Lifelong music aficionado Joseph Donofrio in line for fourth Grammy
As a member of an Italian-American family growing up in Youngstown, Ohio, Joseph Donofrio's affiliation with music began with his being prompted to learn the accordion by his parents at age seven. At age 10 he was drawn toward drumming, which later led to his performing in jazz organ trios.
Jazz remains his passion today, but Donofrio has since become involved with just about every style of music there is, has worked with many of the top names in entertainment, and has prospered in multiple musical facets in a career spanning nearly five decades.
A Brigantine resident since 1980, Donofrio was four times nominated for Grammy Awards as a producer/mixer for legendary Philadelphia-born jazz guitarist Pat Martino, whose career he manages along with several other exceptional talents in the entertainment industry. In 2003 Donofrio realized a rare feat when he became Grammy nominated in two musical genres -- jazz as producer of the Pat Martino CD Think Tank, and polka as a producer of that genre's most acclaimed figure, musician and orchestra leader Jimmy Sturr. It was his work with Sturr -- one of the most prolific Grammy Award recipients of all time -- that Donofrio received three Grammy Awards as a co-producer with Ken Irwin, who co-owns the recording company that releases Sturr's material, Rounder Records.
During the 50th Grammy Awards this Sunday (Feb. 10) in Los Angeles, Donofrio hopes to not only celebrate his 64th birthday but also his fourth Grammy as co-producer of Sturr's latest polka record entitled Come Share the Wine. His three current Grammy statues were for his production work on Sturr's records Polka in Paradise (2006), Shake, Rattle and Polka (2005), and Let's Polka 'Round (2003), the latter of which included contributions by country-western great Charlie Daniels and banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck.
|Let's Polka 'Round (2003)|
Donofrio promoted Sturr's first appearance in Atlantic City shortly after they first met at a 1991 Las Vegas music festival, and the two would eventually establish a working relationship that evolved into Donofrio's co-producing Sturr's last five albums. A resident of New York state, Sturr has won 16 Grammy statues and has received more consecutive Grammy nominations than anyone in the history of the prestigious award.
|Shake, Rattle and Polka (2005)|
"Jimmy Sturr wins a lot in the genre of polka, but so do other artists in other genres," says Donofrio, whose management clientele includes his wife, jazz vocalist Cathy Rocco. (His son, Dino Donofrio, is a screenwriter for television and film.) "The thing is, if you're at the top of your game, then you should win. That's not to say there aren't some really good artists in his category -- this year in particular there are some bands that are very talented -- but Jimmy has the best musicians, he has the top people writing songs for him, he gets good producers and good studios, and in that small little world of polka he's going to stick out."
|Polka in Paradise (2006)|
Most Americans, explains Donofrio, think of polka as a singular style of music heard often at places like music festivals and dancehalls, but it is much more diversified and much more sophisticated in its most complex forms. It may be marginal in the United States, but it's an extremely popular form of music in other parts of the world.
"One thing about music is, if it's good you're going to be able to know it's good no matter what genre you're listening to, whether its opera, polka, jazz, rap or whatever," says Donofrio. "Polka's a social genre. It's social music, and what's beautiful about it is that it makes people want to dance and have fun. As with any field there's an education process, and the more you learn the more you grow. Nobody's learned more about polka or performs it better than Jimmy Sturr and his orchestra."
Along with Martino and Cathy Rocco -- whose own musical career began as one half of the Rocco Sisters when she and sister Connie were both teenagers -- other artists whose careers Donofrio manages include pianist/arranger/composer John Beasley and Swedish jazz guitarist Andreas Oberg. Rocco, Beasley and Oberg all record on the Resonance Records label, and Martino's material is released through the jazz label Blue Note.
"The awards are great, but what I'm most proud of is having had the opportunity to choose a profession that I thoroughly enjoy every day, make a living at it and meet wonderful people doing it," says Donofrio. "It's a conduit to meeting interesting, delightful people in the music industry, and I'm grateful to have had the opportunity."
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