OGDEN — If there’s one thing Joe Muscolino has learned in 40 years as a professional bandleader, it’s how to please an audience.
For the better part of four decades, the Joe Muscolino Band has kept itself busy playing weddings, parties, festivals, concerts and much more here in Northern Utah. And although he augmented his position with some music teaching in the early years, Muscolino has successfully parlayed the title of bandleader into a full-time day job.
Unlike artists for whom music is simply a sidelight, Muscolino has relied on his gigs to pay the bills.
“Let’s say you’ve got a band of moonlighters who play a certain kind of music, and they’re pretty good at it,” he said. “They hope you dig it, but they really don’t care if you do, because they’ve got a good day gig. Whereas, if you don’t like my band, I’m going to be out of business.”
Jeff Whiteley, founder of the Excellence in the Community concerts, says Muscolino understands the “business” part of “music business.”
“Joe is one of the most commercially successful Utah musicians,” Whiteley said in an email to the Standard-Examiner. “He has been making more money and successfully leading bands in Utah for over 30 years. He is a skilled musician but also a skilled businessman, making sure his bands are busy, year in and year out.”
The Joe Muscolino Band comes to Ogden next week for a free concert as part of the Excellence in the Community concert series. The performance begins at 7 p.m. Monday, March 2, in Peery’s Egyptian Theater, 2415 Washington Blvd. Doors open at 6 p.m., and seating begins at 6:30 p.m., on a first-come, first-served basis.
Audiences can expect to hear a wide variety of the most popular songs at a Joe Muscolino Band concert.
“We play a really wide variety of stuff,” he said. “Artists like Sinatra and Natalie Cole, as well as music from the 1960s, ’70s and ’80s — and contemporary stuff. Anybody who enjoys a good, live band will find something to like.”
Although Muscolino says there’s always turnover in the music business, some of the players in his band have been with him for a very long time.
“I have one guy — he won’t be able to make this concert because he’s got a conflict — but he’s from Jersey, and I’ve been playing with him since the fourth or fifth grade,” Muscolino said.
One of the nice things about replacing musicians these days, according to the bandleader, is that there’s no shortage of exceptional players in the area.
“What has happened is there used to be a good jazz program at BYU and also at the U,” he said. “But now there’s good programs at Snow, at UVU, at Weber, and the teachers are really excellent.”
A big chunk of Muscolino’s business has been playing live music for weddings here in Utah. He’s now been at it so long that he’s working on a second generation of receptions.
“I’m playing my brides’ daughters’ weddings the last 10 or 15 years,” he said. “A lot of the work I do, I call them legacy accounts.”
But Muscolino also admits that the wedding gigs have slowed a bit in recent years.
“It used to be that everybody would get a band for their wedding — not so much now,” he said.
Muscolino blames the proliferation of both deejays and do-it-yourselfers who simply dock their iPod with a venue’s speaker system.
Muscolino will be bringing a 12-piece band to Monday’s concert in Ogden, along with two singers. He says he’s never played the Ogden Excellence in the Community series, so he says he’ll check in with organizers to make sure they’re offering a setlist that appeals to the audience.
“What we’ve always tried to do is play great music that people are familiar with — music that they want to hear,” he said. "I, fortunately, have a broad taste in music, so I don’t feel like I’m selling out. I feel like I’m reaching out to people.”
Muscolino sees himself as a “pragmatic guy.” And being a professional musician, he says, isn’t just about being a great artist.
“There are a lot of great artists out there,” he said. “But not a lot of them can make a living at it.”
Muscolino looks forward to Monday’s concert, saying he prefers these sorts of concerts to gigs like weddings and parties.
“We really love to play the concerts — that’s my favorite thing,” he said. “We like reaching out to new people. And anybody — I don’t care what age they are — is going to hear music that they like.”