For many years, Dearborn County was home to Albert (Umberto) Nanni. He was born in Cincinnati and when he was 6 years old, his father brought home a violin, gave it to him and told him he was going to learn to play. He took lessons, and grew to be proficient. He attended the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music after fighting in WW2. He married Helena Layman and they moved to Aurora, IN. where they raised two children.
Al (as he was known by) shared his love of music by teaching. Even as he grew older and developed arthritis and hearing loss, it didn't deter him from investing in the lives of students, both young and old. Lesson times with Mr. Nanni were full of stories and jokes. He invited many of his students to participate in his string ensemble called "Nanni's Strings", though it was more affectionally referred to as "orchestra".
Nanni's Strings would perform in various events around the community, including: the Hillforest Museum, the Farmer's Fair, the Lion's Club, area nursing homes and churches. The string ensemble grew to include a few wind players and as the group size began to increase, they outgrew the Nanni living room and were given a spot at the Aurora Fire Station to rehearse.
Of course Mr. Nanni couldn't have done nearly as much as he did without the support of his wife. Mrs. Nanni was very much a part of helping run "orchestra". While she wasn't a musician, she was just as invested in the lives of her husband's students. She helped plan and set up for every concert and recital, listen to and help pick out music and welcome all the students into their home. She'd open her kitchen up and provide home made treats as refreshments after orchestra rehearsal. There was one piece she absolutely hated called "Concerto" and when she came into the room, a few of the musicians would stop whatever they were doing and start playing it. She'd laugh and wave her arms in the air and escape to the kitchen.
In 2007, Al Nanni was inducted into the Southeastern Indiana Music Hall of Fame in recognition for his music influence in the lives of students in the community. Mr. Nanni continued to conduct orchestra until a few months before his death. His favorite songs were "Amazing Grace" and "Silent Night". Every Christmas performance had to end with Silent Night and all other performances ended with Amazing Grace. The audience might even end up singing along while the musicians played.
Some of the students in Nanni's Strings included Denise Rose (a local viola teacher), Bethany Barkdoll and Crystal Kessen. Bethany and Crystal both went on to college to get music degrees and Denise continued to help Mr. Nanni run rehearsals.
When Mr. Nanni passed away in 2011, Nanni's Strings disbanded. Since the local schools didn't offer a string program, there was basically nothing to encourage or develop string education or musicians. At best, they got to join their school band and try to learn how to play band music (which isn't conducive for string instruments because the techniques are vastly different.) In 2015, Crystal was soon graduating from college when she ran into Sara Barkdoll, (Bethany's mom) at the store.
Sara Barkdoll had previously been talking to Denise Rose about the need for a group for string players and she brought up the idea to Crystal. Crystal was returning to Aurora after graduating with a music education degree from God's Bible School and College. Crystal, Denise and Sara had a meeting in August of 2015 and in September the documents were filed with the IRS. SEIYO was official.
While SEIYO is run a little differently than Nanni's Strings, the core value remain the same: teach the students to play well while giving them a skill that will last the rest of their lives. The passion Mr. Nanni passed on to Crystal and other students of Nanni's Strings is being passed on to the next generation of students in SEIYO.
For that reason we have dedicated SEIYO to the memory of Mr. Nanni because he is the reason SEIYO exists today.