Frank Cerbasi

December 6, 2011 at 10:12 am (Random)

He taught piano for years out of the back room at Melody Music Centre. He wandered the downtown and throughout the mall, making friends with passersby and talking to anyone who would listen. He was easily recognized for his trademark fedora, wooden cane and Italian charm.

I first met Frank Cerbasi when I was just a girl. He would come to our house on a weekly basis and give lessons to my siblings and me. He developed the tradition of bringing donuts along with him, and we developed the habit of calling him “Grandpa” (I can’t promise the two are unrelated – we were kids, remember). He was patient and dedicated, evident in his common phrase: “Take your time, but hurry up.” Eventually I moved on to guitar and clarinet, but he remained my tutor for many years. Probably not at all once, but I’m fairly certain he gave lessons to all seven of us over the years … seven of dozens, if not hundreds, of students he taught in his long musical career in the city.

He died on Sunday evening. His landlord emailed me yesterday, calling him a “gentleman and a scholar” who will be missed by many. He didn’t have relatives close by, so his colleagues, students, friends and neighbours became his family – much like we did. He attended church on a regular basis as long as I knew him, always willing to testify of the goodness of God in his life.

Goodbye, Grandpa. Thanks for the music.



  1. Gabriel Rivière-Reid said,

    I didn’t know Frank all that well. I would bump into him downtown, but as you said, he was always friendly and talkative.

    He used to hang out with my friends dad, a fellow Italian at the square, and a couple of times we joined them for coffee.

    He was always full of life and joy, and his attitude was infectious. You couldn’t spend time with Frank without leaving with a smile.

    It’s absolutely amazing how many people knew Frank are are paying tribute to him. People you didn’t even realize knew him, he touched their lives.

    His was truly a life well-lived, and he will be fondly remembered by the city he called home!

  2. Sarah Madden said,

    i remember him. When i was little Cheryl’s mom would have my sister, brother and myself over to play with her kids. He would always call me princess. Even though we weren’t the ones having a lesson, he would take the time to sit Cheryl and i on his knee and call us his beautiful princess’.

  3. kim said,

    I wonder if you could help me, i have been searching for years for Frank Cerbasi, he was my music teacher as well, many years ago in Newfoundland and i am wondering if this is the same man? Can you tell me what you know about him? I knew him as a single man never married, came from New Jersey, and had a daughter not sure her name. He spoke about a sister in New Jersey and about his parents. He was a boarder at my grandmothers house for many years and never had a visit from any family member.

    • Allison said,

      Frank also taught for a few years in Sussex, NB, mid 1970s. He had come there from Montreal shortly after his daughter (who I believe was about age 12 at the time) was tragically killed. My sister and I would take our lessons one after the other, and each of us would sit listening, playing with his beautiful cats and looking at the photo albums. I especially remember the photos of his daughter who was a truly beautiful girl. He was an avid photographer and took a photo of my sister holding one of his cats. To this day one of my favourite photos. He used to go to Boston in the summertime to work as a conductor with orchestra there, and if I recall correctly he was also a teacher at Tanglewood. Part of our lessons involved listening to records of many of the world famous orchestras. A kind gentle and quiet and very polite man, he is the person who is the most responsible for instilling in me, a great love of playing in an orchestra. I have thought of Frank often over the years.

    • Clar said,

      It is. He was a friend of my wife’s father in Newfoundland and she remained in touch with him through his move to New Brunswick and later Cornwall. Last time she talked with him was several months before he died.

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