Published on June 18th, 2013 | by Kathy Browning0
Celebrating the Cuchetti Family
You can’t really call yourself a local until you get to know the Cuchetti Family. Their name is synonymous with music in this town, but their reach expands throughout Volusia County and beyond. Dick and Lillian Cuchetti recently relocated the Cuchetti School of Music to an expansive building in Edgewater. Here they can realize more musical dreams and offer a broader outreach to the community.
Voted #1 Music School in Volusia County, the Cuchetti’s offer a full range of lessons for beginners through advanced. Students can learn to play any instrument of their choice, as well as participate in vocal lessons or musical theater. The Cuchetti family also founded the Indian River Institute for Creative Arts (IRICA); a non-profit organization dedicated to providing financial assistance to locally gifted and talented music students. IRICA has single-handedly helped local students achieve their musical aspirations by providing scholarships which allow them to afford quality music training at the conservatory level. Because of the Cuchetti’s generosity, many students have been able to acquire college degrees to achieve professional careers as music teachers and performers.
The moment you cross the threshold at Cuchetti School of Music everything becomes lighter and more joyful. The sound of musical instruments and vocalists fills the hallway and classrooms of the newly opened music school located at 1620 Edgewater Drive in Edgewater, Florida.
Lillian Cuchetti sits at the piano teaching a toddler to play. The sight of such a tiny tot sitting on the piano stool, striking the keys and singing ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ makes everyone in the room smile.
The smiles do not subside, as this family is full of joy and fun. Their mutual admiration is undeniable as they revel in each other’s accomplishments and share tidbits of their past, present, and future. Siblings poke fun at one another and finish each other’s sentences. They each reflect the camaraderie that develops when growing up in a large family.
Lillian and Richard Cuchetti have taught music in Volusia County since 1984. They have created a legacy for their 10 children, 26 grandchildren, and 3 great-grandchildren. Their lifelong journey began when the couple met while attending high school in Detroit, Michigan.
They married when Lillian was 18 and Richard was 19. Within the first seven years of marriage they had six children including Angela, Chris, Gino, Anna Maria, Kathy, and Julie. Today, this group is lovingly referred to as the “A” Team. The “B” Team began arriving when Lillian was 35 and Dick was 36. This team consists of Thomas, Tony, Mary, and Gina. Combined, these teams and their parents have become known as New Smyrna’s “All American Family”.
Prior to relocating to New Smyrna Beach, the family spent much of their time on the road. Living out of a converted Greyhound bus, the Cuchetti’s branded their band as the “Fabulous Conti Family” and traveled across the country.
They eventually landed in Las Vegas where they were discovered by Danny Thomas while performing at the Sands Hotel. To say the Cuchetti’s have lived an adventurous life is an understatement. But, fame hasn’t gone to their heads. Instead, they express gratitude for their musical gifts and want to share them with others.
Dick Cuchetti extends his right arm and swoops across the expansive classroom. “This is the place of my dreams,” he said with a broad smile. “Now, I have room to create a chapter of The New Horizons Band.”
Dick explains this national group boasts over 9,000 members who are age 50 and over. They focus on teaching senior citizens how to play an instrument. Many members have never had the opportunity to express their self through music and Dick aims to change that.
Lillian states she is in the midst of writing her book, Memoirs of a Polish Diva Church Lady, and proclaims she hopes to be the next Erma Bombeck. She says the secret to a long happy life is having a great sense of humor. Obviously, it works because she and Dick celebrated their 56th wedding anniversary on May 25, 2013.
Chris, Tony, and Gina excitedly talk about their band, The Afterwhile, and the upcoming release of their CD comprised of original songs. They are planning to tour the Midwest during the month of July, with shows scheduled throughout Minnesota and surrounding states.
Mary is a voice instructor at the Cuchetti-Conti Family School of Music. Along with training some of the finest theatrical lead singers in Florida, Mary also performs with her band, The Sea of Key, as well as making appearances with her sister, Gina.
The joy and pride the Cuchetti family exhibits is contagious. Their lives have been filled with learning and sharing music with their children, grandchildren, great-children, and everyone who crosses their path.
Anyone who spends time in the presence of the Cuchetti family is certain to have their spirits lifted. They are the epitome of the all-American family and we are fortunate to have them as musical ambassadors for our town.
View our June 2013 print issue for personal interviews with Lillian, Dick, Chris, Mary, Tony and Gina.