Valley icon Banko’s Music legacy lives on in Shelton schools

Photo of Brian Gioiele

SHELTON — Banko’s Music, a staple in Ansonia since the 1950s, may have closed its doors, but its musical legacy will live on in the music rooms and auditoriums in Shelton schools.

Joe Shapiro, a Shelton resident who owned the music store since 2016, was forced to close the shop earlier this year. After a final blow-out sale, Shapiro was still left with musical instruments and equipment — that’s where the Shelton school system came in.

“I had a pretty successful going out of business sale, but there was a significant collection of instruments and accessories left over,” Shapiro said. “I live in Shelton, so I donated quite a lot to Shelton High School.”

Shapiro also donated musical instruments to the high school and middle school in Ansonia, and to the ACES Educational Center for the Arts magnet school in New Haven and Just Accessible Music, a Shelton-based music school for students of all levels and ability.

Overall, he donated some $10,000 worth of musical instruments and accessories to the various schools, he said.

“By donating the items, we can keep the students playing,” said Deb Keller, the Shelton school system’s K-12 Performing Arts Curriculum Leader.

Shelton schools received drums, violins, music method books, some band instruments, and numerous accessories such as strings, reeds, mouthpieces, drumsticks, drum heads, and cymbals to be used at Perry Hill, Shelton Intermediate and Shelton High schools, all of which have bands and orchestras.

“We now have the ability to do quick repairs and give the kids reeds, violin strings and cleaning kits for their instruments,” Keller said. “For the students who send their instrument out for repair, we can now loan them one to use until theirs comes back.”

Prior to this donation, Keller said the three schools have had limited financial ability to provide the students with reeds, strings and drumsticks.

“We occasionally have students who can’t get an instrument for whatever reason and now we can assist the students in becoming a part of our program,” Keller said. “I am always pleased to accept instruments from people who no longer play and want to see their instrument still being used.”

Keller said the district has bands, choirs and orchestras in grades 4 through 12 and all are popular with the students.

“Most of the equipment that we have is at least 35 years old and not in the best repair but some of the equipment we received is definitely better than what we have,” Keller added.

The musical instruments are receiving new life in the wake of the closure of what had been a staple in the Valley since 1955. Banko’s Music was founded in 1955 by Frank Banko and purchased by Joe Salvati in 2001.

Shapiro, a lifelong music lover, bought the business in 2016. He said he had just sold his software business and was looking to write new software for music stores.

“When I spoke to (Salvati) about maybe trying my software when it was ready, I learned that he was looking to exit the business,” Shapiro said. “I thought owning a music store would be good for my music store software business, so Joe and I negotiated a sale.”

This was right up Shapiro’s alley, as he was an amateur performer since grade school, and a professional performer for more than 20 years, most notably as a guitarist in the Stardust Jazz Trio.

“The music store was a passion project for me, and never really turned a profit,” Shapiro said.

He said the decision about closing was made for him in February when the heating system froze and burst. Replacing the system would have cost more to replace than he said he could hope to earn in several years of operation.

“Hence, reluctantly, I decided to sell the building,” Shapiro said. “On the bright side, it sold within a week of listing, and very close to my asking price.”