While only on the faculty at Msgr. Farrell High School for eight years, the legacy and impact the Rev. Renato Piazza had on his students continues to this day. “He was my introduction to musicals,” said Charles Sullivan, a Farrell alum and student of Fr. Piazza’s. “More than anything else, he was truly a decent man, and certainly his patience and sweet nature was an example for so many others who wound up working with high school students involved in the theatre.”
Music was always a part of Fr. Piazza’s life, as he sang semi-professionally at the Amato Opera House in Manhattan before entering the seminary. While at St. Joseph’s Seminary, he served as choir director and received his master’s degree in music from Columbia University, and was enrolled in a doctoral music program at the time of his death.
At Msgr. Farrell, he was the music director and conductor for several musicals in the early days of the Farrell Players, including “Fiorello!,” “Kiss Me, Kate,” “Wonderful Town,” and “Anything Goes.” In addition, for many years he served as director for the Farrell-Sea Glee Club. He also served as musical director at St. Joseph by-the-Sea High School, and choir director at St. Patrick’s Church.
In July 1974, at the age of 41, he died suddenly of a heart attack while re-roofing his brother’s house.
His legacy continues to live on through his former students, who after all these years still remember him fondly and credit him for enriching their lives with the performing arts. “He was a great mentor to an entire generation of Island performers and directors,” said Farrell alum, and later director of the Farrell
Players, John Gatti. In addition, Renato Productions, a community theatre group on Staten Island in the 1970s, was founded in Fr. Piazza’s honor by Farrell alum Jack Niesi. As with our previous Educator of the Arts honorees, Fr. Piazza was an integral part in the early years of high school theater on Staten Island, impacting countless numbers of students and enriching their lives with the performing arts.