed a deep respect for our maestro, which bordered on fixation. He had aroused every passion within me, from artistic to sensual to spiritual. He, however, had a strong preference for his principal oboeist, whose petite stature and feisty nature matched his own.
My husband to be was enamored of her, as well; but, she was soundly married to the love of her own life, consumed by their mutual performing careers and and the raising of their four children.
And so, each of us foundlings was brought together by stronger forces, upon the common ground of emotional commitment to another – he, to our mutual friend, and I to my Maestro. When my husband proposed marriage to me, the act was spurred by her very challenge; when I accepted, my anticipations extended to include the potential for an expanding realm of human connection which a bond with him would create. I would marry up, into a world which could include, by scant degrees, the object of my passions.
Maestro Oue did not attend our wedding, though I believe we sent him an invitation, and both of us were sure to include our beloved oboeist in the musical ceremony. Our marriage lasted just over two and a half years (not counting the year of courtship), the second of which my husband spent living and working in Indiana, and it ended seven months after my mother’s death.
I have two, framed companion photos of myself with our maestro. And, there is a Wheaties cereal box which features his image, nestled on the top shelf of my entertainment center in the music room of my home where I have practiced, rehearsed, and provided private lessons for 30 years.
At the top of the box, just above the logo, in Japanese:
his autograph.
© 9/18/19 Ruth Ann Scanzillo.   All rights those of the author, whose story it is and whose name appears above this line. No copying, in whole or in part, permitted without the author’s permission. Thank you for respecting original material.

Why You Never Saw Her Out.

Formerly titled:


Professional Pianist / ‘Cellist.

Dear Readers of

A few have pointed out that I have no professional website; herewith a brief history of my work in the region, as a preliminary bio for the future website. Dates are occasionally approximate because, well, I’ve been around awhile and the memory isn’t complete….thanks!

Ruth Ann Scanzillo

pianist; ‘cellist

PO BOX 3628 Erie, Pennsylvania 16508

DOB: April 26, 1957                                                                       814.453.3523; 814.881.5372


SUNY @ Fredonia, Fredonia NY

1975 – ’77 – Graphic Design/Printmaking;

1979 – ’81 – December, 1981: Bachelor of Music, Music Education, magna cum laude, concentration: cello – Dr. Louis Richardson, Professor of Cello;

1989 – ’94 – SAA Suzuki Summer Institutes, Stephen’s Point WI; Ithaca College, Ithaca NY; Chicago, IL; registered, Violin IA; IB; Cello, I, II, and III



1975 – rehearsal/performance piano, Footlights Theatre, Erie, PA

  • “You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown!” – Jane Behan, musical director

1982-83 – rehearsal/performance piano,  Lincoln Theatre, Erie, PA

  • “SUGAR” – Mark Moffatt, director;
  • “HAIR”  —  Mark Moffat, director;

1984 – rehearsal/performance piano/instrumental ensemble director, Erie Playhouse, Erie, PA:

  • “Ain’t Misbehavin'” – Leo Estes, John Burton, directors;

circa 1985 – rehearsal/performance piano, live scene underscoring, Erie Playhouse, Erie PA:

  • “I Remember Mama” – Charlie Corritore, director;

circa 1999 – Piano I,  Fredonia Opera House, Fredonia, NY:

  • “The Fantastiks” – summer stock cast; Harry John Brown, music director;

1999 – 2000 – rehearsal pianist, Mercyhurst University D’Angelo Department of Music:

  • “Song of Norway” — Louisa Jonason, opera director;
  • “Don Giovanni” —– Louisa Jonason, opera director;

2000 – 11 –  Production, direction, set design and build, live piano accompaniment and synth. keyboard underscoring, The Dillon Drama Club,  Grover Cleveland Elementary School, Erie PA:

  • Beauty and The Beast (final production assisting founder Carolyn Dillon)
  • Wizard of Oz (2002)
  • Oliver!
  • Annie, Jr (2009)
  • A Christmas Carol
  • A Christmas Story
  • Spanky and Our Gang (two shorts, original staged adaptations);
  • Star Wars (five movies, consolidated, original staged adaptation by verbal permission conference call w/ LucasFilm licensing);
  • You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown (2011)

2011 – rehearsal and performance piano, Mercyhurst University, D’Angelo Department of Music/opera:

  • “TINTYPES” — Louisa Jonason, director (slated for August, 2011, West Bank Cafe, Manhattan. Hurricane Irene aborted); performed, September 11, 2011, Walker Hall, Mercyhurst University;

2015 – rehearsal pianist, “The Selfish Giant”, original opera by Stephen Colantti, Erie Opera Theatre, Brent Weber and James Bobick, directors;

2019 – performance piano, Keys 3, “MAMMA MIA!”, Cathedral Prep, Fr. Mik DeMartinis, director; Will Steadman, music director;

Collaborative/Chamber Music:

1986 – present:  piano collaborator for juries, hearings, college recitals and concerto competitions:

  • SUNY@Fredonia Conservatory of Music (1989 – 2008) – studios of Barry Kilpatrick, Marc Guy, Susan Royal, James East, Jack Gillette;
  • Edinboro University music department (1999 – 2014) – studios of LeAnne Wistrom, Patrick Jones, David Sublette, Robert Dolwick, Howard Lyon, Brad Amidon, Anne Wintle-Ortega;
  • Mercyhurst University D’Angelo Department of Music, vocal and instrumental performance departments (1999 – 2000; 2008-12) – studios of Louisa Jonason, Geoffrey Wands, Robert Dolwick, Chris Rapier, Alyssa, Scott Meier; and, with Shaun Pomer (1989) and Glen Kwok;
  • Erie Jr. Philharmonic Eiji Oue Concerto competition (1989 – 2013) – violin; trumpet; clarinet; tuba;
  • COYO Concerto competition, Cleveland, OH (2007) – cello; soprano;
  • Young Artist’s Debut Orchestra concerto competition (2007-08) – violin;

