Biography

BIO

1960′s – There was an old player piano on a dirt floor in the caretaker’s cottage in Elmsford, NY, where he lived with his parents. Joe starts plunking out the theme melody from Captain Kangaroo on the piano. His father was an avid jazz fan and pianist who performed with comedian Jonathan Winters. The first music Joe Jr. heard was that from the TV, his father, The Modern Jazz Quartet, Oscar Peterson and Dizzie Gillespie on the “Victrola“. Joe’s paternal grandfather played the guitar and mandolin. Joe’s mother, Ede, a pianist and accordionist, gave him his first music lesson showing him the names of the notes on the piano and the treble clef. His maternal grandmother was music teacher, his aunt a jazz bassist, and his great aunt, Ede Mae Smith, a soprano prima donna who shared the stage with George M. Cohan.

In 1967 Joe begins formal piano lessons with RICHARD MARQUIS, a jazz pianist from Boston that had relocated right behind Joe’s home when the family moved to White Plains, NY. In the third grade he is singled out during general music class and asked to prepare Jingle Bells on the “flutophone” not only in G as the rest of class had to, but in F, D and E major, an interesting feat due to the completely diatonic nature of those plastic flutes based in concert C, but some creative cross-fingering combined with under or over blowing got the job done at a slow tempo.

Joe attends jazz and classical concerts with his parents and started getting interested in other instruments. Rather than taking an old-school, hard nosed approach insisting that he “stick with one instrument and learn it”, Joe’s parents supported his enthusiasm and obtained some old and dilapidated horns and stringed instruments from whatever the previous generation had not thrown out. After they were properly overhauled, Joe practiced on them and this proved to be a wonderful blessing for which Joe is very grateful. After learning musical fundamentals on piano and then applying them to any instrument, Joe has made a career as a multi-instrumentalist, with most of his professional work on keyboard and woodwind instruments. His VALHALLA HIGH SCHOOL music teachers JOSEPH CARINGI, AL ROSENBERG, and JUDY BARTAK further supported his wide-ranging musical interests by having him conduct the school concert band, stage band, and chorus.

1970′s -Joe meets Zoot Sims, Stan Getz, and Carmen Leggio through his woodwind teacher HERCULES FARANDA and decides to pursue music professionally. In 1973, Joe continued formal piano lessons with two teachers, JOHNNY MORRIS and MILDRED VICTOR, student of the great Beethoven interpreter, Artur Schnabel. Joe learned jazz voicing and techniques from Johnny and “got his chops together” with Ms. Victor. Joe concentrates on Chopin and Rachmaninoff, but after joining rock band MANTIS, Joe became exposed for the first time to the wonderful rock n roll of the current times plus the R&B hits from the fifties, sixties and early seventies. He continued his jazz study however, transcribing the solos of Oscar Peterson, Charlie Parker, Zoot Sims and others. While trying to decide on colleges and studying with composer RUTH SCHÖNTHAL-SEKEL, Joe was urged to interview with MAUREY YESTON, then the director of undergraduate studies at YALE UNIVERSITY. Joe applied and was accepted early action, matriculating in the Autumn of 1977. Although Joe began working professionally in the mid 1970′s on tenor saxophone with weddings bands in lower Westchester and Fairfield counties, Joe continued with rock band BLUE PERSUASION through midway of his college years on Farfisa organ and Leslie. In 1979 he joined THE MARGARET MCGLINN BAND as well as receiving two commissions from WESTCHESTER COMMUNITY COLLEGE for choral works and arrangement of Selections from Saturday Night Fever for the NEW HAVEN SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, at that time under the direction of SAYARD STONE. Joe was a composition major at Yale and studied with MICHAEL FRIEDMANN, ROBERT MOORE, DAVID MOTT, JACOB DRUCKMAN, MARTIN BRESNICK and MORTON SUBOTNIK. After graduating Scholar of the House in Music, Yale College, 1981, Joe continued with itinerant performing as well as recording work. His first session was in 1975 on baritone saxophone at MINOT SOUND in White Plains, NY for The KOOL KATS cut, “It’s the Joint”.

