Former JFK High School band director remembered as loving educator, passionate 'drill sergeant'

Former students remember band director Nicholas Angiulo standing with a megaphone gripped in one hand, barking out directions "like a drill sergeant," as he put them through their paces in elaborate choreographed marching band patterns he had designed himself.

"He wasn’t afraid to call people out when they were not doing their best performance on a practice field," said Linda Carlos, one of his former students. "He'd say somebody's last name, and then he'd say - 'your other left!'"

But they also remember Angiulo, who died in April at the age of 86, as a loving educator whose kindness and respect for students combined with his firmness molded the John F. Kennedy High School marching band into a formidable force during the years he led it, from 1970 to 1984.

He will be remembered by former students, friends and family at a memorial gathering Saturday at 11 a.m. at the John F. Kennedy High School Auditorium.

Angiulo - or "Mr. A," as he was affectionately known by many - was respected because he was so passionate about the band from the day he started, said former student Tom Peron.

"When he taught, you could hear a pin drop," Person said. "He wasn't a pushover at all - he let us have it whenever we deserved it. But that was another reason why we respected him so much. "

Under his leadership, the marching band become one of the best in the area. It marched in numerous local parades, and in 1976, it represented California in Philadelphia’s Bicentennial Parade.

Even though it was Angiulo's strict nature that led the band toward excellence, his students remember him as warm, and someone who cared about students beyond what they brought to the band.

"He cared enough to know about your interests, about your family," Carlos said.

Years after graduating, when former students ran into him, Angiulo would not only remember their names, but remember the names of their family members, the jobs that they had, and other details about their lives.

"He slipped into people’s stories and walked with them through their lives," Carlos said. "Always a smile, always a hug."

After he left JFK in 1984, Angiulo worked as a band director and music instructor at Sacramento State where he also made an impact. A former JFK student, along with a parent organization at JFK, created a scholarship at Sacramento State in his name to help future music teachers.

Carlos said she did not hesitate to organize the celebration after hearing he had died. "There are certain people that come into your life that you will do anything for," she said.

Saturday's tribute to Angiulo will include jazz and blues performed by former students. On the docket is some Miles Davis as well as Cole Porter's "I Love You."

The atmosphere will be lively. According to Carlos, Angiulo specifically requested a party. "He doesn't want sad faces," she said. "He wants everybody to enjoy one another, and be together."