If it seemed like Paul Luciano disappeared from local entertainment venues, it’s because he had. He sold his Ocala musical instrument repair business in 2005 to concentrate on performing. But in 2006, he had to stop the music to fight cancer. Although he won his battle against cancer, his long-time vocalist and later wife, Sharon Schrepple, lost hers in 2007.
Now, after a tough couple of years, Paul is making music again. He’s a member of the Kingdom of the Sun Concert Band and Leesburg’s LC Swing Band as well as the Eccentric Sax Quartet (ESQ). He also started a clarinet choir that will play in holiday concerts in and around The Villages. Now a Summerfield resident, he continues to substitute in various bands that need his skills.
“Paul has developed a large following throughout the area,” says Frank Grace of Grace’s Books & Records in Leesburg. “The traveling big bands call on him when they need a saxophonist to fill in.”
Paul has played with Guy Lombardo’s touring band and the Don Glasser Orchestra when they came to Florida. He once backed up Eddie Fisher and Henny Youngman.
“I feel fortunate to have been able to back these people up,” Paul humbly says. “I never wanted to be a soloist.”
Most fans, however, remember him for his Paul Luciano Big Band, which began more than 20 years ago in Ocala. The members still rehearse and hope to perform together again.
Music ran in Paul’s family. His father played saxophone and clarinet, and taught at a music conservatory in Erie, Pennsylvania, where Paul grew up. When Paul was about six, his father brought a clarinet home for him and gave him his first lessons. By the seventh grade, Paul was invited to play in the Academy High School band.
“They had a heck of a time finding uniforms to fit me,” Paul recalls with a laugh. “The first time I came on the field with the band during a night game at the stadium, I was hooked.”
Paul also remembers marching in the 1955 Tournament of Roses Parade, which he still considers one of the highlights of his high school days. He also worked his way through school substituting in big bands that played nearby.
“When I was in ninth grade, one of my dad’s students was starting a big band and needed a sax player. My dad suggested me,” he says. “That band went on for several years.”
An early first marriage at 19 and six subsequent children put Paul’s musical career on hold. In 1964, he moved to the Buffalo, New York, area where he worked in a newspaper printing plant and started his first musical instrument repair business.
“I got tired of the North, the unions, the cold, and the snow,” he says. “An accident on the way to a Florida vacation prompted me to think about moving.”
Paul interviewed at the Ocala Star-Banner in the early ‘80s, but took a job with a small printing company instead. After six months, he decided to work for himself and opened Luciano’s Band Instrument Repair and Music Store in downtown Ocala behind the Marion Theatre. He rented the building for five or six years, before purchasing it.
Above: Paul, Sr., Paul III, and Paul, Jr. toot their own horns in front of Paul’s Ocala music store in 1995.
“That business gave me a lot of freedom to travel when gigs came up,” he remembers. “The Paul Luciano Big Band also did remotes with WTMC, so our name was out there all the time.”
Paul’s big band and his quartet regularly performed at concerts and dances at the Ocala city auditorium. He also performed for many charity events and festivals in the area. But he wanted to travel and perform more, and the time seemed right to sell his business in 2005.
“It was hard to compete with ‘big box’ stores and the many instrument rental programs that came into the schools,” he says. “My store was too small to compete with any of that.”
The day after the business closed, Paul left on a European vacation. He also performed with Guy Lombardo’s touring band on a trans-Atlantic and Mediterranean cruise.
Paul’s favorite music continues to be jazz and the big band sound, although he believes it’s important to keep your mind open to all kinds of music.
“Even if you don’t like a certain sound,” he says, “it gives you ideas for your own thing.”
Although he says he doesn’t practice as much as he should and can’t stay up as late as he used to, Paul believes music will always be a part of his life.
“Being able to play and perform gives me something to look forward to,” he says. “I never want to give it up.”
Want To See Paul Play?
Call (352) 245-3975 for upcoming concert information.