Barbuto was born and raised in Manhattan in 1918. His father had
a fruit and vegetable stand on 191st Street. Young Paul worked there,
his mother and father thinking he would be the perfect heir apparent
for the fine business they had built from scratch.
But from the
time he first picked up a horn in grammar school, Paul Barbuto wanted
to do only one thing, play music. And that’s the dream he consistently
pursued throughout his life. At 84, for goodness sakes, he was busy
teaching himself how to play the accordion.
And with what
only other committed musicians can fully understand, from the day
he left the fruit and vegetable stand for a music scholarship at
University of Miami, almost all of his life’s journeys began with
a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The pot of gold? Paul’s
playing in a band.
In fact, the underlying reason Paul Barbuto enlisted in the Army
during World War
II was with the hopes that he would be able to join one of the
military bands. After all, with the boys defending the country,
there weren’t a lot of civilian bands working in the early ‘40s.
In 1944, Paul took leave from his Army unit and went into Bedford
to hear the Glenn Miller Orchestra play a concert and see its live
radio broadcast. As the orchestra members were warming up, he noticed
that drummer Ray McKinley had a backup drummer sitting beside him.
The backup was there to sit in for McKinley when he got up to sing.
Paul couldn’t believe it. That backup drummer was a friend of his
from the Bronx. So after they exchanged glad-to-see-you hugs, his
friend asked Miller if Barbuto could play with the Miller orchestra
for one set. That wish of every horn player of the time was granted
He was a navigator on B-17s with names like “Hundred Million Dollar
Baby,” Swamp Fire,” and “Goo Goo,” that had been blowing up enemy
spots like a synthetic oil plant in Merseberg, an aerodrome in Orleans,
an airport in Eisberg, and railroad systems along the way.
But then on the 21st day of September 1944, Dorthea Schrier Barbuto
learned that her husband, Second Lieutenant Paul F.P. Barbuto, was
missing in action in Germany. She feared her husband and the father
of their infant son, Paul, Jr., was dead. Almost a month later,
she got notice that he was alive, but that he had been captured
by the German forces and was a prisoner of war.
So a new, long
and arduous wait began.
A year later, Adjutant General J.A. Ulio telegrammed Dorthea Barbuto
that her husband was being returned to the United States, missing
his right eye as a result of the particles of steel that had exploded
in it when his plane was shot down.
Lt. Barbuto had parachuted to the ground in a mass of blood, but
thankful that his intuition told him at the time that he didn’t
have what would be a fatal injury.
after the war was over, Paul, Dorthea and Paul, Jr., came to Galveston,
and for a number of years thereafter, Paul was the band director
at Lovenberg Jr. High School. In the evenings, on weekends and during
summers he worked for and got his Ph.D.
In the middle-1950s,
Paul, Jr., began showing signs that, with study and practice he
could become a true violin virtuoso, especially if he were to study
with Eric Sarantin in San
Antonio. By then Dorthea Barbuto had passed away, but what she
had prayed and hope for came true: Paul, Jr. studied under Sarantin
and got a scholarship to the Julliard School of Music.
After a short time at the Julliard, Paul, Jr., realized that “he,
himself, would never be a stellar violinist, so in the summers he
attended Columbia University to get a degree in math and science.”
Some years later, but still as a young man, Paul, Jr. passed away
from the illness of a rare disease.
Paul, Sr., remarried and move to Austin.
Along the way, he taught World history and math, was a school counselor,
worked for the state in social work with the elderly, frequently
put on his Army uniform and lectured at schools about his war experiences,
learned to competently read Braille, and played in a banjo band,
dance bands, civic orchestras and brass bands.
instruments, he played the French horn, string bass, timpani and
several reed instruments.
And at 82,
he wrote his autobiography for family and friends.
I still see the Dr. Paul Francis Peter Barbuto of 1953. He’s in
his Lovenberg band hall. It’s just before the class bell will ring.
Ralph Henderson, now a retired professor of biochemistry at LSU
Medical School, is mimicking over and over the beginning trumpet
glissando of “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White,” Angie Garris
is bowing the harmony bars of “Stairway to the Stars” on her cello.
Jo Vern Smiley is dampening the reed of her bassoon, and Virginia
Panattoni, Sherin Pfennig, Sue Gay, Dottie Jordan and Andrea D’Albergo
are almost mindlessly playing one measure or another over and over
on their violins.
The Mezzinos — Michael and Maureen— are getting their sax and clarinet
together and in tune.
Paul Francis Peter Barbuto died on November 26, 2005 at the age
The real lesson
he had rabidly lived and taught for a lifetime was this: Do whatever
it takes to keep music important in your life so you can play well
in life’s band.