MORRIS – Perhaps Toni Brandolino doesn’t have enough on her plate.
She works as a full-time social worker for Senior Services Center of Will County. She owns and teaches the Toni Brandolino School of Music in Morris. And she’s added an extra layer of hospitality to her studio – one that she will bringing Sunday to The Timbers of Shorewood.
That layer is homemade refreshments and plenty of them: hot appetizers, vegetables and her special homemade dip, a variety of pastries and an assortment of herbal teas served in carafes.
“I’ll make the food the night before,” Brandolino said, “and get there early to set it all up. I want it the [program] to be relaxing and calming.”
This event, Brandolino stressed, is not a student recital. It’s a “musical tea,” a variety show format that also echoes the elegance of an afternoon tea party. Featured within the mix of talent will be vocalists, guitarists and pianists performing classical pieces. The artists are either students or instructors from Brandolino’s studio.
The show will include Broadway tunes, sing-alongs, skits and a special performance by the studio’s Little Mozarts, preschool students who will sing “La Cucaracha” and “Alueta” accompanied by rhythm instruments they created.
“The curriculum introduces the kids to rhythm, pitch, high and low sounds,” said Sara Nielsen, who teaches vocals, piano and the Little Mozarts program. “It’s interactive and sets the foundation for learning music.”
It’s within that basic musical foundation that Brandolino was inspired to fete parents, instructors and audiences. Born into a musical family, Brandolino’s initial piano lessons were at the former Joliet Music Conservatory, where her mother, Helen Brandolino, also taught, until it closed.
When that happened, Brandolino’s instruction moved to the home of her teacher – Miss Marie Schmitz – who often served refreshments, Brandolino said.
“I remember everything looked homey and nice and that I was never scared or nervous,” Brandolino said.
Brandolino said her grandfather, who came from Italy, played the trumpet. Both Helen and Brandolino’s father – Sandro “Sandy” Brandolino – were among the first graduates of Joliet Junior College’s initial music program, Brandolino added.
Helen, 83, still plays the piano. Sandy, 85, closed his store five years ago. Brandolino’s brother Bobby carries on the tradition with Brandolino’s Encore Music Center in Shorewood, she said.
“My dad teaches drums there and does all the band repair,” Brandolino said.
At her studio, Brandolino, who has a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in piano performance, hires only master’s degree instructors, she said. Classes include instruction in ukulele, piano, guitar and violin.
While the students of all ages are engaged in quality music instruction, Brandolino supplies her studio with an array of candy, cookies, coffee and tea, reminiscent, she said, of the cozy environment of those early lessons.
It also helps promote community, Brandolino feels.
“The parents sit in the living room and meet everyone while their kids are taking lessons,” Brandolino said.
IF YOU GOWHAT: Musical TeaWHEN: 2 to 3:30 p.m. SundayWHERE: The Timbers of Shorewood, 100 River Road, ShorewoodCOST: FreeETC: Students and faculty from the Toni Brandolino School of Music in Morris will perform a variety of music. Refreshments will include a variety of homemade warm and cold appetizers, desserts and teas.