When longtime Mt. Lebanon High School teacher Phillip Anthony Bianco passed away last year at 78, members of his family decided to honor his memory with a scholarship fund for some of his favorite folks.

“My dad used to always say that musicians were good people: kind, good-natured, and hilarious and funny people, too,” his son Andy said.

And so the Phillip Bianco Memorial Music Scholarship is in place to award $1,000 annually through a competition, with then-Mt. Lebanon High School senior Alexis Shulte-Albert as the first year’s winner. She plays double bass and is an incoming freshman at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, where Phillip earned his bachelor’s degree.

Andy Bianco, a jazz guitarist and music educator, joined drummer Andrew Kirk – both also are Mt. Lebanon grads – and bassist Tony DePaolis to perform for at the 50th-anniversary celebration for the philanthropic organization Keynotes of South Hills, held Aug. 18 at the Club at Nevillewood in Collier Township.

Phillip also was a musician, playing saxophone and clarinet for some well-known Pittsburgh-area bands in his younger days.

“In addition to teaching English at Mt. Lebanon High School for 37 years, he also started and directed the stage band, which is now called the jazz band, for close to 20 years,” Andy told the Keynotes members and guests. “I think it’s very appropriate that the auditions for my dad’s scholarship take place in Mt. Lebanon High School’s little theater, because that’s where the stage band that my father started and directed would perform. It was like a home away from home for him.”

Next year’s competition is scheduled for May 16 in the Fine Arts Theater at the high school.

Keynotes of South Hills, formed in 1969, has presented more than $374,000 to music students since the first $1,000 award in 1971. Recipients in 2019 were percussionist Sophie Lauver, first place, $5,000; cellist Kyle Johnson, second place, $3,000; soprano Kristin Howard and baritone Robert Raso, tied for third, $2,000; and soprano Jacqueline Tardanico, honorable mention, $1,000.

Applicants must be under 26 for instrumentalists and 30 for voice applicants by June of the current year, and be enrolled or planning to enroll as full-time music majors.

“Our lives are affected by music, whether it is the generation of music that we each grew up with or the music that we are experiencing currently and during the course of our lives,” said Paula Bongiorno of Mt. Lebanon, the organization’s president. “Can you imagine this world without music? Music is everywhere, and Keynotes has been there, playing a part.”

For more information, visit keynotessouthhills.com.

Multimedia Reporter

Staff writer Harry Funk, a professional journalist for three-plus decades, has been on the staff of The Almanac since 2015. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and master of business administration, both from Indiana University of Pennsylvania.

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