The Vincent Lombardi Lodge #2270, Rochester New York

                      Members Making a Difference....

Joseph Capogreco

Radio Host, Carosello Italiano

Sunday Mornings 8am - 10am on

Joseph Capogreco

Notes and thoughts on goals achieved and dreams realized.

He was born in Italy. His father is a farmer. His mother is a home maker. He wants to go to school to become a professional, to go to the nearest school in “ginnasio e liceo” but he needs to pay tuition and for books. Like books for instruction in Latin, Italian and Greek language and history. But to buy these and other books he needs, he has to have money to pay for it.

To accomplish this, he goes to the farm and picks vegetables and whatever else he can find to sell (like salt!) at the local public market from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m. all before school begins. He then picks up his school books and walks

the 4 kilometers where school is located in the next town named Locri, in the Province of Reggio Calabria). He just barely gets to school on time and he never misses a day!

He graduates after 13 years (5 years elementary school, 5 years ginnasio, 3 years of liceo. He goes to the final examination (written first) and then to an oral examination (which is in front of 5 teachers!) who examines him in all of the subjects he took over the last 3 years. He passes the examination!
He has an uncle who lives in Rome who offers you lodging and food for a few years while he attends the University. This uncle believes in him. After his third year he goes off on his own and makes speeches on behalf of local politicians running for office. He waits for a job. A job, anywhere. It never happens. Never listen to politicians!

His mother sends him food aid. His uncle continues to support him.  In the meantime, his future wife comes to Italy to marry. He gets married and 6 months later he makes the big jump. He comes to the U.S.A. where he believes like everyone else does, that money paves the streets of America.

He is busy and preoccupied finding a job to survive. He thinks that some way he could become a well known person in his new town. He also thinks that too many people rest after finding a job. They settle into it and achieve a comfort level there. Some will stay there their whole life. Not him.

He never thought that this would happen to him. He works at a dry cleaner’s at first and then he is “promoted" to work in a clothing factory pressing 400 overcoats a day. He does it to make a living for his family while attending the University of Rochester at night. The university is very far away from where he resides and will have no car until one month before graduation!

A time of adjustment sets in while doing work he was unaccustomed to and as yet had no friends in his new hometown. He does not speak the native language yet! He rises at 6 a.m. to be at work by 7:30 a.m. and studies at night for the next lesson at the University of Rochester. He endures the cold and snow he never experienced before. He waits perpetually it seems for the bus to come to get home and be with his wife for at least a few hours before going back to work the next day. It all starts again. He took extra lessons during the day and also attended night school. None of this was ever envisioned when he left Rome, Italy to come to the city of Rochester, N.Y.

Luckily, a senior co-worker who knew that he was attending classes at the U of R while working at the factory helped him. When class time conflicted with his factory hours, the co-worker punched his time card for him. When he returned to the factory after the day time class, the co-worker helped him make up for the lost time. He graduates from the U of R in 1959.

He applies for a teaching job as a language teacher. He begins teaching Spanish and things go well. So well in fact, that his Principal and Vice Principal convinced him to apply for a scholarship to the San Miguel Spanish-American Academy in Mexico. He travels by Greyhound bus for eight days and seven nights to San Miguel.
Someone taps his shoulder after he arrived on a sunny morning in the Main Square. “Are you Capogreco?” he is asked. The stranger takes him to the host family he is to stay with in Mexico.

He begins class the next day and after only two weeks he begins teaching Spanish to other American students. He aces all of his examinations. That meant that the Scholarship program could be completed in five weeks instead of the original six week schedule. Meanwhile his wife waits impatiently with his three year old son back home.

He is asked to begin teaching Italian when he gets home in the very same district where many Italians live. At the interview the new Principal tells him he has the job and furthermore that he can design the entire language program. Thirty plus years later, he worked at the same school with many different Principals.

(1959 – 1967)
He defines his three main goals and sets out to achieve them one at a time. First, he wanted to be a teacher. Next, he wanted to be a writer. He had composed many short stories and poems over the years. He later achieved that goal when he began his many years as a newspaper correspondent. Finally, he wanted to do an Italian music radio program. But how?

In order to have a have an ethnic radio program he surmised that first he needed to find a willing radio station. For a year or two he tried to find one willing to take a chance. Finally, in 1967 he finds an FM station that needs sponsor money. That station was WCMF. When asked about what sponsors he has, the would be radio host told management not to worry, that it was all taken care of. In fact, the new Sunday morning program had no sponsors (or records!)

In ten short days he is about to achieve his third goal, to have an Italian music radio program. He had never been on the radio before. He sets out to find sponsors. He signs on two, one of which is Rubino’s Italian Food Store. Peter Rubino would be there to mark their 40 year partnership in 2007. Next, where to find Italian records? He goes to the only store in Rochester where Italian music is sold. He borrows some music and begins to consider his format for the program. In a matter of a few years his program goes from one hour to two, then to three and eventually five hours. In addition, the sponsors are increasing too.

The program begins to hit a stride when he signs on a correspondent from Rome who sent taped interviews with young stars struggling to make a name for themselves. One such actor was Harrison Ford. The correspondent took great pride in predicting that one day the young star would be big one day.

WCMF was making some money then and becomes a rock station. It becomes the number one rated station in Rochester, NY. The station is later sold and the Sunday morning radio program was no longer welcome there. No problem. A new place is found on the AM dial and becomes home to the program now widely known as “Carousello Italiano,” or Italian Carousel.

Subcontracting time on the new station proved to work well for both parties.  The Sunday morning tradition continued from 9 a.m. to Noon. For a classical touch, a second radio program is launched on the local public radio station. Music on “Arcobaleno Italiana” or “Italian Rainbow” would include opera, concertos and music for refined tastes. To him it was having more fun with music, culture and conversation.

He becomes involved in many clubs, societies, community organizations, and is featured in 1970 in The Times Union. He serves on many committees and boards. His ability to communicate to the Italian –American community meant that causes could be spotlighted on the air. One friend voiced his dream for the community. It was to institute an Italian cultural center; one that stems from education. But first they needed benefactors.

Utilizing contacts and the power of a proud Italian-American community, lawyers, doctors and politicians come on Carousello Italiano to help articulate the cause and draw funds. In a matter of a year over $88,000.00 was raised. That dream was realized in 197X as Casa Italiana was built on the campus of Nazareth College of Rochester. It has since become a great cultural center for the advancement of Italian language, art, history and education.

He continues his community service work through the years with the Metro Carlson YMCA and Kiwanis International where he served as president of the Penfield-Perinton chapter. He was one of the first financial supporters to contribute to another institution he helped to promote; the Italian American Community Center (IACC). There he serves on the board and participates in the foundation. He also is the Italian page editor, “Editore of the monthly newsletter published by the IACC.

He travels and works with the YMCA locally and in his native hometown in Calabria, R.C. He receives recognition upon his 20th and 30th years in broadcasting with banquets attended by friends, listeners and sponsors. He retires from teaching and applies all of his energies to his radio program his civic organizations and his monthly newspaper column. He never sits still.