When Emilio Palame was 7 years old, as the other kids were outside playing army, he was playing a piano he found in his neighbor’s garage. Yes, he found the piano, but more to the point, the piano found him and set him on the road he was meant to travel. He says, “I was one of those kids who begged for piano lessons.”
Emilio’s life is beautifully choreographed, one step leading fluidly into the next from his childhood in a Sicilian family, to his first piano teacher who got him to write his own songs, singing with a band in the 6th grade, carting his aunt’s organ to play at YMCA dances, his college degree in music theory and composition, his running the jazz ensemble program his junior and senior years with some of the greats of jazz and pop and his move to LA at 26 where he knew no one.
He floundered a bit, but one gig led to another until finally the call to come play for Peggy Lee. Ms. Lee had gotten rid of three pianists in 3 days. Emilio was number 4. It was a nerve-wracking failure rate, but his own sense of musical perfection was a match for hers, and he stayed with her for 11 years eventually becoming her band-leader. Emilio always had a passion for acting, and taking a leap from established success to the unknown, took courage. But, Emilio is a man comfortably in charge, so it is no surprise that as successful as he is in music, ditto in his acting career.
His love letter? He says the first name that always comes to him is that of his wife the exceptional artist Ellen Kobayashi. In the world of love letters, they have done something so intriguing and emotionally clever that it is worth appropriating it into your own life. And, because complicated relationships can be the basis for some of the best love letters, there is the possibility of some to his father.
Force of nature that Emilio his, this is an ongoing life story that is not only a fabulous piece of theater in its own right but a riveting chunk of American music history, so best to hear it in his own voice, the voice you may well recognize from his acting roles.