Roberto Angelo Cassan
September 3, 1962 – August 22, 2016

As part of Roberto's seemingly boundless extended family, deeply saddened by his sudden departure from a world that is in desperate need of his beautiful gifts of melody, harmony, generosity, humor, humility and so many other blessings, I am eternally thankful for having had the opportunity to spend so much time and share so many experiences with this remarkable human being. He touched so many lives with such positive effects that will remain with us for the entirety of our lives.

 

Grazie, il mio caro fratello.

JM

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For more reflections, remembrances, photos and videos, visit the Facebook memorial: Celebrating and Remembering Roberto Cassan.

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Passing of Roberto Cassan

by Trisha Zembruski

Roberto Angelo Cassan was one of New England's most renowned accordionists, as well as an esteemed composer and teacher. On August 22, while riding his bike in Tramonti di Sotto in the Friuli region of Italy, Roberto suffered a cardiac arrest, and ultimately took his last breath on the sidewalk in front of the Tramonti church. Directly behind the church is the cemetery where his beloved father, Luciano, and all his ancestors lay buried. At age 53, Roberto was laid to rest alongside them, at the foot of the beautiful mountains surrounding the town.

Roberto began studying accordion when he was eight years old. At sixteen, he was playing professionally for public events and festivals in Italy and throughout Europe. In 1988, he came to Boston with his brother and musical comrade since early childhood, Christian Cassan, to study at the Berklee College of Music and he received a Professional Music Diploma. He earned a Master of Musicology degree from the University of Cremona in Italy. His love for music from around the world led him to explore and master different repertoires including Argentine Tango, French musette, Balkan, South American and Brazilian genres. He was deeply influenced by Astor Piazzolla, Dino Saluzzi, Hermeto Pascoal, and Richard Galliano. 

Roberto established a distinctive and far reaching presence in the Boston and international music community. His primary musical projects—the world music quartet Grand Fatilla, his duo with acclaimed classical guitarist John Muratore, the Armenian jazz nonet Musaner, the Southern Italian project Newpoli, and the Guillermo Nojechowicz Tango Project—are testament to his eclectic versatility and unique command of his instrument.

Anyone listening to Roberto Cassan's playing was immediately transported by its depth and by the warmth of his sound. His dear friend and musical collaborator, Fabio Pirozzolo said of Roberto, “Beyond his superb technique, his musical ideas were so original that all musical traditions he represented became a canvas for his own signature musical language, beautiful embellishments which we referred to as “Cassan-isms.”

In addition to his profound impact on the local music scene and on his many students, Roberto collaborated and recorded with prominent, international artists such as Mexican folk singer Lila Downs, Spanish composer Alfonso Vilallonga, singer songwriter Martin Sexton, composer John Harbison, Berklee producer Alain Mallet, guitarist Claudio Ragazzi, classical oboist Peggy Pearson, Mike Rivard of Boston's Club D’Elf, Italian saxophonist Marco Pignataro, Annie Royer & Les Garçons Musette, Austrian soprano Ute Gfrerer, Klezperanto, performance artist Jessica Lurie, singer songwriter Jonathan Coulton, guitarist Marc Ribot, harpist Maeve Gilchrist, the Anna Myer dance company, and Spanish actor and singer Bruno Oro, amongst others.

Roberto was not only an extraordinary performer, but also a sensitive composer and arranger. His music was featured on public radio, television, in movie scores and theatre. He recorded a soundtrack for the PBS/TV series Letters from Buster, for the episode ‘The Accordion Festival of San Antonio’ (Claudio Ragazzi), Three Tangos for the TV Series Love Boat, Three Waltzes for Accordion for the pilot TV Series, American Plumber, and he composed and performed The Whispering Wind for the movie Profit Motive and the Whispering Wind, by independent film maker John Gianvito. In 2011, he performed in The American Repertory Theater's pre-Broadway production of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess, directed by Diane Paulus.

During his last trip to Italy, Roberto was writing and crafting new work—a music that came straight from his heart and the enduring love he had for the people and color of his native land, always a source of inspiration for him. Original timeless compositions, such as “Domenie” (“Sunday” in his native dialect), “Corrente,” and “Milonga para Lucia” all provide a window into Roberto's profound connection to his roots.

Over the last twenty years, Roberto and his wife Trisha Zembruski co-produced over 75 children's theatre projects in Boston's public and private schools—a true partnership of love, music, art, improvisation and theatre. Their eighteen year old daughter, Lucia, who grew up surrounded by her parents' international music, theater and artistic endeavors is a skilled aerialist and dancer.

The indelible legacy of Roberto Cassan began to reveal itself more fully as the tragic news of his passing spread across social media. A virtual outpouring of love by grieving family, friends, colleagues, students, and fans all over the world prompted the creation of a Facebook tribute page called Celebrating and remembering Roberto Cassan. The site is filled with poignant stories, photos and videos depicting his virtuosity, kindness, humility, humor, infectious smile and laughter, and expressions of gratitude for his teaching and friendship.

In addition to countless musicians, friends, and appreciators of his heartbreakingly beautiful work, Cassan is survived by his wife, Trisha Zembruski, daughter Lucia Cassan, his mother, Luciana Nevodini, dear brother Christian Cassan and sisters Letizia and Franca Cassan; brothers-in-law Pietro Marmai, Richard Zembruski, Alessandro Gallo, and Paul Forcier; sisters-in-law Jasmine Francescon, Kathy Zembruski-Smith, Janice Gallo, and Marcia Forcier. He is also survived by 12 beloved nieces and nephews, and his cairn terrier, Rufus.  

On August 27, a funeral was held in Fanna, Italy where Roberto was born and raised. A special memorial in Boston will be planned and announced in the coming months. The Roberto Cassan Memorial Campaign has been launched on Generosity.com, with 100% of the proceeds directly supporting Roberto’s wife and daughter. 


https://www.generosity.com/memorial-fundraising/phase-ii-lasting-impact-roberto-cassan-memorial--2