Music Lives On

Mt. Lebanon High School English teacher Phillip Bianco founded the Jazz Ensemble, which was originally called the Stage Band, in the early 1970s. In 1975 Bianco’s friend, drummer and recording engineer George Heid recorded the band on a vinyl album.

Phillip Bianco loved music and literature and was able to combine those two passions over a 37-year career at Mt. Lebanon High School. Bianco was part of the English faculty and was a professional saxophonist and clarinetist who toured the country and played in places like the Roseland Ballroom in New York and the Aragon in Chicago. When he quit touring and started teaching, his love of music continued to find outlets. He founded the high school’s jazz ensemble in the early 1970s.

Bianco died in 2018 and his family has established the Phillip Bianco Memorial Music Scholarship in his honor.

Alexis Schulte-Albert is the first recipient of the Phillip Bianco Memorial Music Scholarship. She is studying classical music at Indiana University. /Photo courtesy Eliezer Barros Photography

The scholarship awards $1,100 annually to a young adult music student who successfully participates in the Keynotes Foundation Scholarship Competition in Mt. Lebanon. The first winner of the scholarship was Alexis Schulte-Albert, a bassist and 2019 Mt. Lebanon High School grad and freshman classical music student at Indiana University this fall.

Bianco’s son, Andy, a jazz musician, composer and educator, raised more than $10,000 for the scholarship in a GoFundMe campaign.

“My dad loved to go to music stores to buy and trade instruments,” Bianco says. “I would go with him to local guitar shops like Hollowood Music, Johnny B. Goode and Pittsburgh Guitars and this helped to spawn my interest in the guitar. So there was always a guitar around the house and I started playing when I was about 13. He said that if I worked hard at the guitar and aimed to be great one day, there was no telling how far I could go.”

Andy, a 1998 Mt. Lebanon High School grad, received a bachelor’s degree in music performance from Berklee College of Music and has toured the world with his own bands and with several artists, including Grammy winner Elle Varner. He performed last month with a jazz trio at Con Alma in Shadyside.

“How appropriate that the auditions for my dad’s scholarship take place in the Little Theater because that’s where the Stage Band that my father assembled and directed performed,” he says. “It was like a home away from home for him.”

If you would like to donate to the Phillip Bianco Memorial Music Scholarship, follow this link