James (Jim) Drago, known around town as "The Piano Man," has announced the availability of new CDs featuring his playing. After a long career tuning pianos and teaching students all over Port Washington, Drago has returned to his first love: performing. He has produced a series of CDs entitled "My Favorite Pieces." He was motivated, he said, by the desire to "leave something behind." He said, "I recently had a stroke, and I saw the years were limited. I wanted to leave something for my family and friends." When he tuned clients' pianos, they would hear him playing and ask, "When are we going to hear you play?" Now they, and anyone else who is interested, have an opportunity to hear his outstanding performance on this series of CDs. Selections include Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue, Chopin etudes, Mozart's Sonata No.4 (including Grieg's second piano part) and other Mozart pieces, as well as works by Beethoven, Schubert and others.
Drago produces the CDs at a studio in his home. In order to do this, he has become very proficient in the latest computer technology. He had previously produced some audio cassettes, but was unhappy with the quality. With some assistance from his son Jim, he set up a system that allowed him to record directly from a keyboard to a floppy disk. The files produced, however, were MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface), compressed files that can only be played on a computer. After a lot of research and at least one false start, Drago located a program that will translate these files to WAVE files, a format which can be played on any audio CD equipment (including a computer CD drive). Drago said that he is offering to other pianists the opportunity to perform on the keyboard in his studio. Drago will then record the performance onto CDs.
Other CDs in the works include recordings of various pieces of music minus the piano part for students to practice with. (Similar to the popular "Music Minus One" recordings.)
Drago's studio is also outfitted with two grand pianos, one a 100-year-old Steinway which he restored himself. It has been owned and moved by him since 1949.
Drago has been playing since he was 5 or 6 years old. As a teenager, he gave a concert in Steinway Hall, and was well on the way to becoming concert pianist. He expected to continue on that road, but life got in the way. He was (unusually) drafted twice - first into the army during World War II, then into the Marines during the Korean War. In the Marines, he became a bugler. (He had played bugle as a child and later at the Drum and Bugle Corps of Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.)
After his first discharge, then-19-year-old Jim Drago returned to Elmont and love stepped in. In the process of belatedly completing his high school degree, he was smitten by an attractive girl he saw on a bus. She got off at the same stop he did, and he began to follow her, but lost her in the crowd. "Weeks later," he said, "She showed up on my doorstep for piano lessons." (Her cousin was already his student.) That girl, Beatrice, became his wife and the rest, as they say, is history. The Dragos moved to Port Washington in 1959. They have four children, 10 grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren, who are carrying on the musical tradition. One son plays guitar in his church; a daughter plays the flute in hers. For the Drago's recent 50th anniversary celebration the children and grandchildren surprised them with a musical performance.
After his second stint in the military, Drago was hired by the Aard Piano Company to restore old and damaged instruments. At the same time, he responded to a sign in the window of a piano store, "Needed, Piano Teacher in Port Washington." His students comprised of both children and adults, sometimes spanning two generations. A number of them have gone on to become teachers of music. One previous piano student, Susan Quittmeyer, has sung with the Metropolitan Opera and with other major opera companies in the United States and Europe. Jim Drago is fondly remembered and well-respected by his former students and clients. He told us about one of his previous clients who bought a CD for her husband who has Alzheimer's and who loves music. "His eyes filled with tears," she told Drago. "I want two more for my daughters, and I want to inform as may people as I can about the CDs."
Drago loves to play and tries to play every day. He would like to perform more often. He said, "I had something scheduled at the library, but it didn't work out."
For more information or to purchase CDs, contact Jim Drago at 516-944-9526 or at email@example.com.
James Drago at his baby grand piano.