Entertainment » Highlights » Vol. 8

Fred Frabotta, Musical Director

The Man Behind the Music

By Christine R. Walsh

fred-frabottaMusical Director extraordinaire Fred Frabotta enjoys his downtime. This former Worcester resident recently transplanted himself to Warwick, RI and has found peace by the beach. He speaks of kayaking on the nearby cove and enjoying constitutionals through a recreational park that is located minutes from his home. After directing the music for over 100 productions for equity theatres, summer stock theatres, cabaret performances and renaissance faires, this man could use a day off.

“I do about 6 or 8 shows per year,” said Frabotta, 67 but exuding the energy of someone half his age. “And I’ve been doing that for 20 years.”

Almost anyone who has attended musicals in New England is, even if they don’t know it, familiar with Frabotta’s work. He has musically directed shows performed at Worcester’s Foothills Theatre, the North Shore Music Theatre, King Richard’s Faire, and the Ogunquit Playhouse in Maine, to name but a few. He has both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s Degree from the Catholic University of America, Washington, DC. Vocal performance is clearly his forte, but his talents are numerous. He plays the piano, organ, keyboard, harpsichord and Hammond Organ and can sing selections from a number of genres of music ranging from pop to Sacred.

Frabotta said that despite great success as a solo singer in his younger years, it was after years spent learning various instruments and playing with bands that he found his calling as a musical director. But at the tender age of 8, Frabotta was wowing crowds with his pipes and keeping quite the busy schedule.

“My father took me to all of these shows in Pittsburgh,” said Frabotta. “I sang on the radio about three times a month. And I was on television. In addition to that, my father was president of the Lion’s Club and I sang at the Lion’s Club ~ so literally from 8 to 13, I was singing all the time.

“At that point, it was the early stages of television,” recounted Frabotta, “and television was taking people away from the theatre. So what they would do is they would show a movie, then they would have a talent contest, then they would show another movie. And I entered most of those contests and won most [of them] because I was the shortest 8, 9, 10 year old alive. I was so little and my voice was so loud. Not sure if it was good, but it was loud.”

Frabotta began taking piano lessons around this time with well-known instructor Johnny Costa. Over the next few years, as his voice changed, Frabotta found himself concentrating a little less on vocals and more on the instruments of musical pieces ~ a knowledge which would serve him well in his future.

During the 70s and 80s Frabotta was featured in over 30 operatic performances, which seemed like a wondrous success on the surface.

“The thing is, there isn’t money there,” Frabotta noted candidly. “A few people in opera make a lot of money. Everyone else makes a little money.”

Over the years, Frabotta taught in colleges, worked in corporate America, ran his own business and gave music lessons. But no matter his “9 to 5,” he was constantly teaching voice or singing or directing a musical. He guesses that with the myriad jobs and positions he has held, he’s had about nine careers.

Today, as a musical director, Frabotta has several responsibilities: he must determine within the short time period of an audition whether or not a performer is up to the role, he must teach all music to every cast member of a production (and usually do so in about 48 hours), and he must bring singers and members of the bands together to create the beautiful numbers theatre-goers demand.

Even with all of this resting on his shoulders, Frabotta believes it is theatre that keeps him young in spirit.

“If you work in the theatre for 20-30 years, you know you always have to bring so much energy to the show,“ he said. “And it’s just a good exercise for the body.”

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