A centennial celebration is set for Sunday as saxophonist Pat DeRosa of Montauk is about to turn 100. The World War II veteran is scheduled to perform with fellow veterans at Smith Point Park in Shirley from 1 to 5 p.m. At the free concert donations will be accepted for Project 9 Line, an Islip nonprofit that teaches local veterans how to play music and helps them reintegrate back into society through the arts.
"I’ve been taking my father around to local bands to keep him going," says DeRosa’s daughter, Patricia DeRosa Padden. "I’ll ask if he can sit in and they say, ‘Sure! Let him play.’ When dad performs, he blows everyone away."
The event will feature sets by three bands: Ernie & the Vets, which performs acoustic '50s and '60s rock and roll; The Project 9 Line Jazz Ensemble, playing standards; and The Project 9 Line Band, jamming an electric '60s and '70s classic rock set. DeRosa will sit in for several songs, including Duke Ellington’s "Take the A Train" and Van Morrison’s "Moondance" featuring Patricia on keyboards and his granddaughter, Nicole, on vocals.
"Pat is a wonderful human being who is great to be around because he has such knowledge of music and history," says Project 9 Line president and co-founder Ernesto D’Alessio, 59, of North Babylon. "He’s an amazing guy and we felt it was appropriate to help celebrate his life and legacy. His saxophone has the smoothest sound I've ever heard."
DeRosa, who grew up in Huntington, performed with the Glenn Miller Army Air Force Band; bandleaders Lionel Hampton and Tommy Tucker; and jazz legend and fellow Long Islander John Coltrane, with whom he played for three years until Coltrane's death in 1967. Earning his bachelor’s and master's degrees in music education at the Manhattan School of Music, DeRosa taught music at Huntington Elementary and South Huntington Memorial Junior High School. He also served in the Army Air Force during World War II and worked for Grumman.
Recently, DeRosa was heralded with the honor of being officially named the world’s oldest professional saxophone player by Guinness World Records.
When asked how he feels about the distinction, DeRosa says, "It means the world to me. This is one of the greatest things I could ever get."