1980′s – After college and moving to New York City, recording work and cabaret performing kept him busy full time. Joe scored an arrangement for his first jingle at 25 for PLANTERS PEANUTS, for the “America is nuts about Planters” campaign. During those mid 1980′s years Joe worked on various recording sessions, toured with several bands and accompanied various cabaret performers on piano and synthesizer including SIDNEY MYER, DORA RUBIN, KEITH AVEDON, and MARY ELLEN BERNARD.

In 1987, Joe received his first offer to score a motion picture by director CHUCK VINCENT, was hired by IAN GILLAN and ROGER GLOVER of DEEP PURPLE for section and solo work on the album ACCIDENTLY ON PURPOSE, and was invited to join the TOM RUSH BAND. In the years that followed, Joe continued touring and recording with Tom as well as RICHIE HAVENS, JANIS IAN, AL STEWART, JON EDWARDS, and DAVID BROMBERG. Joe continues scoring for documentaries, animated shorts and theater productions.

From 1989 Joe also started scoring and performing for corporate seminars and meetings, drug launches and car reveals. Working primarily for music house directors JON BRIELLE and PAUL GUZZONE, Joe has arranged and performed for many fortune 500 companies including General Electric, McDonalds, Ford, Toyota, IBM, Colgate-Palmolive, Sony, Merck and Novartis.

1990′s – Work begins as an independent consultant and music producer to the ESL departments for several well known education publishers. Working as arranger and producer for rhymes and rhythms composed by author CAROLYN GRAHAM and BILL BLISS, Joe has produced for Oxford University Press, Pearson Longman, and Scholastic and continues work in this direction.

In the mid 1990′s Joe branched out into 2 further career directions, teaching and liturgical music. He was invited to the faculty of FAIRFIELD UNIVERSITY as an adjunct professor of music teaching courses in midi and music software and recording studio techniques. He was appointed substitute organist and pianist for GRAYMOOR FRIARS OF THE ATONEMENT spiritual retreat center. Joe taught Jazz history for a few semesters at WESTCHESTER COMMUNITY COLLEGE and MARYMOUNT COLLEGE as well as performing as a substitute organist for various churches including the CHURCH OF ST. JOHN AND MARY, UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF RYE and UNITED METHODIST CHURCH OF VALHALLA.

2000′s – Though owning his own “project studio” since the mid 1980′s, Joe built his his own recording studio HUNTER SOUND and began work as an independent producer for several independent labels while continuing work as a keyboardist and woodwind and brass arranger and performer. One album, Heroes #3, for artist JONATHAN SPROUT was nominated for a Grammy in 2010. Recording project PRIVATE ISLAND took shape in 2003 with bassist ERNEST POCCIA and drummer TYGER MACNEAL. They released “Get To The Point” in 2004 and are currently working on another album. In 2006 Joe was invited to join the IAN GILLAN BAND on the GILLAN’S INN U.S. domestic tour. Joe also teamed up with bassist AL RENINO to work with MICKEY DOLENZ of THE MONKEYS on several recording projects.

Joe joined the creative staff of LETTERS TO DADDY with song writer, singer, drummer and therapist MARK SHEPARD and producer BILL RODMAN. Letters to Daddy is a theatrical work and full album CD with an anti-bully theme.

2010′s – Joe was invited to join the BACON BROTHERS BAND starring actor KEVIN BACON, where he currently performs as keyboardist. Joe is also currently the organist for THE CHURCH OF ST. MARY and continues also as an independent performer, arranger and producer.

Joe is the oldest of four children. His parents are still doing well occasionally performing at church and charity events. His brother JOHN MENNONNA is also a professional musician and former bassist with José Feliciano. His bother JAMES MENNONNA plays the drums as a hobby and their sister JANE MASELLI is their biggest fan!

Joe enjoys photography, ham radio (call sign W2FTM), British sports cars and hiking. He lives in the greater New York area with his wife, mezzo-soprano LUCYANE BOUCHARDET, former choir member of Opera Municipal do São Paulo. They perform classical and liturgical works in concert and workshop settings. Joe is fluent in Portuguese.