2011-12  – rehearsal and performance pianist, vocal performance studio of Louisa Jonason, D’Angelo Department of Music, Mercyhurst University;

2019 – String Trio, Caryn Moore, vln; Sunny Saunders, vla; self, cello; works by Pleyel, Boccherini, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Massenet, et al;


including, but not limited to:

  • Artunian; Bach; Barber; Beethoven; Bernstein; Bozza; Brahms; Britten; Creston; Chopin; Chaminade; Copland; Colantti; Dvorak; Franck; Grieg; Hartley; Haydn; Hindemith; Hummel; Ibert; Korngold; Loeffler; Mozart; Mendelssohn; Neruda; Piazzolla; Puccini; Rossini; Rachmaninoff; Ravel; Saint-Saens; Schubert; Schumann; Shostakovich; R. Strauss; Telemann; Vaughn-Williams; Wieniawski; Verdi; Von Weber; H. Wolf;

for the following instruments:

  • soprano; mezzo; tenor; baritone; bass;
  • violin;
  • viola;
  • cello;
  • bass;
  • clarinet;
  • oboe;
  • bassoon;
  • flute;
  • trumpet;
  • trombone;
  • Euphonium;
  • French horn;
  • natural horn;
  • tuba
  • marimba;
  • alto and tenor saxophone;

Orchestral Piano:

1989 – 2000   – Erie Philharmonic Orchestra, Maestros Eiji Oue and Peter Bay; composers: Copland; Korngold, et al   (film scores)



1986 – 2013   — section cello, Erie Philharmonic Orchestra, Erie PA, under maestros: Walter Hendl; Eiji Oue; Peter Bay; Hugh Keelan; Daniel Meyer; Jeff Tyzik; various additional guest batons;

1986 – 2011 — section cello/Principal cello/harpsichord, Erie Chamber Orchestra, Maestro Bruce Morton Wright;

2011 – 2018 — Principal cello, Erie Chamber Orchestra, maestros Matthew Kraemer and Bradley Thachuk, musical directors, and various baton candidates;

1999 – present:  Principal cello, Bemus Bay Pops Orchestra/Chautauqua Pops Orchestra, Bruce Morton Wright and John Marcellus, musical directors; Chautauqua Pops Strings, Lenny Solomon, musical director;

Artist Pick up hires:

  • circa 1987 – Johnny Mathis, Erie Warner Theatre;
  • circa 1992 – Anne Murray, “
  • 2008 – Clay Aiken, Erie Civic Center;
  • 2015 – MANNHEIM STEAMROLLER, Red Tour, Erie Warner Theatre;

2019 – String Trio, Caryn Moore, vln; Sunny Saunders, vla; self, cello; works by Pleyel, Boccherini, Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Massenet, et al;

Other Work History:

1986 – 2011 —  Public school music teacher, K – 12, School District of the City of Erie, PA  –  general/vocal and instrumental, including: marching band, choir, chorus, string ensemble, string orchestra, music appreciation, and special classes for the hearing impaired

1989 – present — Private studio teacher, Suzuki-registered cello (Books 1 – 4) and violin (Books 1 – 3).

Chamber Music:

To be continued…………..

Scholarships and Awards:

1975 – Card-Catlin Art Award, Erie PA – portfolio adjudicated;

1981 – Gaeliewicz String Award, SUNY@Fredonia; Hillman Scholarship, SUNY@Fredonia;

1984 – S.A.D.I.E Award for Drama In Erie :  Best Orchestra, “Ain’t Misbehavin”, Leo Estes/John Burton, directors; starring Wydetta Carter, John Burton, Michael Henderson, Tootie Howard, Marlene Spells…..

© 7/22/19  Ruth Ann Scanzillo. I certify that the above information is true and accurate, to the best of my memory. John Burton may not have been a director of Ain’t Misbehavin’, but I believe that I am correct on all other points.  Thank you.













The Capriol Suite.

Strains of Warlock, piped across the live night air; amplified, then compressed: a posted video, momentarily searing the thymus. A fresh brushburn.
Before that which honors principle, do most choose that which serves them?
Remembrance of the glory days, decades past, under the town’s most celebrated maestro’s baton, integral to these. The house, always full; the town, equally filled, with its talk. Performance, live, virtually every weekend. Inside; outside; running out, further, by bus. To most ears and eyes, everybody fully involved, equally satisfied.
Except not.
One handful, older musicians, heretofore secure, contracts unceremoniously revoked, scheduled to drop out of sight from month to next.
These, positioned, in the back desks of string sections, barely noticed by the teeming and energized, that complement rallied close to the stick to be among those increasingly closer.
The lesser talk, of discontent, unnoticed; no warning, no choice; mutterings, whisperings of master contract terms, incongruent with the surrounding ebullience. Such exchanges not self sustaining, lacking gravitas, generating remote, averting eyes, fading like irrelevance…
Now, among these, to float, beyond the stage
to dance
the Capriol Suite.
© 7/16/19  Ruth Ann Scanzillo. All rights those of the author, who played the Capriol Suite, and all the other Suites, under all the batons. Please; don’t steal “fading like irrelevance.” Okay? Thanks.