Emile Pandolfi, a native New Yorker, found his way to Greenville and is running Magic Music Productions, a recording studio, with his wife Judy.
Pandolfi has deep musical roots: He grew up in an Italian family where everyone played instruments. At 5 years old, he started taking lessons at Third Street Music Settlement in Manhattan, the nation’s longest-running community music school.
“I remember one time I was waiting for my music lesson and there was a recital going on,” Pandolfi said. “I heard this beautiful piece of music on the piano and knew I had to play it one day.”
Pandolfi learned seven years later that it was Chopin’s Waltz in C Sharp Minor.
Opera and classical music often played in Pandolfi’s parent’s home. When he turned 9, he and his family moved to Greenville, where he took piano lessons at Furman University until he went off to college.
His first year of college was at Furman but Pandolfi said he decided to follow a piano teacher to Baylor University and Texas Tech University. He eventually graduated college and decided to go to the Virgin Islands to live for a couple of years. “Why not,” Pandolfi asks.
There he taught chorus for a year but got into playing cocktail-lounge piano.
“This is when I had to learn to play the piano by ear,” Pandolfi said. “I played the current pop tunes of the time, like The Beatles.”
“This is when I had to learn to play the piano by ear. I played the current pop tunes of the time, like The Beatles.” – Emile Pandolfi, pianist
From there he went to England on a whim. He lived there for two years as well, playing in pubs and earning enough money to keep three month visas.
After leaving England, he made his way to Colorado, where for two years he played more cocktail-lounge piano with a band called Buddy Brown and the Bittersuite. “I think I have a two-year cycle,” Pandolfi said. “I get tired of things and I have never had a real day job.”
His next move was to Los Angeles on yet another whim. He stayed for 13 years playing for ballet classes, acting classes and a few restaurants.
Soon he found himself working at The Comedy Store, a comedy club that has hosted stars like Robin Williams and Jim Carrey. He would play 30 minutes before the show started and for comedian’s sets if needed.
While in L.A., he also auditioned to be a part of the group Melanie after they performed at Woodstock. He traveled with the band to Australia where they toured for three months.
After being with the band for about a year, Pandolfi made his way back to Greenville where he began to play on cruise ships departing from San Diego to Fort Lauderdale. “I went through the Panama Canal 10 times because I was the house pianist,” Pandolfi said.
In 1990, Pandolfi recorded his first cassette tape of Broadway tunes. This is when he decided to start recording and performing concerts for a living. His wife Judy orchestrated everything, he said, and really helped to get the business started.
Because CDs are not as popular as they once were, Magic Music Productions shifted gears and started streaming, which has proven to be quite successful. “Over Pandora, Spotify and Apple music, we have half a billion streams,” Pandolfi said.