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Music: Joey & His Pop

2 minute read

When Joey Alfidi was forbidden to play any more rock ‘n’ roll, the boy concentrated on Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven. The longhairs paid off. This week, at the age of seven, Joey took over Manhattan’s Carnegie Hall, led the Symphony of the Air (formerly Toscanini’s NBC Symphony) in a full-scale program including Mozart’s Figaro overture, Beethoven’s Fifth and Haydn’s Surprise symphonies. His gestures were incisive, particularly in the extreme loud and soft passages; obviously he had learned his scores by heart—no timpanist could miss his cannonball cues. But sometimes he was vague. Several times, the baton flew from his small, pudgy hand (he picked up fresh ones from a supply on his music stand). It was a gallant try, but when it was over, one question remained: Why subject Joey, the orchestra and the audience to an experience that was not inspiring to any of them?

The answer is the same for Joey as it has been for child prodigies from Mozart on: parental push. Joey’s father, Frank Alfidi, a Yonkers, N.Y. accordion teacher, gave his son a specially built accordion when he was eleven months old. Within a few years the boy was playing kettledrums, the vibraphone, piano and, by some tall stretching, string bass. He went on to play in his school orchestra, where the going was rough. “They’re not good enough for him,” said Papa. Joey complained that his friends are not interested in his conducting. “There’s one boy named Tommy—he throws rocks at me.”

Meanwhile Joey was getting ready for the big time. An Italian conductor named Gino Lombardi discovered his conducting talent, started training him, e.g., records and scores every day before breakfast. After Joey shared programs in Miami and Long Beach, N.Y.. father Alfidi hired the Symphony of the Air and Carnegie Hall at a total cost of $10,000. Papa is sure Joey will become a great conductor. But if not, there is his baby brother, who, says Papa, already hums the first bars of Beethoven’s Fifth at the age of two years.

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